By Samuel Tyler
“Never Forget what you are.
The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor.
And it can never be used to hurt you.”
– Tyrion Lannister
In this day and age, it’s difficult to go anywhere without being aware of all the different stories and stimuli created by our peers. Recent advances in technology over the past decade have given us the ability to be more connected than ever. This has given us both many wonderful benefits and inevitable “problems.” While there are many we could discuss, I would like to focus our attention on envy and external validation. By the end, I hope to give you the ability to recognize these feelings and face them.
Envy is strange. It’s one of those things categorized into pettiness, and in more extreme cases, an act of sin in religious communities. Envy goes a lot deeper than other problems however because it doesn’t necessarily show on a surface level and you can’t always see that someone’s negative behavior is rooted in their jealousy. It’s a motivator that compels people to act more defensive and passive-aggressive. Everyone has felt it at one time or another, and those feelings have become more amplified due to exposure to social media.
Recently a new term called “Instagram Envy” has surfaced. Instagram promotes a user’s ability to be creative and to make green monsters out of all their friends. When you look at other people’s photos, you’re looking at glimpses into their lives. You’ll see graduation photos, getaway vacations, engagements, pregnancy announcements, you name it. Seeing these moments can force us into a state of “Comparisonitis.” Or the act of unfairly comparing your faults and disappointments to someone else’s accomplishments and opportunities. It also doesn’t help that these photos can also be digitally altered on the fly to look even more vibrant than they are. This causes us to exaggerate our own failures and fantasize the lives of others.
(By the way, here’s a shameless plug for my Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/styler1775/ )
Observe my creative photo angle of the wine rack! Doesn’t it show my creativity?
Notice how I’m not so subtly baiting for your approval? This photo might make me look like a connoisseur of fine wine, but allow me to reveal to you that I know absolutely zilch when it comes to wine. To be honest, I’m not even that big a fan of wine. Sure, I’ll drink it if you offer it to me, but if you start asking me my professional opinion, I’m just going to respond. “Yep… It’s fruity!”
Now did I post that photo to give you the impression that I’m living the fancy life? Nope. I just thought it looked neat. I didn’t care what people were going to think. I said, “This might make for a good picture,” so I took it, regardless of how many people I thought were going to see it and like it. I want you to take note of this mindset because we’ll be exploring it later.
It’s likely everyone has experienced this form of envy one time or another, and I just want you to know, that’s ok. It can be very demoralizing to be sitting at home during Halloween looking at all the happy couples on Facebook who have synchronized costumes while you’re sitting in your room re-watching Stranger Things season 2 for the third time. Not only that but when you see someone else having a great time with life while you’re barely getting by it only builds into your need for conformity and approval from others. Which leads nicely into my next topic…
You can’t talk about envy without addressing its cousin issue “external validation.” Now to be perfectly clear. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to conform and be part of a group. In fact, it’s built into us evolutionarily as a means of survival. As human beings, we do in some instances need the acceptance of others. We need it to be a part of groups and to find partners for survival. This is why there’s so much anxiety centered around being rejected by a romantic interest.
I just really want to reach into that comic and tell Charlie Brown that everything is going to be ok.
The problem is centering your happiness on external forces rather taking agenda over your own attitude.
Take Marty Mcfly from Back to the Future. A lot of his fears are centered around whether or not his musical talent will be accepted.
“What if they say I’m no good? What if they say, get outta here kid, you’ve got no future?
I mean, I just don’t know if I can take that kind of rejection.” – Marty
Then later in the film. Marty’s dad drops a bomb of a revelation on him.
He gives the same kind of response that Marty gave early. He’s not alone in his fears, and neither are we. The subject may be different, but whether it’s talking to a romantic interest or chasing your passion, rejection hurts and we’ll all face it at some point. It’s not until our characters are thrown into conflict that they’re forced to face that fear. The same goes for real life. Conquering your anxiety requires consciously walking into discomfort and ultimately living through it.
Social Media Woes
Do you post too much on social media? Does your esteem take a hit when you don’t get a lot of reactions or no reaction from a certain person? Do you constantly post selfies of yourself? Are you constantly updating your profile picture? Are you making status updates for every little activity no matter how menial? If any combinations of these represent you, you’re seeking some form of external validation, and you probably need to take a break from social media for a while to break that addiction.
If you do post something, post it because it matters to you. Do it because you want to savor the memory, not to see how people will react or to get back at an ex. On top of that, don’t post anything that doesn’t build into the narrative of your life. I.e. Don’t post something just for the sake of posting. Treat Instagram like a scrapbook or a photography club. Treat Facebook like your personal storybook. If you do something with authenticity, it will show and people will gravitate toward you.
