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What a mess!

How to exist in a messy world when everyone else’s seems so perfect.

It’s hard not to compare ourselves to others and how we think they live. We’ve all heard that expression of “Keeping up with the Joneses.” However, what used to be comparing ourselves to our neighbors or maybe families on TV is dwarfed by what we see online. Filters, curated profiles, keyboard warriors (people leaving judging or harsh comments online) all impact our ability to determine what is “normal” or what standards we think most people are adhering to when it comes to their fashion, home life and relationships.

Part cutting through to the reality of life is recognizing that a lot of the media around us is curated. There are some folks on social media platforms like TikTok that are trying to normalize the messes that happen everyday. But there aren’t enough of these people to counter the flood of filters and “Insta perfect” moments.

Young people are especially vulnerable to these skewed perceptions of reality. Much of adolescence is about figuring out who you are, especially in relation to other people. In this time of life, there is a lot of pressure to feel like you belong and fit in. There are also lots of transitions. It can feel and be really messy. But if there isn’t room for mess (not giving the space for messy feelings), or it feels like others aren’t dealing with the same mess (I must be the only person dealing with this), how we think and feel about ourselves can start to shift in a negative way without us even realizing it. Sometimes it morphs into not just feeling sad or lonely but dealing with anxiety or depression.

Negative self-talk can come from a lot of places – it can be messages we were given as children about how we were supposed to be or not be engaging with the world. It can also be self-judgement when comparing ourselves to others. With the internet and social media we have a lot more source material of how we convince ourselves we “should” be living and existing.

What to do:

Sometimes, taking a break from social media can be helpful if you are doing a lot of self comparison and engaging in negative self-talk. It can also be helpful to actively seek out content from folks that are being authentic. No filters, real life, real mess. Those creators are out there and available, it’s just a matter of seeking them out.

If you can catch a negative thought or a perfectionistic thought it’s also helpful to spend some time taking those thoughts apart – thinking about thinking if you will. Taking it apart helps us to challenge the belief in the negative thought. Often when we start to believe negative things, we start to include those beliefs into how we define ourselves as people. When negative things happen, or our perceptions say we aren’t matching up to others we think are perfect, we use that outcome to further justify that belief.

Challenging the thought might be as simple as reminding ourselves that it’s ok not to be perfect, or that it’s ok to make mistakes. Or that it’s normal to feel sad and lonely sometimes. Or that transitions are hard. At it’s core, it’s taking the negative thought and trying to look at it a little more objectively. If it’s hard to do, sometimes thinking about how you would speak to a friend having this thought can be helpful. We all deserve to treat ourselves with the same kindness we would give others.

Depending on how you’re feeling, it might be helpful to work with a professional counselor to help teach and support you. If you’re in the state of Ohio, we can help you via telehealth sessions. Please reach out to us on the contact page or give us a call at 234-466-6274.


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