A couple weeks ago I found out that an acquaintance I follow through social media split up with her partner of three and a half years, in a very abrupt break up (which I also found out about through social media). From what they posted online, I had been under the impression that their relationship was rock solid. Even a month earlier, the pictures and tweets they posted indicated that they were madly in love. But - I still struggle to wrap my head around this - if the relationship was truly as rock solid as they led everyone to believe could such an abrupt break up occur? Mustn't there have been some cracks that weren't showing?
Earlier this week I met up with a friend, and she shared that her soon-to-be ex-partner has been struggling profoundly with unhappiness and loneliness. Again I was surprised, because this person's Facebook page would only indicate the opposite.
I think it's no secret that many people tend to post only the brightest version of their lives on social media - the best selfies and pics, the happiest memories, the posts that put a positive spin on life. I also think that the innate desires to protect privacy and not be vulnerable in a public arena are not without purpose.
But I really have been thinking about persona's that people - friends, acquaintances, celebrities, strangers - create and present to the world, and how much we compare our own lives to theirs. How much dissatisfaction and anxiety is created from these comparisons, that might all be based on a fake reality?
I'm not immune to this either.
I wrestle with an almost constant undercurrent of anxiety that always gets worse at night. I worry a lot, that I'm not doing enough, that I'm not doing things well enough, that I am not enough. Nobody who knows me, even well, would guess this.
My partner and I have issues that we've been working through for years that don't have easy answers. We love each other deeply and everyone who knows us thinks we are superbly compatible and have the perfect relationship - yet we struggle and hurt behind closed doors like everyone else.
When I'm at the gym and the only one in the change room, I still fight the urge to weigh myself sometimes despite everything that I know and believe in. I hate this and don't want anybody to know because I'm supposed to be the expert in body image and eating, I'm supposed to have this all figured out. I remind myself that it doesn't make me a weak person or a fraud, it only demonstrates how deeply ingrained those messages are about how much our weight matters. We hear them every single day and have been for our whole lives. Sometimes it sneaks back in. Maybe it never completely goes away.
What I am learning over and over again is that perfection is a myth. Everybody struggles, everybody hurts, everybody is unhappy about something and insecure about something else. Everybody is flawed, everybody has scars, everybody has caused pain as well as endured it. It is part of our shared humanity. My thought for today is, the more we open up and allow ourselves to be vulnerable instead of transmitting the image of a perfect life, the more we can feel connected and have compassion for one another. It's a heavy load to carry, and one that feels good to set down once in a while.
Let's keep our eyes on our own paper. There is, after all, no proof that the person next to us knows the answers any better than we do.