Day 307 –
Have you every stopped abruptly during a social media perusing and wondered how your day was going so wonderfully until that moment? This happens to me often. I began to reflect this past week on how social media can cause a down spiral of my mood. Why, I wondered, does my day need to be interrupted by an overt case of anxiety when I choose to be on social media. I came to the conclusion that my mood changes when I allow comparison to come barging in and social media accentuates this.
This diary blog of overcoming anxiety has induced me to pause more quickly when I recognize my anxiety. Now redirecting my thoughts around my triggers is my new challenge. I want my anxiety triggers to become easier to identify. I have realized many triggers in the past, but comparison is one I still don’t see coming.
Anxiety looked different than when the pandemic first hit. My children may come home to do school soon and I won’t burst into tears this time. My activities might be cancelled, but I have fewer places to go now. I suffer less disappointment. Our vacations have been constantly cancelled this year, so we have already resigned to stay home for the foreseeable future. I cram fewer things into my life and I am grateful when I get a few hours of uninterrupted work time in my office. Life seems simpler some days for sure. Life seems simpler, that is, until I jump onto social media and thoughts of comparison show up.
Some of my triggers in the past have been money, health, the status of the world and life seeming to move forward without me. I have learned that there is never enough money, but somehow there’s always enough. Health is not a guarantee, but we usually make it through another day without thinking about it. Our world seems to be in upheaval, especially now, but it only triggers me if I participate in certain conversations, or when I am caught off guard by watching the news or looking at social media. Life continues to move on whether we join it or not. I have found that whether I worry or not, it doesn’t change a thing about the external world around me.
This year the antidote of anxiety has been gratitude. When comparison is the root cause for my anxiety, celebrating others has become my antidote. In my new on-line photography course I talk about celebrating other photographers instead of feeling defeated when someone else seems to win the day and posts amazing photographs. When a photographer is creative and is courageous they share their work with others. Celebrating each other has been the only way I have found joy in the midst of comparison.
Growing up, celebrating others came from my need to be notified. Being kind and being generous with my words brought generous words back to me. Once I learned this about myself I test my motives more quickly before offering gushing words to celebration. Are my words genuine? Are my words for the benefit of others or for my own attention? The balance between celebrating others to decrease the comparison game and celebrating others to look awesome doing so can be tricky. Testing motives can also be difficult when we discover that our motives are rooted in the wrong ambition.
How do we celebrate others with the right motives? I have found that we must choose to celebrate others for their benefit. When I celebrate someone else, even if I don’t tell the person directly, I acknowledge the creativity they are expressing. I am acknowledging that they are allowed to create and to thrive in what God has given them. I can leave comparison at the door and move forward in my own creativity. I allow the celebration of others to propel me toward greater levels of creativity in my work, in my relationships and in my ambitions.
In a practical way, as the holidays approach and more perfect family photos show up on social media, remember to celebrate what you see. Let’s challenge each other to not let comparison affect our day. Behind the scenes we all have messy lives and a photo is quick snapshots (1/125 of a second or so) of perfection. Obtaining those moments is hard word and worth the celebration. In doing this, maybe we will be a little less anxious and a lot more gracious with ourselves and with others.