“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.” ~May Sarton
Have you ever compared yourself to others on social media?
You’re not alone if you have. It’s human nature to compare, compete, and seek value in the opinions of others. To aspire to the heights others seem to have attained.
But how real are those people we compare ourselves to really being? The ones who seem to have it all together? Perfect family, ideal job, loving relationship?
I would venture to guess they’re not being very real at all.
It’s true they may have a great partner, a great job, and well-behaved kids—some of the time. But like everyone else, they fall, they fight, and they make mistakes. They just don’t talk about it on Facebook.
That’s where online relationships let us down; they fail to tell the whole story.
I’m as guilty as the next person. I post pictures of my kids baking cakes, running along the beach, and acing the soccer game on a Sunday. But I neglect to mention how much I yelled at them for their attitude or constant fighting.
I talk about date night with my husband but don’t mention how we argued all the way home.
And I post pictures of inspirational life quotes, such as, “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile” (Einstein) as though I’m living them every day.
Because I, like everyone else, want to show the best side of myself. I have an inherent need to be liked and to belong. It’s human nature.
But what if being liked and belonging is more about being authentic than being the best or getting ahead? What if in sharing who we really are, we are more able to find the connection we crave?
A few years ago I attended a weekend retreat and workshop for personal development along with about thirty others. Not knowing anyone, I was nervous.
We met for the introductory session in a large room and had to mingle for about twenty minutes or so before the facilitators arrived.
What I experienced in that time was eye-opening to me. I watched as eyes darted around the room, each person looking for someone like themselves to identify with, be it through age, appearance, personality type (introverts, extroverts), or physical attraction.
In this vulnerable state, where each of us was seeking to find favor with the other, we all were quick to disguise our true selves and to judge everyone in the room on appearances and first words.
And for the first day of that workshop judgment remained, until the facilitators were able to break down our walls and encourage us to see the value in being who we really were—in talking honestly and not trying to be better than the next person.
To do so required being vulnerable. But once one person began to speak honestly about their fears and their struggles, it gave the next person permission to do the same. This continued until we all let down our guards and spoke honestly about our struggles and fears.
The result was incredible. The connections I made that weekend were real, honest, and close.
Once I saw my fellow participants for who they really were, all judgment fell away and I felt nothing but genuine love for them. Because when we see one another in our true light, it doesn’t make us weak; it makes us the same. We see how we are all human and in this thing called life together.
It’s not being the best or getting ahead that meets our true desires; it’s being real and doing life together.
What if we were to share our truth on social media? To talk about a bad day instead of always trying to be great?
And what if instead of saying “I’m fine” to the next friend who asks, “How are you doing?” we could instead respond with “I’ve had a hard time lately”?
Sometimes that leap of faith in the response is the first step toward living an authentic life and being true to ourselves. Because being anything less than who we really are just isn’t worth it.
Friends image via Shutterstock