The problem: Every time I go on Facebook or Instagram, it seems like someone my age (32) is getting married, having a baby or enjoying a tropical vacation I can’t afford, and it’s making me really depressed.
Sounds like you’re suffering from an acute case of “not measuring up.” While not an official diagnosis, this modern malady nonetheless afflicts many people who, like you, fear they are not as accomplished, happy or fulfilled as their peers.
Social media is partly to blame. At no other time in history have we been more aware of just how “everyone” else seems to be living a better life than us. Most people don’t post sad, gloomy pictures; you see sunbathing on the beach, not arguments at the restaurant. Studies have shown that we tend to overestimate others’ happiness — we can’t know the real thoughts and feelings behind the grins, so we take their smiles at face value.
It’s far more constructive to compare yourself to who you were a year ago and assess whether you’re growing happier, more peaceful and confident. Envy is a huge energy-zapper. When you focus your thoughts on what you lack instead of what you have and accomplished, you’re draining yourself of precious resources that could be helping you achieve the things you wish you had.
Try this visualization exercise that I use to help clients work through their envy. Then, let the remainder of your negative, hurtful thoughts roll down your body like water and into the gutter, where they belong.
Send your questions for Kim Schneidermanto firstname.lastname@example.org Her new book, “Step Out of Your Story: Writing Exercises to Reframe and Transform Your Life,” is due to be published in the spring.