Over the last decade, we have all experienced the increase of social media in our lives. There are positives and negatives that come with social media and its influence. On the one hand, social media can be life and happiness enhancing, especially when it helps you feel more connected to the people you care most about.
At the same time, in my experience as a life coach and relationship coach, I have noticed that if we are not careful, we can allow social media to take over our perceptions and become a sort of filter through which we view the world. When social media use becomes unbalanced it is common to experience an increase of feelings of insecurity. You may also notice that your thoughts about yourself or your life are more negative, and it can cause you to feel as though others are happier and/or better than you. You might also unintentionally spend less time and attention on the people you’re around “in real life.”
Here are some tips to help guard yourself against the negativity that social media can bring:
First, Be Aware of “False Advertising.” Social media is the place where we all go to document our lives and share our experiences with each other. From what we ate for breakfast, to the most significant events, we post it. But what we all must be aware of, is that the things we see down our timeline have been carefully crafted.
We all know what its like to spend several minutes choosing our angles, picking just the right filter, and typing the best caption ever. This effort to only display the best parts of life can cause us to absorb a false sense of reality. It is important to remind yourself that what you see, is only what people want you to see. And there is much more to life than what makes it onto our profiles.
Second, Do Not Compare. Don’t ever compare your relationships, yourself, or any other aspects of your life with what you see on social media. It is very easy for us to use the social media posts of our friends and people we admire as a compass to where our lives should be. We notice when everyone around us “seems to be” happy, getting married, or having a baby, which makes us examine our lives.
It is important to be aware of the negative feelings that can arise when we view the posts of our social media friends. For example, one of your friends travels to exotic destinations with their significant other, and all you see are posts of beautiful beaches and extravagant dinners. It can be easy to think to yourself “wow my relationship is never this exciting,” or “my partner never takes me anywhere.” The trouble with this thinking is that it promotes negativity and may motivate us to place unrealistic expectations on ourselves and our partners.
Lastly, Spend Time Off The Grid. If we are not careful, social media can become overwhelming and all-consuming. If you find that you spend a tremendous amount of time on social media, or thinking about posts, or if you notice you are having negative feelings every time you open and close the apps… it’s time to take a break and go off the grid.
I personally have found it very refreshing to spend time away from social media and open myself back up to in-person interactions and experiences. Even if you have to delete the apps from your phone, it can be beneficial to take a step back and regroup— at least for a while. It will all still be there when or if you decide to jump back in. Taking breaks periodically will help you keep social media use balanced and in its place. Time away, “in real life,” will help you re-establish a healthy perspective of yourself, your relationships, and your life.
I hope that these strategies help you maintain the positive aspects of social media use, without letting social media interfere with your happiness and life-satisfaction.
Do you compare your life and your accomplishments to those of other people?
In this day and age it’s harder than ever to trust your own ideas, believe in yourself, and actualize a self-directed vision.
Why? There are many forces at work in our culture that make us question whether we’re measuring up. Not least of these is our consumption of social media — the never-ending digital conveyor belt of information about all the amazing things our friends and acquaintances are doing with their lives, in vivid color. Vacations, milestones, weddings, births, and promotions are artfully showcased to enviable perfection. When you’re constantly confronted with semi-histrionic proclamations about the magnificence of what other people are doing, your own life can feel less-than in comparison. (Listen to “Schadenfacebook” on The Hidden Brain Podcast.)
But when you’re measuring yourself by someone else’s yardstick, it takes a toll. For starters, it creates anxiety and insecurity. It can also lead you to begin crafting your life and making choices specifically to garner the approval and admiration of others. When that happens, you become disconnected from your vision, your truth, and your personal power.
What Happens When You Lose Yourself
Becoming overly focused on how you compare to others makes you vulnerable to all sorts of problems.
For example, you might find it increasingly hard to make decisions without second guessing yourself. It can feel hard to persist in the face of adversity when you don’t believe in yourself. When you need people to treat you a certain way so that you can feel okay about yourself, your relationships can suffer. You may feel increasingly hollow and empty as you lose touch with who you are, and what makes you authentically happy.
Here’s a poignant note on exactly this subject that I recently received from a listener of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast:
“Dear Dr. Lisa,
Recently I am trying to consciously make time to work on building cognitive skills and self awareness with the tips and lessons you share in your classes, blogs and podcasts, and also from feedback I get from [the coach I’m working with @ Growing Self.]
[Through my personal growth work] I found out that one of my unhealthy thinking habits is “comparing myself with others”. I was comparing myself with my boyfriend, my friends, and this was so on “auto-pilot” most of the time, I wasn’t even so aware about it.
