I turned 28 a few weeks ago so am that perilous age where everyone around me seems to be getting married, having babies, launching businesses, buying houses, getting promoted… In some particularly infuriating cases they’re doing all of the above, a phenomenon I believe is known as “killing it” or “nailing life”. I hate those people. More accurately, I hate how those people make me feel about myself and everything I’ve achieved. Or rather, not achieved.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying for one second that Fear of Falling Behind doesn’t afflict men too. Competitiveness is a fundamental human trait and one that’s been essential for survival since, well, forever. Social media has only served to exacerbate this competitiveness as we have a front-row seat to everyone else’s every often exaggerated and heavily edited achievement. And of course, none of the many failures that frequently occur in even the most flawless-seeming of lives. Bottom line, it’s hard being a human and for all its great bits, social media has made it harder. Whatever your gender. But for women, there is an extra dimension.
Lest we forget, it wasn’t long ago that we weren’t expected to and even couldn’t compete in the same categories as men. We were valued, and indeed valued ourselves, for how we fulfilled the wife and mother role. Not for our lightspeed progression up the career ladder, entrepreneurial nous or not-so-paltry paycheque. Thankfully those days are a thing of the past but that has left us with the dual and often destructive dilemma of feeling that we have to excel in both the traditional gender roles.
Just got a big promotion? Well, that girl you went to school with when you were ten is happily (according to Facebook) married and just upgraded to a family home so the triplets could have a room each. Finally tied the knot with the love of your life and thought you’d never stop smiling? Pah! Nothing compared to the fact your second cousin twice removed has 1.5 million Instagram followers and is the face of a major cosmetics brand.
We are, all of us, allowing ourselves to be sucked into an unwinnable race that ultimately makes us less productive and less happy. I myself am a massive culprit of this. Through a combination of hard work and, let's be honest, a good dose of luck I've somehow managed to land the job I've wanted for as long as I can remember. Logically, this should have made the feelings of insecurity and anxiety that permeate so many of our psyches near constantly, go away. But of course, dear Grazia readers, it has not. I don't know about you but personally, I'm pretty sick of FOFB. So I turned to Mindfulness and Meditation Teacher Helen Williams for some advice.
According to Helen, "Judgments and comparisons of others are often the projections we use to avoid our own fears around inadequacy and insecurity. So long as we keep our attention on what others are achieving, what others are posting and how others are experiencing their lives, we can avoid paying attention to our perceived lack or feelings of being worthless."
Helen continues, "The joy of mindfulness practice is that it enables us to learn how to appreciate ourselves simply as we are, without damaging judgments and comparisons. As we grow in self acceptance we come to understand the richness of our lives, the beauty of our unique abilities, and the joy in generously embracing others achievements wholeheartedly. Mindful awareness brings us the opportunity to enjoy life just as it it. My favorite saying - this is what’s happening right now."
Easier said than done, I know. But if putting in the effort might mean an end to feeling like a failure every time I look at Facebook then I'm willing to give this mindful awareness thing a go.
- For more about Helen’s work, visit mindfulme.me