“Don’t compare where you are with the heavily filtered snapshots of a single moment in time that you see on social media. They’re never the full picture”. (Image credit The Blurt Foundation www.blurtitout.org)

This was a fantastic quote which I recently saw, on social media, from The Blurt Foundation. It struck a chord both with me personally and with me as a therapist. So many of us compare ourselves to others and often find ourselves lacking. We are all used to seeing friends and family who seemingly lead exciting fulfilling, busy lives on Facebook. We see beautifully groomed friends, always laughing, always having fun on Instagram. We may look enviously at numerous holiday pictures from glamorous locations we can only dream of. If social media is to be believed, everyone is in happy relationships, has a great job, and hundreds of “friends” and everyone is so much funnier on Twitter. So many people appear to have everything sorted. You know, the invisible rules which say that we “should” be in settled relationships, have a career by 25, own our home by 30, have children, dogs, holidays… What about those who are not in relationships, are unemployed or struggling financially, have lost loved ones, can’t have or don’t want children or are battling depression? Whilst social media can undoubtedly be a support for those who are struggling, it can also sometimes make us feel much worse about ourselves and where we are in life., especially if we are not living by these unspoken rules.

Is our social media presence really authentic? I doubt that many of us present ourselves warts and all for the world to see.

We all have many layers and we choose what we want to show to others. If you imagine, for a minute, that people are like those Russian dolls which used to scare me as a child. If they also scare you, perhaps try picturing an onion instead. The idea is layers….

We have the lovely shiny outer layer – Maybe this is our social media layer. The ideal self that we want to present to the world. Some of this outer layer may even be fantasy – what we want people to believe about us. If this ideal self is attacked , perhaps by an unkind comment on social media, it can feel catastrophic as even our best version of ourselves isn’t good enough.

Layer 2 – This is the layer which people see when they actually meet us. We are probably on our best behaviour when we first meet people but perhaps it is not possible to be as perfect and shiny as when we wear our outer layer.

Layer 3 – This is the part of us which our friends (and maybe colleagues) see. We will try to maintain as much of our outer layer as possible but it is likely that this occasionally slips, beginning to expose our less than perfect inner selves.

Layer 4 – This is the part of us that only those closest to us see. With those closest to us, we can begin to take more risks and let our guard down somewhat. We may not even wear our outer layer at all once we are comfortable with people.

Layer 5 – This is the part of us that we only see ourselves. It may be our vulnerable, frightened or ashamed part which we don’t want to expose to others.

Layer 6 – This is the part of us that we don’t want to see, our “dark side”. We know its there, even if we don’t want to admit it. It is the part of us that we don’t like, the behaviours that we project onto others. It is our inner core, the deep, dark, or even shameful parts of us that we would rather ignore. We don’t want to see it and certainly cannot allow anyone else to see it but we ALL have it. Sometimes we don’t even really look at this part of ourselves unless in therapy but it is helpful to acknowledge it is there and accept it as one of our layers.

Now having thought about your different layers, I wonder whether sometimes whilst comparing yourself to others, you could possibly be comparing your “layer 5” or “layer 6” with someone else’s shiny perfect outer layer. Does that feel like a fair comparison? Next time you are feeling inadequate, inferior, or sad about where you are in life compared to others, it may be worth remembering that you are probably not seeing others’ inner layers (but they are there).

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