Is Social Media a Mirror of Discontent?

social media and the mirror of discontent _ erin's life bites

As an American living abroad during the past two election cycles, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated with the state of things back home.

To say things are toxic would be an understatement.

It seems like everywhere you turn, people are at odds with each other about everything.

“Things are changing, get over it.”

Before I became a coach, I used to be one of those folks who walked around thinking, “just get over it.”

However, these days it is my opinion, and the belief of many great scholars, thinkers, and leaders before me that love and compassion are necessities for living an honest and substantial life.

And the truth is; I couldn’t do this without being more loving and compassionate to myself.

Self-compassion is something with which the majority of us struggle.

It’s much easier to beat ourselves up about our perceived failures or prop ourselves up for our perceived strengths while comparing ourselves to the faults and advantages of the other people than it is, to be honest with ourselves.

When we evaluate ourselves so stringently, it doesn’t just stay with us.

When we are cutting towards ourselves, we tend to be less kind to others in turn.  I’ve worked with clients who pick apart other people’s lifestyles, partners, and appearances and it is just down to how they feel about themselves.

We all have done this, and it is not helpful, because as the saying goes (and I may be butchering this, so don’t quote me!) “What Sally says about Jane says more about Sally than it does about Jane.”

In other words,we only end up burning ourselves by thinking and saying cruel and judgmental things.

It is not entirely our fault.  Sometimes, the human default setting is not to reassure ourselves that people are doing the best they can.

Sometimes, our default setting is to scrutinise others as harshly as we would ourselves.

When I ask, is social media a mirror of discontent I mean it regarding how we judge success and failure nowadays.  Is everything we scroll and swipe through our way of looking for a source of feedback by comparing what we see in others in ourselves?

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I see this especially on social media over and over again.  And I’ve fallen victim to it myself.  Say you’re having a bad day and are frustrated with your life, all it takes is a scroll through Instagram or Facebook to watch the highlight reels of other people’s lives to set us off into critical mode.

But guess what?  Most of what we see on people’s social media accounts is (at least) slightly fictional.  I have worked with individuals who show how great their relationship or career is online and then tell me things are hanging by a thread in real life.

Our perception of other people’s lives doesn’t obligate us to beat ourselves up for not having the same story as they do any more than it does to judge them for living differently than us.

And truthfully, most people are not very transparent about their true selves, and it keeps them from being able to show their vulnerability.  If you’re as big of a fan of Brene Brown as I am, then you know what the cost of hiding shame and vulnerability is.

Success is not having an expensive car, high paying job, significant other, or  1% body fat.

Failure is not the absence of those things either.

Success and failure are just feedback, and they are what make us more resilient.

This feedback encourages our self-efficacy, as this detailed article on Positive Psychology defines as the “overall belief in our ability to succeed.”

Your resilience is far greater than you give yourself credit.  Just stop and think about all of the things you’ve been through in your life – hell, this month alone.  I assure you that you have picked yourself up and dusted off more times than you even realise. Positive Psychology also states that those with a high level of self-efficacy are not only more likely to succeed, but they are also more likely to bounce back and recover from failure.

So, what if you could be more aware of your resilience?  What if you could constructively comfort and console yourself along the way?

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Being kind to yourself, when you need it most, is a necessity it is part of what being human is.

As Kristin Neff, a pioneer in the world of self-compassion states: there are three main components to self-compassion — self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.  It is part of the human experience to feel vulnerable and to experience failure or disappointment, but what we don’t need when this happens is to be our worst enemy.  It is our moral imperative to build a healthy self-support system and realise that we all feel discontent and we all struggle.

Self-compassion will enable us to be less critical of ourselves and others and further develop our resilient spirit.

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