How to handle feelings of inadequacies ?
April 15, 2010 6:54 PM   Subscribe

How do I diminish my feelings of envy ? At work. I'm surrounded with married folks gushing about their new born babies, their super-awesome wife or husband (I am single by the way). Online, my facebook/twitter friends promotes their fast-paced lifestyle, the gadgets they've acquired, their overseas travels, the concerts they're attending & generally all of them have way more facebook friends or twitter followers than me.

Sometimes I feel like retreating into my room, not go online (unless necessary) as I don't need to be reminded everyday of my inadequacy compared to everyone else. Are there words of wisdoms (books or personal rule of thumbs) that can inform me of how to handle my own feelings of inadequacies ?
posted by lahersedor to Religion & Philosophy (32 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
Get busy! Join a club. Start a club. Join an Internet dating site. Go to concerts. etc.
posted by debbie_ann at 6:59 PM on April 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

I can't help you w/ books but one thing that I've found successful for just de-engaging myself from the need to keep up with others online is to erase facebook/twitter. I've reverted back to old fashioned e-mail and engaging friends in conversations longer than a like button and what 140 letters can link to. It has taken some getting used to and some acknowledgement that this leaves me out of the loop some but has does wonders for my sanity.

It also led to the realization that the number of followers/friends online I had does not equate myself worth as in the end there are few that I generally miss if they do not keep up contact on their side. I highly recommend it.

Try even taking a two week break from them and see if detaching yourself from constant idle information doesn't help?
posted by kanata at 7:00 PM on April 15, 2010 [4 favorites]

question: how do your spend your paycheck?
posted by spacefire at 7:00 PM on April 15, 2010

"There is only one success — to be able to spend your life in your own way." — Christopher Morley
posted by carsonb at 7:01 PM on April 15, 2010 [10 favorites]

I've never met anyone who brags about their life who is genuinely happy. You're comparing how you feel on the inside to what you're seeing on everyone else's outsides. It's not a fair comparison.
posted by something something at 7:07 PM on April 15, 2010 [26 favorites]

So what you're saying is that all the people you know are insecure braggarts - and yet for some reason you envy them? If these people were really happy, they wouldn't need to be trying to impress people by telling everyone about all this stuff they're doing. They'd be too busy living their lives.

Seriously, the people I know IRL who post that kind of stuff on Facebook are the ones that I already know are insecure. I generally end up hiding their posts. Instead of reading about their lives, do as debbie_ann suggests, and go make some fun for yourself.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:08 PM on April 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

Find something to devote your time to, be it an artistic endeavor, garden, new pet, or just anything which could give you the positive rewards of a job well-done. Set goals for yourself, and meet them. Record them, keep a list of your accomplishments. Hide any peers on facebook and unfollow those whose lifestyles make you feel envious and underachieving. When you feel down, look up. Think of all the positive in your life. If there's not enough, breed some more! Eat healthy, start an exercise routine. Distract yourself.

You can build your own universe in the way that you want it. Start now. Make conscious choices. Reevaluate your own criteria for success, and don't forget that even the most "successful" people experience difficulties. Though you may want their luxuries, you might be horrified at some of their problems. Be thankful for yourself and your own life, the rest will flow like water.
posted by wild like kudzu at 7:08 PM on April 15, 2010 [6 favorites]

This may be cold comfort, but a lot of things people brag about having are worthless: gadgets, facebook friends and twitter followers (!), the whole lifestyle of consumption. Even babies are not nearly as great as they seem when you only hear about the good parts.

Also, avoid Facebook and Twitter. Their main purpose is to show off how great you are to other people. It's not necessarily that people write false things there, but that they only write positive things; bad news just doesn't show up. People do that because they see everyone else gushing about their babies and gadgets and wonderful lives—they have to compete, and they think it would be uncouth to mention anything bad when everyone else is so happy. I'm sure that many of them are thinking the same thing as you.
posted by k. at 7:09 PM on April 15, 2010

And remember they all have their back stories too. Twitter feeds and Facebook pages aren't real life - they are what people want to share. Babies are exhausting. Marriages aren't always (ever) perfect. No matter how they appear.
posted by Sukey Says at 7:10 PM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do you think you are better than a dung beetle? You are not. Do you think the dung beetle envies you? no it does not. A dung beetle is too busy. busy doing what?
posted by JohnR at 7:11 PM on April 15, 2010 [7 favorites]

