Stuck in a long line, I whip out my phone to refresh Instagram, waiting for the all too staged â€ścandidsâ€ť to pop up on my feed that I know took half an hour to edit, filter, and craft. I am no innocent bystander to this societal norm. Every double-tap is a confirmation that my life is one worth living. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat: pick your poison. No one can escape this constant, almost impulsive desire to be seen or heard, the instant gratification of approval and acceptance captured in a little blue thumb. I donâ€™t think this is what they meant when they said to â€ślive your life out loud.â€ť
I struggled enormously with different insecurities throughout my life. I have two sisters, and I am truly grateful that our relationships have only strengthened with time. But in middle school when I was chubby, had acne and braces, wore bifocal glasses, and had frizzy hair, compared to my gorgeous sister who was a cheerleader, it was difficult to look in the mirror and not wish I were someone else. Oh, and I was also in a marching band. I mean, come on! But in all seriousness, I had a tough time accepting how I looked, and much of my difficulty stemmed from my destructive tendency to compare myself to my sister, and to those around me. My self acceptance was linked to the approval of my sister. I can now look back and understand that I had an unhealthy relationship with myself throughout my adolescence because I was so consumed by what other people thought of me. Iâ€™m nowhere near perfect, and I still catch myself comparing myself to my sister sometimes, but when I find myself caught up in that, I remind myself of how different we are, that I cannot expect myself to be like her. Without those embarrassingly awkward years to figure myself out, much of who I am now would be lost. I probably wouldnâ€™t be studying psychology, or living in a different country, or writing this.
Social media makes it almost impossible to remove yourself from the toxic trap of comparison. The â€śmindlessâ€ť scrolling we engage in silently reinforces the belief that we are not enough as we are. We arenâ€™t tan enough, skinny enough, fit enough. Our lives arenâ€™t exciting enough, or bright enough, or good enough. But for who? At the end of the day, the only person you have to answer to is yourself. Are you happy with your body? Do you think you could be having more fun? Is this the life you want to live? Those same people we envy also struggle with insecurities, and their lives are probably not all beaches and sunshine, and candids in the sand. My gorgeous cheerleader sister also struggled with her own personal insecurities. The personas we present online are rarely ever the full picture of who we are. Social media wouldnâ€™t be nearly as popular if people showed the true versions of themselves: the heartbreak and the pain, the insecurities and confusion.
So next time youâ€™re standing in line, scrolling through Instagram, and you see that picture of your acquaintance from high school looking all cute at the beach, remind yourself: that personâ€™s life extends way beyond that silly picture. They are human, and probably compare themselves to others, just like you. We wonâ€™t ever know the entirety of someoneâ€™s life history, their struggles and failures, from a post on social media. But we carry our own personal history with us, and this is the one that matters. Be your own benchmark. Compare yourself to yourself. Be better than you were yesterday. You are the only person on this planet that can make an accurate judgment of how â€śgoodâ€ť your life is. So make it the best you can, not for the likes, or the followers, not for the insecure middle school you who has something to prove. But for the you in the mirror today.
By: Talia Main
Talia is pursuing a degree in psychology at the University of Toronto. She hopes to continue her education in psychology following graduation. She is passionate about ending the stigma surrounding mental health through her writing and education.