Right now, the internet is blazing with how social media actually disconnects us; we spend too much time on it and we are always looking at our phones, etc. And trust me, I get it and I’m the most guilty person on the planet. But there is a way to use social media for the good of our souls instead of cluttering our lives.
I was talking to a friend of mine over breakfast (I find breakfast to be the time to have the deepest talks. Bacon is on the line. I also just woke up. I haven’t had any coffee. I’m vulnerable.)
He told me, as he took his first sip of java, that he suffered from compare-itis. Many of his buddies were having (no joke) overnight success in the writing industry. They seemed to cough into a napkin and the New York Times Bestseller list would love it. He was bummed about where he was and if people looked at him as a failure. (Actually I knew the authors. They were good chaps, good writers and they wrote well.) His compare-itis is a not so rare derivative of adultitis where you compare yourself to others and base your happiness on that. So if Joe got a new job, you want a new job. If Adele has a hit album, you wonder why your album hasn’t taken off. You get the idea. I looked at my soon to be caffeinated friend and said, “You aren’t the beta version of anyone.” He blinked a couple of times. His eyes dilated. I blamed that on the coffee, “Look, man. No one is looking at you saying, “Man, Jim isn’t writing anything valuable at all. What they are saying is positive stuff. You work hard and you’re a successful guy, but you aren’t the beta version of all these guys. You’re Jim.”
He sighed. The waitress brought us bacon. And I’m not saying that I ordered two orders of hash browns. That’s not the point of this at all.
And then he asked me question that took me off my game a bit.
“Ok, so how do I stop? What do I do?”
It was like he was asking me, “Yeah, so I should lose weight and you’re telling me to exercise—how do I do that? What are the steps?”
I scratched my head. The pressure was on. My buddy was counting on me for some mountaintop wisdom. So I stalled, took a huge bite of hash browns and gave the “one sec” hand gesture.
His eyes dilated again.
“Here’s what you can do. The trick isn’t doing what those authors are doing. That’s their thing. Again, you aren’t the beta version. You need to be more Jim. You think you want something they have, but trust me, you don’t get far comparing your blooper reel to their highlight reel.”
“Get back to Instagram.”
“RIGHT! I think you need to go back to what you have, what you grateful for. So here’s the assignment.” I grab his phone. We were good enough friends I could grab his phone.
“Everyday. Take a picture of what you are grateful for. Every day. One thing. Your kids. Your wife. Your house. Your iPhone…whatever.”
He paused for a bit. Took a bite of bacon. “I can do that.” We got up to leave and I thanked him for paying the bill.
What I have found is the only way we can defeat compare-itis is by evaluating, inventorying and celebrating what we have and being grateful for it. If we think that people have it bad just as we do, then we all get to feel lousy and that isn’t the point. It’s looking at the good and celebrating the good and cherishing the good. And these can be small things: good coffee, an unexpected embrace, a card from a friend, etc. I’m working to integrate more of these into my life so that I don’t feel lousy and compare myself to others, because you can’t win that game.
And before we left, I didn’t take a picture of two empty plates, where good friendship dwelt for awhile—and I should have. Because for that friendship, I am grateful.