Scrolling down our various social media profiles may give us the impression that everyone that we know is having the time of their lives 24/7. Glowing smiles of newly formed relationships, exotic foods, sculpted flawless bodies all exemplify the perfection that they have achieved. One puts down their phone and is immediately filled with a sense of unease, envy and a punctured self-esteem. All this is compounded by the fact that the digital world has made it possible to constantly compare our day to day lives with almost anyone around the globe.
We then ask ourselves, why can’t my life be as exciting and glamorous as the celebrities, influencers or friends that I see on Instagram?
Of course, we know that their carefully constructed profiles are just a façade, yet we struggle to remember this. We fail to take a broader more nuanced perspective. While we are exposed to the good and positive aspects of their lives, we are excluded from peering into their difficulties, struggles and hardships – the things which ultimately make us humans.
Our societies obsessions with positivity and happiness at all costs can conceal some of the fundamental truths about the human condition. Regardless of who we are or where we are born, we are all imperfect creatures. Life can be confusing at times, and difficult to navigate. Each of us has our unique set of defects.
This is not an exception, rather it is perfectly normal.
In the past, this idea was communicated to us in various religious traditions. Buddhism pointed out that life is suffering or unsatisfactory (translated as “Dukkha”). That is, we are never quite content with what we have, and are always craving for more. An endless cycle of ever-increasing desires. Further, Christianity’s notion of ‘original sin’ illustrates the flawed nature of the human being. Even if one does not subscribe to the metaphysical ideas of these doctrines, we can still nonetheless appreciate the fact that we will inevitably all go through periods of uncertainty, vulnerability and fragility throughout our lives. After all, no one promised us a rose garden.
Of course, positivity is a wonderful thing. My point is however that continually denying or suppressing our authentic and genuine emotions can only throw fire on the flames down the road. Positivity can become ‘toxic’ when we rigorously try to maintain an excessive ‘happy’ or optimistic attitude in all situations, regardless of the circumstances. We put on a mask to hide what we are really feeling, and who we really are.
Instead, it can be helpful to welcome these difficult emotions with a sense of acceptance, charity and curiosity. They can be a sign that some element in our lives is out of balance. It is a call towards greater introspection, self-knowledge and insight. It may indeed feel uncomfortable to explore these unchartered territories of our inner selves, but addressing these problems directly will allow us to avoid them escalating in the future. Moreover, denying or minimizing our emotions may only lead to increased stress and poor mental and physical health. Rather, we should aim to cultivate compassion for ourselves.
Perhaps we will never live the fabricated lives of the celebrities we see on magazines. This is OK. There is great beauty in embracing the wholeness of being alive. We can put down the veil of perfectionism and embrace the complexities, challenges and doubts we all face. This requires a degree of vulnerability and acceptance of our imperfections.
By being honest with ourselves we can truly begin the inner work of putting the pieces back together – one step at a time.
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