Do some reading about conspicuous consumption, and always remember Kurt Vonnegut's 'Joe Heller'.
posted by Paragon at 7:14 PM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was thinking about this the other day and realised that what I was actually seeing was an overview of what 100 odd people were doing, so one might have bought an ipod, the other gotten married, someone else come back from a trip, etc. People don't tend to blog about the crap in their lives - only the good stuff. It just seems like this one person who has this fabulous life, wherein actual fact it's a group of people who may have just blogged about the one interesting thing that's happened to them. But when everyone does it, it seems like everyone has a better life than you, does that make sense? The good thing is, you don't have to buy stuff or get married to feel lucky. It can be as simple as enjoying a warm summer day with friends and guess what, you've got something worth shouting about too...
posted by Jubey at 7:16 PM on April 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

Realize that an awful lot of people only say/post the best things in their lives, and a lot of people engage in a little self-aggrandizing exaggeration.

Different choices are always attractive. Even perfectly happy people may be envying you and your childless, untieddown lifestyle; and there are a lot of unhappy people who may love their children but hate their marriages, or feel trapped, or hate their fast-paced jobs but be unable to quit ... you know how it goes.

(On preview, what a bunch of people said!)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:16 PM on April 15, 2010

Look at the things you are doing. Think about the freedom you have by not having lots of the things your friends "brag" about. I can tell you that a few pictures of a newborn do not accurately represent the crazy lack of sleep and chaos that is probably going on with those same people who wake up at night with the baby crying and want to pull their ears off.

But for the people you see who ARE doing things you might want to do, like traveling -- force yourself to see the positive and be happy for them. Be inspired by it and plan your own trips. Then post your own pics.

Envy works as a positive when it motivates you to do the things you want instead of simply making you angry and then you do nothing but simmer.
posted by thorny at 7:17 PM on April 15, 2010

Compassion. Attention. Gratitude. How to Want What You Have.
posted by gregoreo at 7:45 PM on April 15, 2010

You are a unique individual and however anyone else's life is going is not a reflection on you.

A phrase I repeat when my mind drifts towards comparison and negative self talk - "I am unique and wonderful, there is more to me than meets the eye".

Comparison and envy do not help us progress in life. They are time waster's that keep us from accomplishing our own goals in life. Take 2 weeks off from Facebook and twitter and focus that time instead on reading about a topic that interest's you or do anything that you would like to do preferably outdoors. I often go to the library and read a good book and avoid the computer like the plague.

And FWIW, not everyone's life is as rosy as it seems to be. I am sure there are people among your friends whose life is not all hunky dory, its just that you may not know the problems that they may be going through.
posted by VickyR at 7:48 PM on April 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

What's important to you? Do you really wish you went to more concerts? Make room in your budget and go. Envious of someone's new phone? When that feeling comes up, remind yourself that you don't care. (Just an example.)

I don't have much envy, specifically, but I find that for any unwelcome feeling it helps to step back and think analytically. Keeping a journal can help with that.
posted by domnit at 7:52 PM on April 15, 2010

Oddly, what I think about when I see this question is Clerks 2. No, not the bit with the donkey. The part where one of the main characters is engaged to a rich-ish woman, moving from the armpit of New Jersey to Florida, and unhappy because he can't understand why he isn't satisfied with all of the exciting things that are happening to him. What he really wanted to do was stay in his home town and hang out with his best friend, but society/ his own expectations told him that he should want more.

I guess my point is that you should maybe ask yourself what it is that you feel is lacking in your own life. Are you really unsatisfied with what you have, or is it just that you feel like you have to measure up to some external standard, and you think that other people do this better than you do? Because no matter how you wear yourself out trying to have the greatest family life, travel experience, job, income, whatever, there will always be someone who seems to be doing better.

Try to figure out what you want, as trite as it sounds. Ignore what other people are doing for a moment and consider what it is that you value, or find interesting. Define yourself by exploring that thing, not engaging in some sort of life long competition for what everyone else seems to value--because to put it bluntly, crap like Twitter and Facebook friends is pretty meaningless. Even if you win those petty quasi-competitions, do you think that you are really going to be happy, or any better for it?

Wow. I never thought I would use Clerks 2 for advice on this website.
posted by _cave at 7:56 PM on April 15, 2010 [6 favorites]

Dude. You're judging yourself by number of twitter followers?

I'll second everything kanata said. In the interest of full disclosure - I just don't get people's compulsion to share everything about their life, and personally use neither facebook nor twitter.

