It has taken me a while to figure out why the world has been revolving for me on my personal axis which never seems to stop for me to take a breath. After an honest self-assessment, I have finally understood why my life, cluttered with all that I do for “advancement” and “happiness”, seems to leave me with a taste of chalk, rather than the fulfillment I crave.
I have for some time now lived on the same street as Mr. and Mrs. Jones, the self-absorbed perfect couple with the perfect jobs, the perfect children, the perfectly exciting social life: the perfect existence. Just living close to the Joneses encourages, no, invites, no, compels me to want to attain what they have, and to live out the “perfect ” existence I persuade myself that I deserve. And so I have been chasing my tail, doing everything to keep up; but now I am weary and disillusioned, and I raise my hands in surrender and announce that I do not have to live near such perfection. Let me live my own life at my own pace, helped and guided by my God, singing my own tune, whether it be off-key or not, content to have a not-so-perfect house, or perfectly manicured lawn, or perfect clothes everyday, or perfect car, or anything resembling a utopian existence.
So I have moved out of the neighbourhood of the Joneses, more like a dog with its tail between its legs, than like a rat out of a burning house, but move I have, and perhaps you should too.
Perhaps you fail to catch my drift. so let me be clear: whether you want to accept it or not, the dissatisfaction you feel, the lack of contentment and the feeling that everyone is getting ahead of you, is because you are stuck in an image warp created by the basic human need to “fit in”, to be “normal”, and to do just as well as everyone is.
This image warp is enhanced by the wonderful phenomenon we call social media, where everybody seems to live their lives for everyone to see, and what perfect lives people appear to live; all except you.
There are those who seem to record every moment of existence on social media. Clothes that apparently make fashion statements are immediately posted on social media, so are new houses, cars, furniture, occasions such as marriages, births and everything that announces that a person is ”prospering” in life.
The need to become like others who appear to live “successful” lives has led many to live a lie on social media. While some of the posts people make may be true, there are those that feel the compulsion to record lies, distortions of the truth, aimed at impressing others. I have come across a lady who makes it a point to post a picture of herself in beautiful surroundings every week. The lengths to which she goes to place herself in such places for her “photoshoot” will astonish her many social media friends whose favourable comments urge her on in that lifestyle. Sadly, she is not the only one who posts pictures of other people’s properties, thereby making false, non-verbal statements of ownership.
Unfortunately, the effect of this distortion of reality which is intended to mislead, puts pressure on people in that sphere of influence: classmates, work colleagues, and other acquaintances, to keep up with that ‘successful’ lifestyle, or become a failure in their own eyes.
Of course it is impossible to keep up with all the posts with which one is bombarded on social media. The result is a lack of contentment, and a desire to always reach for the unattainable, or to attain at a cost too high to be worth it.
If you find yourself in such a place, know that you are not alone. If you feel you can never be enough, or ever have enough to be of any real significance, know that you have perhaps found yourself in this image warp which may quite likely not be based on reality.
You do not have to live up to the hype of social media. In fact you may have to be more discriminating with regard to what you will allow yourself to participate in, and with whom. You do not have to keep up with those who seem to have attained a ‘successful’ life, to be a person of substance. That very premise is a lie. All this chasing of one’s tail in order to be as ‘successful’ as the next person, is wearying to the soul, and certainly, adds nothing to your true worth, value and significance.
You are not in a race although it may feel like you are. Stop trying to keep up with ‘the Joneses’ because you could never catch up with their elusive illusion of perfection. Be yourself. Celebrate what you have, but by all means make goals for self-improvement and strive to attain them. In this enterprise, be patient with yourself; keep your own pace, and train your eyes not on the Joneses, but on all that will give you a meaningful life, where you contribute to improve life for yourself as well as others. In that journey, be content with your achievements, however little they may appear to others. They are yours, attained at a price, do not belittle them. Be kind to yourself. You are not in a race.
“Though much is taken, much abides.” -from Ulysses by Alfred Lord Tennyson