On the topic of needy people: Insecurities can be revealed by seeking constant approval from relationships. This is what is known as “needy” behavior. It all comes from a place of fear. Their relationship is a source of happiness and losing that joy would be detrimental to their self-worth so it must be maintained at all costs, even if they don’t realize that the constant maintenance will be more likely to drive people away. Think of it like watering a plant. You don’t want to die from dehydration, but you also don’t want to drown it. Your life has to have more in it than just keeping your plant alive.
Another thing I’d like to recommend for more personal instances: Sometimes we get rejected by people we care deeply for. Seeing their selfies and perpetual joy on social media drives us crazy. Looking at it is like hearing that person say “I was so bored before, but guess how much fun I’m having now without you!” You need to stop doing that to yourself. The only cure for unrequited love is distance plus time. Facebook has a way for you to unfollow people without letting everyone know if you would like to avoid any drama. However, if it hurts to look at someone on social media you need to break it off because it literally causes you emotional harm and you need time away to reflect and heal. I also wouldn’t recommend being like Adele and writing your pain into a song for all to hear. (Because again, that’s seeking external validation.)
Aziz Ansari on Ghosting
(EXPLICIT: Some cursing present. Viewer’s discretion is advised.)
What Can You Do?
First and foremost, you need to accept that you are the master of your fate and the captain of your soul. You are what you do, not what happens to you. It’s not about the hand you’re dealt, it’s how you play it. Change what you can, accept what you can’t. You need to accept yourself. Mistakes and all. Know what you are, own it. If you’ve already defined yourself no one else can do it for you.
On top of that, you need to also accept your successes. That sounds obvious but think about it. How many times do you stop and think about the great things you’ve done? Probably less than you should. It’s easier to be negative, that’s why we need to be mindful and remember to take the good with the bad. It doesn’t matter how small the accomplishment.
Make a note, write down every day something your proud to have done. Take that time to reflect. Don’t bottle up any emotions either. You need to express them in a healthy way through some form of expression. I have found writing it down to be quite effective. Most of all, don’t ask people to tell you what they think are your best qualities, it needs to come from YOU.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Mistakes get made. Don’t beat yourself up over it. People tend to be more worried about themselves than what you do anyways.
Sometimes you run into someone in a bad mood. Sometimes people are jerks. That’s no reason for you to lose your cool. Brush it off. Let it roll off your back. It’s not passive behavior to turn the other cheek. It’s actively making a choice not to allow someone else to control how you feel. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone except yourself.
Pain is inevitable, suffering is self-inflicted. You’re going to get hurt. You’re gonna feel down occasionally. When it happens, write it down, or just take note of your emotions and thoughts as they happen. Take a moment and say “I feel this emotion,” and then “Why do I feel that way?” You will need time to reflect.
Having self-respect or confidence is not just something you’re born with. It comes from experience and being willing to be vulnerable. It is being uncomfortable and ultimately surviving the discomfort that builds confidence.
Now, I am not a doctor. What I’m suggesting comes from my own experiences. There is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking counseling or professional help, and if you feel as though your life is somehow deficient in some way, I would suggest you do so. Even just asking for help from a loved one is a good idea. But please, whatever you do, don’t be silent.
Remember that having self-validation is not necessarily the end-all-be-all of life. As I said before, human beings are social creatures, and it is in our communities that we find our place in life. No man or woman should stand alone. You should seek the advice of your elders and people you trust. If you’re a Christian, you should seek guidance in your faith and your religious leaders. Praying is an effective form of reflection that allows you to take a moment to calm your mind and rejuvenate.
Without a doubt, self-validation is incredibly rewarding. It makes others want to be around you more and talking to them easier. It means you worry less and expect better and when you expect better, better things happen. Having faith in yourself helps you to be an even better cooperator. Remember, social media isn’t the culprit. It’s a tool for your benefit or determent depending on your ability to control your own impulses.
When you’re so secure in yourself and there’s nothing inside that can hurt you, then nothing outside can hurt you either.
I just want to take a moment to thank Sam Ellenwood for letting me post on his blog, and if you would like to know more about curing social insecurities, I’m going to be exploring more on the topic on my own blog at https://ambercladblog.wordpress.com/about/
Charlie Brown comic above is the creative property of the Charles Schulz Estate
Back to the Future gif above is the creative property of Universal Pictures
Back to the Future gif above is the creative property of Universal Pictures
© 2015 S. W. Ellenwood. All rights Reserved.