I have a really good friend who has started her own business, and these past few months it’s exploded. Every time I see one of her posts to promote herself go viral (which almost all of them have lately) I get this twinge that starts in my chest and bleeds into my entire upper body.
When I see her in person, we have a great connection, and she’s not forgetting who she is with her newfound success. Our friendship is based on shared experiences like divorce, children, and the fact we have both been in the dating game with kids.
I love her dearly and am genuinely happy for her. But when I scroll through my feed and see her seemingly perfect life — her new business, her insanely fit body and perfect white teeth, her happy marriage that is far from perfect because she tells me so, I feel guilty.
If it weren’t for social media, I probably wouldn’t feel this way. But when I see a highlight reel of her life against my life, I can’t help comparing the two, even though I know it’s going to take me down each and every time.
Since my divorce, I not only compare myself to influencers I see on my Instagram feed — modeling perfectly matched outfits and handbags I could never afford, with oversized mirrors and plush rugs in the background — I compare my single mother status to their happy families.
I realize I am in my mid-forties and have had kids, but that doesn’t stop me from looking at myself differently after I see fitness models in their 20s share their fitness routines, or post a side-by-side picture of them sticking out their non-existent gut to show people what “real life” looks like, as if it’s supposed to make us feel better.
Before COVID-19, family vacations were always a trigger for me too. I’d see turquoise waters or city lights with hashtags like #familyvacation and I’d think, Will I ever be able to do this for my family now that I am divorced?
Then I’d feel inadequate and tell myself I needed to work harder, try harder.
When I first started dabbling in the social media game years ago, it was because I felt like it was fun, everyone was doing it, and I was inspired by mothers who had large families and dressed their kids in coordinating outfits.
I didn’t start out having feelings of inadequacy until I started scrolling more and seeing what was out there.
The inspiration turned to coveting and feeling like I was either missing out, or missing something, because how did these women do it all?
How could they afford this modern house, have three beautiful children, and curate such beautiful, flawless posts with a full mane of hair and a manicure?
Even though I know most only post the good stuff (hello, I’m the expert at this), it never fails: when I see something like a husband and wife kissing on date night, or a mom posing in her car with her handbag and salon pedicure looking fresh as a daisy, I don’t feel motivated any longer.
I feel like I don’t, and will never be able to, measure up.
This isn’t a proud moment for me. Admitting this goes against everything I’ve been taught, and everything I am trying to teach my kids, who are obsessed with all the apps.
I’d like to think I was above all this nonsense and I should know by now to stop comparing myself to others because it only damages me, but I am a living, feeling person.
And I guess there is still a part of me who thinks, If only…
If only I had a firmer butt and better hair…
If only I still had a marriage that didn’t end years ago and we could take vacations together…
If only I could afford a kitchen renovation like that…
If only I had the energy to get off my ass and do more with my life like everyone else is, maybe then…
Maybe then I’d be happy and I wouldn’t feel like I was lacking on certain days when I can’t seem to pull myself out of the internet rabbit hole.
There’s always going to be someone who is more successful, has more degrees, makes more money, is more fit, or more attractive than you.
I’m not alone in these feelings, I know that. I’m not the first woman to compare herself to the zillions of things to covet on the internet.
The best way I’ve learned how to deal with it is to stay the fuck off when I’m not my best self, which is most of the time.
Seeing younger girls dance on TikTok and scrolling through my Facebook page never makes me snap out of a slump and it has the power to make a perfectly good day turn sour, even if it’s only for a bit. And I know this — so when I can’t handle it, I stay away.
This morning I met with my friend. You know, the one I’m jealous of.
And you know what she said to me after I admitted to her I felt envious of her new success and I was sorry about it?
She told me she’d stalked me on social media when we first met and decided I’d be one of her closest friends because she loved my energy and I motivated her to go and do things she’d always wanted to do, but felt like she didn’t quite have the right.
It didn’t cure my social media jealousy by any means, but it certainly was the perspective I needed.