Since I could always easily find what I was lacking when I did comparisons, it brought me many problems. I was always lacking confidence, I was always seeing proof of my shortcomings and reasons about why I shouldn’t/counldn’t do something, and I always struggled with anxiety and uneasiness. It was most painful when I felt inferior than others in things I value most. (Being compassionate, intelligent etc.)
Also, I realized that deep in my mind I used comparisons to feel good about myself, like comparing my achievements to others’ and assuring myself that I’m doing great, which is maybe not so bad and what people naturally do, but it could make me feel guilty or empty at times.
I was in this unhealthy, unhelpful place for a very long time. I’m still working on this, but I felt very liberated after I learned that these unhelpful thinking patterns can be shifted with effort to more productive ones, and that people have different natural talents and strengths and it’s okay to accept myself as who I am. It was almost a surprise to know that there is actually a way to be happier.
I would be interested if you could do a podcast or write an article about comparisons someday, if you have anything to share about this topic.”
Sincerely, – H
How to Stop Comparing Yourself To Others, and Start Believing in Yourself
Oh yes, dear H, I do. I have quite a lot to share on this topic, actually.
In my day-to-day role as a therapist and life coach here at Growing Self, I talk to many, many people who express the same anxiety and heartache that you expressed in your letter. You would not believe how many gorgeous, healthy, blazingly intelligent, high achieving and objectively successful people feel the same way about themselves and their lives.
No matter what they do, they harbor gnawing anxiety that it’s not enough. Their accomplishments are quickly disregarded in favor of the next amazing thing they should be doing. Their feelings about themselves rise and fall based on what others think of them. And when they do experience inevitable disappointments and setbacks, they are vulnerable to depression.
So on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I’m going to be tackling this subject. We’re going to be talking all about the insidious emotional toll comparing yourself to others can take, and how to combat it by learning how to believe in yourself instead.
We’ll be talking about how to affirm yourself, trust in yourself, strengthen yourself, develop your self awareness, plug holes in your vulnerabilities, and be empowered to create a life that is genuinely meaningful and satisfying to you.
Have you ever seen the movie “What Women Want” starring Helen Hunt and Mel Gibson? There is a moment at the end of the movie (after a rollercoaster-ride romance) where Mel Gibson’s character says that he needs to be rescued, and that he needs Helen Hunt’s character to help him do it.
I felt a sense of uneasiness when I first watched that scene because of the depth of vulnerability that Mel Gibson’s character expresses. Since then, as I’ve grown as a person, a therapist, a couple’s counselor, and a life coach, I’ve come to feel respect and admiration for his vulnerability… and how much strength it takes to go there.
What is vulnerability? Vulnerability means opening yourself up to another person, which means risking being hurt by them. Vulnerability is difficult and often does not come naturally, however it is an essential part of healthy relationships.
Why Being Vulnerable Feels So Hard
I’ve noticed that oftentimes there is a fear of vulnerability within relationships that is coupled with shame. Brené Brown defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.”Has shame ever kept you from expressing your deeper thoughts and emotions to someone you care about?
Although it is difficult, allowing yourself to push past you shame and open yourself up to another being often results in a more fulfilling relationship.
Three Reasons Why Vulnerability is Essential:
Vulnerability Fosters Connection: We are made for connection with each other. If we weren’t, we would never experience loneliness. Vulnerability allows our relationships to be more fulfilling because it allows for more depth. Even though it feels uncomfortable at first, a relationship that is safe allows room for vulnerability that deepens our connection to each other.
Vulnerability Leads to Opportunity: When we are vulnerable, we get to share our lives with another person as well as give them the opportunity to share their life with us. Vulnerability is risky, however, it is often a risk worth taking as it allows us to experience community with others in a way that goes far beyond the surface level.
Vulnerability Brings Healing: Lastly, vulnerability is often associated with healing. When we are able to let someone else into our dark and hidden places, and have them let us into theirs — and feel loved in spite of our flaws — something wonderful happens. All of a sudden, those dark and hidden places don’t seem so bad, and our shame can be replaced with joy. We are able to experience a sense of freedom and deeper intimacy with someone we care deeply about, all because we took a risk and allowed ourselves to be vulnerable.
I hope these ideas help you cultivate the power of vulnerability into your life, and your relationships.
Yet if you’re like most people, you may also feel pressure to be different. Be better. Be “more.” We get relentless messages from the media, our culture, and sometimes even our relationships, that we’re not quite good enough as we are.
Of course, you want to be the best you can be. Most people are motivated to enter life coaching or therapy because they want to be a better partner, be a better friend, be more fit, be more social, be more successful at work. While it’s admirable to want to grow, evolve, and be the best self you can be, what is not helpful is believing invalidating messages that make you doubt your worth, your competence, and your own strength.
