A few days ago Amanda and I decided to take our Christmas card picture at the park (actually, Amanda decided and I went along with it, but never mind).
That meant a ten-minute drive with not one but two psychopathic canines crammed into the back of our Chevy equinox. They yelped, they romped, they stormed the front seat nearly nocking the shift stick and bringing us to an untimely doom—you know, the usual. We arrived at the park scratched, slobbered upon, and overall a little flustered, but the fun didn’t end there. The leashed doggies hadn’t yet been for a walk that day and so tried desperately to break free of their bonds with the ferocity of two salivating criminals resisting arrest. Eventually Amanda and I had to practically tackle our little friends and hold them in headlocks while trying to persuade in a singsong voice, “Look at the camera! Come on, boy, look at the camera! Be a good dog and look at the camera! JUST LOOK AT THE DANG CAMERA BEFORE I LOSE IT!” Or something like that.
At this point I was getting a little annoyed at pretty much everything in creation and said something snarky like, “Why are we even taking a stupid Christmas card?” To my wife’s credit she held back a retort, but I could tell she was getting frustrated, too.
Fast forward to a few minutes ago. I received an email notification, Amanda Russ has tagged you in a photo on Facebook, and so opened a new tab to see. This is what I saw…
My first thought was, Who is this family, and why was I tagged in their picture? This lucky clan had two perfectly trained dogs and had probably just finished a pleasant picnic in the park when the photo was taken. Then a looked a little closer. Wait a minute…is that us?!
My point is this, while I have been so very blessed with a wonderful wife and two playful pups, our real lives and the picture don’t exactly match up. Real life is way messier and more complicated. This got me thinking about all the times I have become subtly jealous of what someone else has, or does, or is while scanning social media. It’s so easy to compare oneself with others while scrolling through photos—Look how perfect their lives are. They never argue. They have the perfect family. It must be nice being them. These thoughts are always accompanied by contrasting self-assessment. I wish I had __________. Why can’t my family be more _________? My life is nowhere near as good as ___________’s.
This is called comparison, and it’s a killer.
While I’ve always known comparison is harmful, I’m beginning to see that our comparative thoughts aren’t even true. Just like the picture above isn’t even close to being an accurate representation of our day at the park, other people’s photos don’t really capture their lives either. The truth is, everyone struggles, everyone fails, and no one is as perfect as their pictures (after all, who posts pictures of arguing, paying bills, etc.?). Comparing oneself with social media pictures is as misleading and as damaging as a young girl comparing her body with photoshopped women in magazines. The images aren’t real.
Teddy Roosevelt said it best, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” One of the great secrets of life is in contentment, in silencing comparative lies and looking instead to all you have to be grateful for. And next time you’re skimming social media and begin feeling like you would rather be someone else, just remember that the lives you’re seeing probably don’t exist.