Weathering the #ThrilledToAnnounce and social media envy storms
Updated: Jan 11, 2019
About a year ago, a post showed up in my Facebook newsfeed because one of my friends had “liked” it. The post was from a fellow baritone who I knew of professionally, but to this day, we’ve never met. His post started off with a now-familiar hashtag:
I barely got that far before I thought with rolled eyes and gritted teeth, “Oh no – one of these again”. He was announcing a role at a respected regional opera company the following season. I could feel my stomach churning from jealousy. My mind raced with all sorts of thoughts ranging from cursing this baritone, cursing the company that hired him, wondering if I just wasn’t good enough, thinking I should fire my manager, overhaul my audition rep, and how I was probably better off eating an entire large pizza and writing off this whole opera career thing altogether.
Does that scenario sound close to home at all? I know I’ve heard many people in my private coaching practice share similar stories. Some people feel as if they’ve developed an allergic reaction to “#ThrilledToAnnouce” and “#blessed” posts. For others, it’s not the career-related posts that get to them; it could be the photos someone posted of their dream vacation, an opportunity someone else has that they wish they had gotten, an epic gratitude post, dramatic before and after photos from a makeover or weight loss journey, or a meticulously-staged selfie that unleashes the green-eyed monster within.
What do you do when you see those posts and feel like you want to scream into a pillow or give up all hope? How do you tame the savage beast of jealousy or talk yourself off the ledge in those moments? Well, it turns out that the solution is simpler than many people realize and not what you’d probably think it is. It doesn’t require doing a bunch of mental strategies, learning to not care, or cultivating a mental shield to protect you from envy. Here’s how I often explain it to clients:
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with seeing a social media post and feeling jealous. That’s human. What’s essential is knowing that it isn’t the post making you feel that way.
“How can that be?”, you might ask. Perhaps you’re thinking back to all the times that reading someone else’s YAP announcement or seeing that perfect selfie seemed to ruin your day. It really does feel that way sometimes, doesn’t it? In truth though, while what we’re feeling is very real, we innocently misunderstand where the feeling comes from.
Here’s what I mean: It often looks like our circumstances or other things outside us can “make” us feel a certain way. In reality though, our feelings are a result of the thought being brought to life within us from moment to moment. And because thoughts and moods naturally ebb and flow, life looks one way or another from moment to moment based on our mood (or state of mind).
Let’s take the example of the social media posts. Have you ever noticed that when you’re in a good mood or feeling happy, no post on social media can possibly bother you? You admire the beautiful photos, get inspired by someone’s transformation and hard work, or (gasp!) even feel genuinely happy for other’s success!
But then let’s say you read one of those posts when you’re in a less-than-stellar mood. Now it really looks like everyone is trying to make you jealous and rub in how wonderful their life is! And of course, there are other times when we feel neutral – we scroll right past the post, not really paying much attention.
How is it that we can have so many different experiences – positive, negative, and neutral – of the same circumstance? Well, it’s because our circumstances are not the reason for our feelings. If – as we’re often told these days by psychologists and self-help experts – social media could “make” us jealous or unhappy, then we would all have the same, universal reaction. It would make us all miserable, all the time. But we know that’s not the case – all of us go back and forth between loving it, hating it, or not caring either way.
Because we often don’t realize where our feelings actually come from, it really looks like we’re jealous of what the person is doing, how they look, who they met, or where they’ve traveled or performed. But here’s what I saw in the moment I read my colleague’s gig announcement: I wasn’t actually jealous of his gig. Truth be told, I didn’t even want the gig; it was for a role I’ve never had any interest in playing! Instead, I was actually jealous of the way I imagined he felt.
When we get caught up in our jealous social media thinking, it colors the way we see our experience of life. We mistakenly think that the other person is somehow having a much better experience than us. I was convinced that this fellow baritone had to be much happier than I was. But what we’re feeling is more a reflection of our own thinking in the moment than what’s actually going on with us or the other person.
The truth is, we can’t really know what’s going on with them because we’re not them. That’s why I often tell my clients that when we compare, we compare our inside to someone else’s outside. We can at best only guess what their experience of life is like, hence the phrase, “You only see the stuff people want you to see on social media – you don’t know what’s really going on.”
But in a funny way, we actually do know. We know that the other person is a human being, just like us. That means that sometimes they’re happy and loving life, just like us. Other times, they’re feeling insecure and jealous of social media posts, just like us. They’re experiencing the entire spectrum of emotions – just as we are – because that’s how human beings work. Mood to mood, moment to moment, the way we experience life shifts and evolves. I know that as I’ve seen that shared humanity for myself, jealousy and insecurity tend to fade and love, self-compassion, and empathy emerge.
At this point, you might be wondering, “If my jealous feelings are the result of my thinking, how do I change my thoughts so I stop feeling jealous?” Well, I’ve got good news and bad news. The bad news is, we can’t stop having jealous thoughts, because we’re human. It will happen sometimes. But the good news is, we don’t need to to stop them. Our power (and ultimately, peace of mind) lies in knowing how we work, not in doing anything to fix our feelings.
When we see the truth of where our experience comes from, we see that a social media post actually has no ability to make us feel anything. Only thoughts can. And as we see that we’re feeling a passing, fluid energy that constantly changes how we see the world, we don’t have to do anything about it or listen to it. Our thoughts begin to have much less weight and importance and we see that like clouds in the sky, our jealous feelings and thoughts will naturally pass on their own. Our feelings become less of a problem because we’re always a thought away from a whole new experience of life.
From a more settled state of mind, we’ll instinctively know if there’s any action we need to take, if we need to take a step back, or just stay the course. We’ll see things with a much clearer perspective and get new, fresh insights that will help us grow and move forward on our path.
Now, seeing the truth of what I’m pointing to isn’t a “get out of jail free” card. I can’t promise you’ll never be bothered by a social media post again. I teach this understanding to clients every week, and I still get jealous sometimes! But understanding how you work tends to make jealously show up a lot less frequently and feel like less of a big deal when you do.
So, the next time you read someone’s post and start getting worked up, remember that it’s totally normal and human to do so. Sometimes a post might sting, and you might be tempted to think your thoughts have a point and that you should just give up, crawl in a hole, and hide. When that happens, can you weather the #ThrilledToAnnounce storms and come out on the other end okay?
If you know where your feelings are coming from, the answer is an emphatic YES.