Authenticity: Overcoming Comparison and Keeping it Real
Picture it. You’re sat there on a Saturday night, dateless, tub of Ben and Jerry’s on hand, scrolling through the endless newsfeed on Facebook. Your Facebook friends all seem to be enjoying some flash and exclusive party, while you’re at your own. Your own pity party.
Comparison can be an ugly thing. Not least because comparison breeds contempt and competitiveness towards others, but also because the lives of others aren’t as real as they seem. Comparison can prevent us from living our own life or a life on our own terms.
Comparison: Stop Living a Lie
We all know it, yet not a lot of us accept it, but social media is not real life. Those carefully edited profile pics and faultless status updates can leave us craving to live other peoples’ lives without being aware of the hidden flaws, imperfections or tragedies that may be hiding beneath their smiles. When comparison rears its ugly head, it’s good to remember that social media can often be a lie.
In my pursuit of authenticity and to cloud out any negativity, I decided to do a social media fast. That’s right, I challenged myself to 3 weeks off social media. The results were profound. I had a much greater sense of self. I also had much more clarity at the end. I knew what I needed to do to take my career to the next level. This would never have been the case if I had spent the usual hours with Facebook on tap. In fact a study by IPSOS has shown that millennials spend an average of 3.8 hours per day on social media sites. With such excessive consumption of social media, is it any wonder that people are unsure of who they really are.
When you’re comparing yourself with others, your own success barometer is flawed. You mindlessly follow the masses without a second thought about what makes you tick. This is coupled with the fact that most people aren’t even living their dream life anyway. Do you really want to follow people that don’t even know where they’re heading themselves?
Patterns of Authenticity: Vulnerability and Letting Go
Much of the fight against comparison comes from the need to be authentic. It’s simply dropping down our guard- being real. Being real means acknowledging our vulnerable self, which most of us have an inherent need. Brene Brown’s famous Ted Talk titled The Power of Vulnerability attests to this because she acknowledges the need for social interaction too. It’s about taking time with people, opening up and trusting others. In return it breeds deeper social connection, which is certainly something we all crave.
Vulnerability is about being real and living a life true to ourselves. It’s about letting go of the fear of not being liked and embracing who we actually are. Being inauthentic actually hinders others from being real themselves. If we are living inauthentically, how can we encourage those around us to be true to themselves? How can we encourage them to embrace all they uniquely are if we don’t know who we are ourselves. Comparison prevents this self-awareness and it also hinders our pursuit of authenticity too.
The first time I heard the famous quote everyone is born an individual, but most people die a cheap imitation, it resonated deep within me. I knew I wanted to take the individual path marked out for me. I knew I wanted to be more authentic, live life on my terms and seek out meaningful relationships along the way.
The key to harnessing authenticity is through clarity. It’s about sitting down and picking your life apart, identifying all that makes you happy or content and is necessary to lead the life you want. Only then can you mark out all that’s stopping you. One of the ways to achieve this is to identify areas of your life you don’t feel at ease with, or the areas of your life you are not actually happy with. Sometimes it takes a deep search within to identify those areas as they have become so ingrained in forming who you are. This is not a get out clause from areas of your life you dislike, there are some parts we cannot escape from, but rather this is identifying hobbies, relationships, careers and studies that are taking us further down the path from reaching authenticity.
Be real. Take time. Open up. Trust.
**First published in The Huffington Post by me.