I was raised to save face. I was raised to cover up my flaws. I was raised to not let the world know when I was crumbling, to piece my parts together with glue, concealer, or anything else I could find, and to present myself to the world as polished and whole.
We all have experienced the pressure to be perfect. We’ve been programmed to cover up with Snapchat filters, adjusted lighting, and 140 characters to sum up our perfect lives. As we scroll through the highlight reels of other people, we forget how much work we put into our own show. We forget how many pictures we took to find the picture, how many times we adjusted the brightness and the angle of our own shows as we look at others. We think that they were born with perfect bodies, perfect grades, and perfect lives. They never have bad days. They don’t spill coffee on their white shirts, yell in the car in the midst of a traffic jam, or cry for no reason. They’re perfect. We aren’t. End of story.
Those are the lies comparison whispers in our ears as we scroll through social media or hear about others’ successes. All comparison has to do is whisper and we readily hear its pleas. Maybe because it’s easier than looking inside. It’s easier than asking ourselves, What am I covering up inside myself? Why am I allowing myself to shrink? What feelings are so scary that I’d rather sit here in envy?
Because comparison does that. It takes up space, slipping in the door all too quickly and quietly when, next thing you know, it’s unpacked and settled in. It sucks the air out of the room and takes with it any genuine feelings of gratitude, joy, and self-confidence. Comparison is that person who overheard you talking about your party next week and decided to invite itself. That person that eats all the chips at the snack table and butts into every conversation at the party, switching the script to talk about their lives, their needs, their happenings. Yes, comparison is that person.
Comparison makes us spectators. We show up to watch. We show up to use people and their perfectly curated lives as our measuring stick. The role of other people is not to determine my success. People are meant to be mentors and motivators, not measuring sticks. The role of other people is to show up, to love, and to be loved. The role of people is to play a part in other people’s stories, not just thoughtlessly watch from the sidelines. I think it’s impossible to be the best versions of ourselves when we are blindly following someone else’s journey. That road wasn’t made for us, so why can’t we stop focusing on it?
Maybe it’s because the road looks easier. While we’re out here trekking on what feels like a dirt road up a mountain, others look like they’re cruising down a freshly paved highway on a sunny day in a Lamborghini. Maybe it’s because they’re getting somewhere and we’re still flipping the map upside down trying to figure out if we missed a turn. Maybe it’s because we don’t want to be held accountable if we never get there. We’d rather follow others than take the risk of the failure being all on us. Making a change and working towards something ourselves? That’s risky business. It’s on us to show up. It’s on us to put in the work. Success? On us. Failure? On us. We sometimes can’t handle that kind of pressure, so we follow and we watch. We choose to wallow in the emptiness at the end of the day, the one that lingers like the last people at a party, when the Snapchat filters, Facebook statuses, and Instagram posts are removed. We can’t dare to look at ourselves and our cracks because we think we’re the only ones who have them. So instead of being doers, we become watchers. Instead of hard workers, we become fakers. And instead of seeing ourselves as we are, we cover up.
At the end of the show, it’s all a choice. The credits will roll, and you have to ask yourself: Do you want to be in the audience as a spectator? Or on the screen, taking part with all of your being, declaring, shouting, exclaiming, or on the rough days, just whispering, “I showed up today.”