This can leave you second-guessing yourself, feeling anxious and stressed, or just feeling the burden of needing to create change. When we become focused on what we feel we are lacking, we lose connection with ourselves. We can easily become so focused on what needs to change, that we lose contact with what is (and all of the strengths we have right now, in this moment).
Part of my job as a therapist and life coach is to help you get back in contact with how awesome you actually are… right now. By trusting yourself, tapping into your strengths, and feeling good about yourself it becomes even easier to make strategic improvements to your life.
The good news is, when you’re in a place of strength you do not need to make big life changes to feel big impacts. By incorporating small changes into your routine, you can begin to own your awesome. When we create greater connection within ourselves, we open the door to love ourselves more deeply and connect with others in a more meaningful way. In the words of Rupi Kaur “How you love yourself, is how you teach others to love you.” I have five quick tricks to help you feel more connected to your happy, healthy, “best self” that will make you more aware of how much you already have to offer.
Take the time to notice. We are typically so busy moving through our daily activities, we don’t take the time to check-in with ourselves. Often our bodies are giving us cues throughout the day, that our minds have gotten very effective at ignoring. For example, maybe you get to the end of your day and notice tension in your shoulders. This can be your body’s way of telling you, “Hey, this is stressful, let’s take a break!” Noticing can be a big step toward becoming more connected with yourself. Try setting time aside within your day to check-in; ask yourself how am I doing? Is my body trying to tell me something? What do I need right now?
Offer yourself some compassion. It’s easy to focus on what is not going well. We also have a tendency to give others more time and compassion then we would offer ourselves. Very rarely would we be as tough on others as we are on ourselves. Give yourself a break! One way to do this may be by repeating affirmations (either verbally or in writing). It could be as simple as repeating, “I did the best I could and that is enough.” You can also send compassion to areas in your body that are tense (you will know where these are, because you will have been practicing “noticing”). An example would be when you notice tension in your shoulders from stress, roll them back and forth and say to yourself “I am resilient and can make it through this stressful day.”
Take a deep breath. You have likely head this before and may wonder, why? How can taking a deep breath possibly be helpful when I am extremely anxious? There is substantial support that when we take deep breaths (slowing down our rate of breath and using our diaphragm), we alter the response of our nervous system. In turn, this creates biological changes that support a decrease in stress. Remind yourself to take deep breaths throughout the day, and notice how this can alter your mood.
Do something for you. Frequently, we lose track of our needs or even activities we feel fulfilled by. When was the last time you took a moment to do something for you? This can range from taking five minutes out of your day to read a book or online article to planning a weekend getaway. Evaluating what it is that you need to feel fulfilled and moving toward it in manageable steps is another way to start connecting with your awesome.
Remember: You don’t have to perfect to be awesome.There will always be a “more” (I should be more___) and with that, there is also an “enough.” Challenge yourself to hold that you are enough. Perfection is not realistic. Yes, there will be opportunities to grow and create change, but with that create some space to acknowledge what is working. You have talents, gifts, and skills; don’t be afraid to acknowledge and use them!
How Owning Your Awesome Helps Your Relationships
We have primarily focused on how these tools can be used to help you as an individual. However, the real beauty of these strategies is that they can be used to improve connection in your relationships. By creating deeper connection within yourself, you will make room to connect with your partner in new and more meaningful ways. The more we know about ourselves (e.g. what we need, what we want, etc.), the more we are able to engage in meaningful relationships and connections.
You can re-purpose the tools I shared to create connection in your relationship. For example, taking time to be in the moment and notice what is happening for both yourself and your partner can be extremely helpful. Remember- when we’re always focused on our to-do lists or what more needs to happen, we forget the positives that are happening right now.
Focusing on taking deep breaths, especially in an argument with your partner, can help your nervous system regulate, so a productive conversation can take place. Remembering that no one is perfect (even our partners) and offering them compassion, can increase connection and trust within your partnership. You can modify these strategies to fit what you need, whether that’s creating connection within yourself or using these techniques to strengthen the connection in your relationship.
I hope these strategies help you stay connected to yourself… and own your awesome.
++ Note: Learning how to love yourself is such an important, core topic that I decided to post this both as a written article and a podcast so that you can access the info in whichever format is most helpful to you. (Scroll down for the podcast link). I sincerely hope it is. With love — Lisa ++
“You have to love yourself first.” For many years, I would hear that and wonder — what does that even mean? I would hear the words, and think “Yup, that sounds like a good idea,” but how to actually create this state of self love was a total mystery. I didn’t feel a lot of love for myself. And on some level I thought that it sounded sort of selfish and weird to think about being deeply in love with one’s self. I imagined Narcissus cooing at his reflection in the glassy water of the river bank, and think, “And how exactly is that supposed to improve my life or my relationships?”
