I remember the days when I could not be on social media as I was in the worst depression of my life. It was shortly after I was released from the hospital due to my suicide attempt. Since I was in my darkest days, I could not bear seeing another pregnancy announcement or job promotion. I felt insecure and angry because everyone’s lives seemed to be moving. I felt so stagnant and like a failure. I even wrote a piece on The Mighty about it. We know that social media is filtered, and people only show you what they want you to see. We learn as children to never judge a book by its cover but for some reason, we tend to do just that as we scroll through our news feeds.
Currently, I am in a place where those emotions do not come up for me as often as they used to. Shout-out to therapy! However, when I realize that I am comparing myself to someone’s social media post, I ask myself, "What emotion(s) am I experiencing?" and "Why am I feeling this way?" In my early twenties, I used to feel the need to share everything amazing happening in my life. For instance, I would post pictures of myself working backstage at BET’s Black Girls Rock! or meeting a celebrity. As I look back, I realize that I was only covering up the anxiety and depression that I was experiencing. I was not diagnosed during that time, but I see how I was caught up in keeping up a facade online. And so many people believed the happiness I portrayed. It is the reason that, when I informed people of my suicide attempt, I received responses like, "You seem so happy and like you have life figured out," or "What do you have to be depressed about? You have a college degree." As if somehow my college degrees and accomplishments could stop the suicidal thoughts and the pain I was feeling.
I put myself on this unrealistic timeline like many of my peers do. Didn’t you set an unrealistic timeline for yourself? The one that says: By the time I am 25-years-old, I will have my dream job. By the time I am 30-years-old, I will be happily married living in my big house inside of a white picket fence playing with my beautiful children. Those pressures may come from ourselves, parents and/or society. We are told that when we graduate from college we are supposed to get a "good job" and start a family. But what happens when you do not meet the timeline you set out for yourself? You are left disappointed. Society has changed, and it is rare for things to pan out in this order: Graduate college, obtain dream job, get married, have children and retire.
Once I realized this, I started to define success for myself. I no longer limit "the success" that I can reach to being married, having children and developing a great career. What good is the big house, money, marriage, children and a great career if you are unhappy? Why is it that we associate material things with happiness when in fact, so many of us buy things to cover up our insecurities and fill voids? My desire for children seems to dissipate the older I become and the more I learn about myself. I thought that as a woman I was supposed to be a mother, and that was the only reason I wanted children. The beautiful thing is that I am young and can change my mind about motherhood in the future. However, I do not compare myself to another woman who may have that desire. We all have different values, and one person valuing her career over being a mother does not make one better than the other.
If I did not take the time to step away from social media, work on myself in therapy and define success for myself, I would still be posting pictures and trying to convince myself and others that I am happy. It is one of the reasons I believe in being so transparent, as it is rare to find people being authentic and vulnerable online. We live in a time where people are renting private planes and Louis Vuitton bags to post them on social media. People are creating new identities that are unfortunately feeding their insecurities, depression and anxiety. Therefore, it is not far-fetched to say that some people are not "living their best life" on social media; they are "living their best lie."
I encourage you to take a step back when you begin to doubt yourself and compare yourself to others because of a social media post. If you cannot get to the root of it on your own, please find a therapist to help you.
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