Photo by Prateek Katyal from Pexels

I can guarantee you that I’ll make at least one crucial mistake before the day is over. Actually, I’ve already made it so, we’re off to a great start. I’m really selling myself, right? Thankfully I’m not marketing myself as a, uh…Lifestyle thingy? I almost typed another word that starts with a G and ends with an Uru, but I laughed so hard I choked on my saliva.

Guru? Ha, that is laugh-out-loud funny. I’m a mess and not a hot one either. It’s more of a tepid, four-day-old cup of coffee that’s growing its own colony, kinda mess. It’s more ew than aw. Sure, it tastes sweet but in a sickly kind of way.

Lifestyle guru? LOL.

Anyone introducing themselves as a guru gives me the creeps. What are you selling, and why is your hand in my back pocket? Where did my wallet go? Do we need to call someone? The police or the hospital, perhaps. I’m just going to smile, and I slowly back out of this situation. Beware of a self-titled guru! 

That’s been a public service announcement, you’re welcome.

If I ever use that word and it isn’t dripping with sarcasm? Well, I should just make it my safe word. Some people go with apples. I choose something more obscure. I’m not saying I need a safe word, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. Look at me, I’m a prepper now.

Photo by ROMAN ODINTSOV from Pexels

Wow, I’m in a mood. An odd one to boot. I came here to have a little chat about something, I can’t remember what, and it went off the rails. Why am I talking about gurus and safe words? There might be something very wrong with me.

Sleep. I need it, and I’m not getting it. It’s anyone’s guess where this will go from here. Good luck, I guess.

Oo, here we are, back to my original statement. I made a mistake. I know better, but I didn’t do a gosh darn thing to avoid it. Actually, I ran towards it as fast as my gimpy legs would go. Sure, I looked silly. I’m basically a penguin in human form. The little mermaid did me dirty. You said I’d turn into a glamorous creature. Instead, I’m a crippled penguin hurtling itself headfirst into a steaming pile of internet lies, damn lies.

Scream all you like, and you’re very correct. I shouldn’t have done it. No, my friend, I should’ve closed my eyes, stuck my fingers in my ears, and hummed a song. A fusion of Under The Sea and Happy Feet, perhaps. If only should’s were do’s, then I wouldn’t have done it. Stupid. Stupid. Stop it! You have to talk nicer to yourself. Will that ever happen? And just like that, the Jeopardy theme becomes the song that never ends.

I’m ashamed to admit this, and I don’t want to tell you. You’re going to roll your eyes and let out a weary sigh. When was the last time you exhaled like that? It’s been a while, I admire your fortitude, but I’m about to break your resilience. Hands will be thrown up the air. You will point out, quite rightly, that I shouldn’t spend so much time comparing my life to the lives I see on the socials.

Oh, flinch-bothersome, I admitted my lapse in judgement. Go on, have your moment, I’ll wait. Well, that was a bit harsher than I anticipated, but I appreciate your honesty. Perhaps, for future reference, you could try a little less honesty and some jazz hands. They ease the blow just a bit.

Photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels

Seriously though, I went down a spiral of comparison, and the thief showed up in its balaclava. You’ve probably heard the old saying already but, despite my dislike of the trite, I should say it just to be safe. Comparison is the thief of joy.

I scrolled through the images and read some of the captions. They read like a fairy tale. Happy people, walking down Easy Street. Not a care in the world. The more I indulged in this act of self-destruction, the heavier my heart became, and I said out loud, “Some people have it so easy.”

You don’t have to say it, I know. This is the fallacy social media creates because we can craft our own reality. We all do it, right? We post the best picture of ourselves, our lives and leave out the harsh realities. The rip in the dress that’s masked by an artful thrust of the hip. The gorgeous view from a hotel room window doesn’t show the hurricane-force devastation behind the camera. The perfect smile doesn’t show the hours of tears and the copious layers of make-up.

We don’t see the frayed edges, the sadness behind shining eyes, or the truth behind a perfectly captured moment. Of course, we don’t. I don’t post pictures of myself having a panic attack or the times I walk around my home crying for no apparent reason. Who’d do that? Well, a few courageous people whose vulnerability and honesty are truly inspiring.

I’m not one of those people. In fact, I’m a coward and a liar because I only post happy, perfect pictures. Vulnerability makes me nauseous, and yes, that includes these words. There’s something about writing, for me, that feels safer than an image. I can hide behind my computer and tell myself that no one will read this so, it doesn’t matter.