Malignant “Self Love
This skepticism around “self-love” was not helped by my journey into becoming a therapist. I’d hear that phrase, “You have to love yourself first” get tossed around and used to — quite frankly — justify all kinds of unhealthy things in the name of self-love: Self indulgence, displacement of blame, or breathtakingly insensitive actions towards other people. (“Yes, I stole the money and lied about it, but I deserve to be happy! I love myself!”)
Or even more poignantly, with my individual clients I’d see lovely, beautiful people welling up with tears as they spoke their truth: “I don’t love myself. I don’t like myself. The only love that matters is the love I get from other people. But I know I should love myself. And the fact that I don’t love myself is one more reason for me to hate myself.”
The expectation that they should love themselves (and didn’t feel that way) was only more evidence that there was something terribly wrong with them.
But over many years as a therapist, a marriage counselor, a wife, a mother, and a person on her own even-winding journey of growth, I feel that the true nature of love is starting to become clearer to me. True love is never an excuse to do bad things to other people, and it’s definitely not anything that should result in more self-criticism or self loathing.
What I’m realizing about True Love is that it isn’t a feeling at all. Love is not an emotion, though it can be. Love is a choice. Love is an action. Love is much, much bigger than any of the feelings that blow through us on a given day. Every once in awhile we might have the wonderful treat of feeling love, but that’s just a warm patch of sunlight on a path that’s dappled with the subtle lights and darks of the emotion we walk though every day.
True Love is more like a state of grace that we can choose to live in: The one that prioritizes the well-being of people over everything else. And that includes us.
True Love For Others
True love allows us to set our self-focus and ego aside and do what needs to be done for the benefit of others. Have you ever stayed up late to do laundry or gone to the grocery store in the middle of the night because your kid needed clean clothes or lunch for school the next day, even though you were tired? That’s the kind of true love I’m talking about. Simple prioritization for the wellbeing of another.
In that state of everyday grace, it doesn’t really matter what you’re thinking or feeling or wanting: You’re simply understanding what someone else is feeling and needing, and being of service to them.
Throwing someone else over the wall is the height of heroism. Good parents do that for their children without even thinking of it. And through our relationships we all get the chance to practice softening ourselves, choosing compassion over criticism, and showing others that their feeling are as important to use as our own.
True Love For Ourselves
But how do you love yourself? It’s easier to see how you can be compassionate, and tolerant, and generous with other people – but towards yourself? “Isn’t that the opposite of True Love?” You might be thinking.
What I’m learning is that being a healthy person who is able to give love to others means that you are having a “true love” kind of relationship with yourself. This means treating yourself with the same kind of compassion and devotion to your health and genuine best interests that you give to other people.
Loving yourself is treating yourself as you would a cherished child:
1) Being an emotionally safe person, and speaking to yourself kindly, compassionately, and wisely. Offering yourself guidance, reassurance and emotional support instead of criticizing yourself, scaring yourself, or being negative towards yourself.
2) Setting firm limits that support your health and wellness, like going to bed at a reasonable hour and taking care of your health. Even when you don’t feel like it.
3) Directing yourself to make choices that demonstrate your commitment to your own well being. This might involve setting boundaries with others, listening to your inner wisdom, and going after things that you know will bring out the best in you (and staying away from the things that will harm you in the long run).
Loving yourself isn’t a feeling. It’s a commitment.
The key here is that, just like you don’t have to be overwhelmed with feelings of love in order to be a good parent, you don’t have to feel “love” in order to be living in a state of True Love towards yourself.
Your commitment to loving others is much bigger than anything you feel. You can feel totally frustrated with your kid and still be kind and responsible. You can be annoyed with your partner and still control yourself and be generous. And you can not feel like exercising, or like beating yourself up mercilessly, and still decide to act lovingly towards yourself.
Why Loving Yourself Matters
Think about a child who is being mistreated by their parents: Verbally and emotionally abused (or worse), given junk food, encouraged to watch TV, chaotic or overly strict routines, no support with academics or friendships…. What would you expect from that kid in terms of his ability to maintain emotional stability and be a good partner or friend to someone else? Not a lot? Yeah. When you’re not loving yourself, you are basically abusing yourself from the inside out. You are simply not going to be well, and you won’t have much to offer others either.
Choosing to have a good, nurturing, responsible and compassionate relationship with yourself is what it means to love yourself. To behave in the way that supports your highest and best… even when you don’t feel like it. Figure out what kind of support you really need, and then decide to give it to yourself. No matter what. Because that’s what True Love is.