Last week, a reader requested that I write about how to stay focused on your own goals without allowing social media to tempt you into comparing your progress to that of others. Kudos to her for making this suggestion! This is a very important topic that many of us are too embarrassed to address but it can certainly make or break your journey to success.
First let me say that envy is not a bad thing, it is simply byproduct of your ego and your ego can make you believe all kinds of crazy things. Your ego convinces you that it’s lame to offer a compliment, express gratitude, applaud another, or ask for someone’s advice. Your ego pits you against others instead of letting you take advantage of a learning opportunity. Right now you might feel like you’ve hit a brick wall and you aren’t getting any results, but here this person is (an imperfect human, just like you) flooding your timeline showing off their success. They obviously know something that you don’t, but the good news is that social media has given you access to them. Why not ask them for some advice? Don’t get me wrong, not everyone will be willing to share their secrets but even if they aren’t, be willing to dig to find the answers you need.
For me, social media is a constant source of inspiration. I follow so many successful women of color that I scroll through my timeline and I get excited about the possibilities. We cannot change that fact that we are constantly surrounded by reminders of others’ success but we can change how we respond. In fact, very moment that you spend on a social network provides a choice. Envy, ego, and jealously are nothing more than emotions and every time an emotion arises, you have to take an honest step back and ask yourself: Is this really how I should feel or is there a better way for me to redirect my thoughts? Think about all of the people you follow and all of the things that appear on your feed, you can: like it (and keep it moving), ignore it (and keep it moving), you can choose to feel inspired by what you see, or you can feel the need to question why someone else has everything that you don’t. My advice? Always choose to be inspired. The next time you log into your Facebook or Instagram account, seek information and inspiration. Try the following:
- Choose wisely and be motivated by what you see. Follow women that look like you, who have the things that you want. Use their success as a reminder that it is possible for you, too! But wait, this can be tricky. When you know someone personally – you remember how lazy she was in college or how her grades were never as good as yours, you may even remember that she wasn’t always so nice, or skinny, or pretty, or popular. And because you “know” her, you can’t understand why she’s “winning” and you aren’t. Newsflash: people change and you probably never knew her as well as you thought you did. If you follow an associate that was never really a friend and you find yourself questioning her success, do yourself a favor and UNFOLLOW her (at least for now). It’ll be hard for you to get past your idea of who she used to be, so seeing her updates won’t actually help you. Use social media to follow only your friends/family or people that you can honestly feel inspired by. Heck, you may have a really good friend or relative that you keep comparing yourself to and in that case, unfollow or mute them too.
- Be bold about developing genuine connections. Social media should be used to stay in touch with people you currently know as well as to make new acquaintances. Posting a comment or sending a message to someone you don’t know can feel intimidating but who’s to say that they aren’t willing to share everything they know? Only friend or follow people that feel like you could bond with or learn from. If you don’t think they’d give your question the time of day, ditch them!
- Limit your lurking. It’s so tempting to want to just peek. You have the old, “I don’t really care, I just want to see” talk with yourself and then you dive in. But remember, seeing is believing. If you think that it would be too hard to see someone’s updates and not feel even the slightest bit of jealously or envy, hit the unfollow button. Stop torturing yourself. Today, as you scroll past everyone, unfollow and unfriend anyone that doesn’t spark feelings of excitement inside of you.
- Let envy be your guide. What you envy about others is a clue about what you should be doing. If you envy someone’s freedom, maybe you should be thinking about entrepreneurship. You envy the nice suits she wears to work? Start researching business degree programs or jobs in corporate America. You’re not feelings these emotions for no reason, you just have to let them guide you in a constructive and positive direction.
- Journal your gratitude. You can either do this via social media or in your own private gratitude journal but somewhere, you need to be taking stock of your own success. Get in the habit of recording the things that you’ve accomplished and get into an even stronger habit of reviewing and reliving those feelings. There are a lot of things out in the world that can influence you so you have to be very intentional about protecting your space. I always tell people that I coach, don’t be modest. You have to marvel in your success before you start looking around at what others have, otherwise nothing you do will ever be good enough.
- Consider it research. I don’t follow people just for the sake of seeing their “picture perfect” lives. I read the captions, I visit their websites, I buy the books they buy, I register for the conferences that they attend – I put their posts into motion! Since I’m actively using the information that other people are sharing, it feels less like they’re “beating me” and more like they’re helping me train for my own race. They’re not my competition, they’re giving me clues on how to win! Next time, instead of just looking at their finished product, scroll back until you see the behind-the-scenes work. That’s where the gold is, that’s where you find the help you might need.
And if all else fails, take a break. Delete the apps from your phone and don’t log in for a few days. Give your mind time to rest and refuel itself without any outside influences. Do everything in moderation and remember that time spent watching others is time taken away from you investing in yourself. Give a little, take a little.