A picture is different. It’s a frozen moment. Time has been stopped. I’ve heard, when photography was invented, some people believed it captured your soul, and you couldn’t get it back. To a certain degree, that’s true. A picture captures who you are, who you want to be, in that moment. It’s your story or your dream. It’s the portrait you choose to paint, and true art is always an image of vulnerability.

Even if it is styled, edited, and missing the whole story.

That’s why it’s a bad idea to compare my life to the lives being lived in those pictures. I know I shouldn’t do it, but I’m feeling frustrated, stuck, and a bit disillusioned with my own reality. I don’t know what I’m doing or where I’m going. I don’t feel like I have a purpose or a place that I belong. The more I look, the more I try to find answers, the deeper entrenched I feel.

Stuck. Aimless. Pointless. Look at that picture! They look so happy. They’re living their dreams and their best lives. They’re so lucky. What I wouldn’t give to switch places with them. Are some people destined for good lives and others get bad ones? Do they get it easy while some of us have to fight for every damn thing?

I’m so tired of fighting. Why can’t it be easy for once? Why can’t a door open on its own? Do I have to break everything down myself? It’s exhausting.

The spiral is so easy to follow.

As alone as I might feel right now? None of us are really struggling by ourselves. There’s someone out there going through it too.

This isn’t some fluff piece about reclaiming your joy. I’ve already mentioned the tired quote, and there’s no point hammering that nail any further. We all know that comparing our lives to someone else’s is a bad idea. It’s not good for our mental health, and it can be a hot poker to the brain for anyone struggling with a mental illness.

It’s one of those concepts that’s as basic as a kindergarten reading class. If you’re yay high, then you’ve already heard it all before. What we see online or on the cover of a hardcopy magazine isn’t a broad view of reality. It’s a narrow, highly stylized image. We’ve heard it all before, but thanks for pointing it out again.

We all look at the photos, and a part of us will run the comparison. It might happen in our subconscious, or we’re very well aware of what we’re doing. For me, it feels like a perverted validation of all of my fears and insecurities. Do I take a sick pleasure in it? Yeah, sometimes I think I do. 

Look how perfect their life is and how miserable mine is right now. My life will never be like that. I’m not that lucky. Boom. Told you so. Suck it! Do a little victory dance and then slump down into a miserable muddle.

Photo by Bich Tran from Pexels

I know it’s not the healthiest thing to do, and I should cut it out. Seriously, stop it before you break something that can’t be repaired. It’s one thing to break a leg doing a stupid dance, but fracturing your psyche? They don’t make a cast for that so, stop it.

There I go, yelling at myself in the third person again.

Do you do this too, or is it just me? Wallowing in misery with a smugness that’s unbecoming. Comparing yourself to an image with an I told you so smile. Validating your insecurities until they become cold hard facts. Undervaluing your existence based on an edited photo and well-crafted caption.

As I said, this isn’t a puff piece telling you not to do it because we’re smart enough to know we shouldn’t. Sometimes, though, we need to hear that we’re not the only ones who indulge in self-destructive behaviours. We need to know that other people have insecurities, and they feed them in different ways. We need a reminder that the human condition is universal, and we’re not struggling alone.

I’m not saying that we should indulge in these things and to hell with our mental health. I’m simply saying we all do it. I do it. Typically, in these moments, I’m at a low point, and I can’t see a way up and out. It feels kinda good to wallow because it’s a lot easier than climbing. That’s especially true at moments like this when I’m feeling emotionally, physically, and spiritually depleted.

Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels

But I was talking to a friend the other day, and they expressed similar struggles. They’re trying to change their life, the way they’re living, just like I am. They’re hitting all the roadblocks too. They’re feeling frustrated, hopeless, and all they want to do is give up. They want to throw their hands in the air and scream, “Why won’t you give me a break!”

That hit my soul so hard because yeah, my friend, I’m feeling the same thing. 

Strangely, hearing that felt good. I’m not happy they’re struggling, but knowing someone gets it is a powerful thing. Hearing some say the words I’ve kept buried is freeing. Knowing that someone out there is fighting the same battle is a sigh of relief.

As alone as I might feel right now? None of us are really struggling by ourselves. There’s someone out there going through it too. They’re indulging in self-destructive behaviours. They’re barely hanging on. They’re feeling more emotions than they know what to do with. They’re tired of fighting, but they aren’t fighting alone because, for what it’s worth, I’m there too.

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