If You Would Like To Be Happy, Stop Doing This Lisa Lentino
I recently came across a profound quote on Facebook by Bill Murray that describes the trap in which too many of us, especially our young people, are finding themselves. Bill Murray declared, “Social Media is training us to compare our lives, instead of appreciating everything we are. No wonder why everyone is always depressed.”
When we fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others, we end up accepting the ego’s assumption that our self-worth is conditional. Once we’ve accepted this assumption, which, unfortunately, most of us end up doing, we can easily become preoccupied with trying to obtain and maintain our self-worth. Believing we are worthwhile and deserving of love and consideration is so important to us as human beings that when our self-worth is remotely threatened, we can easily become obsessed with trying to “rectify” the situation.
The ego would have us believe that our self-worth is conditional or dependent upon something external to ourselves (money, fame, fortune, achievements, etc.), or how we compare to others. Unfortunately, with social media, the ego has a perpetual playground of material on which to draw to imply that we are “not as good as” others or that other people’s lives are so much more rewarding than ours.
In my work with clients, I sadly often see the negative impact of social media. The constant influx of images of people’s “perfect lives,” lavish vacations, and accomplishments often fuel feelings of both depression and anxiety in clients. Those who are in the trap of trying to “keep up with the Jones,” feel the pressure of the bar getting higher and higher. The message of the ego is, “rest on your laurels and your self-worth could plummet precipitously.”
Our young people, particularly teenagers, are acutely vulnerable to the negative impact of social media. I’ve seen firsthand the emotional rollercoaster on which the number of likes on Instagram can send teenagers. The ubiquitous nature of social media makes many of our young people feel like they’re never “off-duty” regarding managing their social lives on which much of their self-worth depends as far as the ego is concerned. I have the utmost empathy for the pressure our young people are experiencing having to navigate the trials and tribulations of the teen years with the added pressure of social media. I do feel fortunate to have been a teen before the advent of cell phones or the Internet.
The key to keeping our self-worth intact in a world of social media is to reject the ego’s assumption that our self-worth in conditional. Instead, we must start realizing and teaching our children that their self-worth is unconditional, that it is based on the fact that they are a unique human being with a purpose only they can fulfill. When we begin to really understand that our self-worth is inherent in the fact that we are all unique, we become less vulnerable to ego’s desire for us to spend our lives trying to obtain and maintain an elusive sense of self-worth. Instead, we can focus on developing our gifts and talents and sharing them with the world. In other words, we can concentrate on self-actualizing.
Self-actualization involves us discovering and developing our innate talents, strengths, personality traits and passions. As human beings, we have a natural desire to grow and develop throughout our lives continuously. Unfortunately, the ego’s limiting beliefs all too often stifle rather than encourage our development.
When we are on the path of self-actualization, there is one comparison that is okay to make that does benefit our well-being. That comparison is comparing ourselves to an earlier version of us. Instead of spending hours comparing yourself to others via social media, ask yourself these questions: If you think of yourself five years ago, are you wiser? Are your talents more developed? Have you grown? Focus on continuously growing and developing your talents and gifts and fulfilling your purpose, rather than comparing yourself to others, and you’ll find enduring contentment and a much more meaningful life.
The message of unconditional self-worth and trying to encourage our young people to look inward to discover and develop their gifts and talents is a one that is particularly important to me. As part of my mission of trying to share this message with as many children as possible, I’ve written the children’s book The Littlest Acorn. In this story, a young oak sapling falls into the trap of trying to be like the other trees in the forest only to ultimately discover that the only path to true contentment is to appreciate and develop her gifts and then share them with the world. I hope you’ll consider sharing this story with any young person in your life if you believe it would help them stay on their own journey of self-actualization which is my hope for every child.
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