More seriously, you seem to be asking two separate questions: one about people making you feel inadequate in person, the other about feeling bad when comparing yourself to people's self-promotion on facebook and twitter. The later case has been dealt with plenty already =)

As far as dealing with people talking about their babies/significant others at work - people talk about what they're currently excited about. I doubt they're passing judgment on you for currently pursuing a different track. (If they're being obnoxiously smug about hewing closely to society's traditional definition of success, feel free to either ignore them or be annoyingly enthusiastic about how awesome your present freedom is). Ask follow up questions about their life, see the interaction as a way to see a different point of view, rather than a bragging match. Bring up some interests of your own!

Life's not a contest. Do what makes you happy, and remember that the only person you need to justify your choices to is yourself.

... hmm ... as an afterthought - is the problem that you crave the baby/relationship, but haven't obtained that yet?
posted by Metasyntactic at 8:00 PM on April 15, 2010

I could be one of your friends. I just got a fully funded move overseas to live in a gorgeous town by the beach that people from all over the country (New Zealand) come to on holiday. I get a block of 5 days off once a fortnight and use them to go travelling, hiking, skiing, what have you. Yesterday a friend stopped by unannounced, we went out fishing in his boat, drank some beer in the sun and caught enough fish to have an impromptu dinner for seven that night. My job is challenging and busy, but I'm excited by it and enjoy it when I'm there. I get paid far more than the national average and I'm just barely a year out of uni.

You know what, though? At the moment I'm feeling more lost and rudderless than I ever have before. A long dormat relationship that blossomed last year has ended suddenly, and she's seeing someone else and I don't know how to handle it. I have friends here, but none that I can relax with like I can with the people I knew in Australia. I'm going through a world of trouble trying to get a car into the country, and every day I get a phone call to let me know that it's just gotten harder and more expensive.

Everyone is dealing with something. Everyone has their struggles. The details and facebook updates and photo albums can be as happy as you like, but everyone's dealing with their own troubles. If you're jealous of travel, then do what you can to get there as well one day. If you want a relationship, then seek it out. I have no doubt that a friend living back home, still working hospitality and saving up to go out on the weekend, could look at my updates and be jealous. You know what though? I'd trade them the beach and the money and the holidays to have what some of them have.

Enjoy what you have. Don't waste your time pining for what you don't. (This applies to me as much as it does you).
posted by twirlypen at 8:11 PM on April 15, 2010 [9 favorites]

I find that these feelings of envy -- which are more common than people are willing to admit -- come into full bloom when you are either inactive and doing relatively little, or not engaging in anything that is satisfying to you.

When you feel empty, your mind strays to thinking of others, and imagining that their lives are so much richer and fuller. It's a way of beating up on yourself.

I would take some time for reappraisal of your life. Sit down and really think about what has made you happy in the past, and focus on that with laser-like intensity. If you are unemployed and have no money, volunteer at a charity. If you have a crappy love life, join a dating site. If you are feeling crappy, join a gym and start doing modest exercise. Go for a walk and get a coffee. Adopt a cat or dog and teach them how to use an iPad, then YouTube it.

Oh, and fill your life with art. Read. Look at paintings. Listen to music.
posted by teedee2000 at 8:26 PM on April 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

How about this: If you like what you see in other people's feeds, figure out how to do it in your own life. Want to travel? Make it happen. Want a significant other? Start dating more.

Really, it's all a matter of perception. You can only do what you think you can. Don't let good things in others' lives stop you, let it inspire you!
posted by metametababe at 8:50 PM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Make friends outside of work.
posted by polymodus at 9:21 PM on April 15, 2010

I know exactly what you mean, and one of my 2010 goals was to stop this sort of (what I call) "vicarious living." I figured people with truly noteworthy lives and ongoings aren't updating their twitter or facebook all the time. If your life really is that jam-packed and exciting and fulfilling, would you be updating your twitter every chance you got downtime? Wouldn't you already be with people you cared the most about, or wouldn't they already be factored into your real/physical life somehow? (Obviously, a fulfilling life TO ME requires personal contact through something other than a facebook feed: phone calls, e-mails, postal letters). Facebook is a nice way to share things with friends, but for every person who uses it to share interesting things with friends, there's bound to be another who's trying to compose some semblance of an interesting life, imo.

So I stopped living vicariously, which I still sometimes feel is a form of denial (and that by ignoring fb, I don't have to face the supposed fact that my life is "inferior") But I'm a lot happier, and it's already made my life change in drastic ways (at first I had applied and had gotten in! to grad schools but have now decided to spend a couple years abroad in a foreign country). I'm not partying all the time or sky-diving or doing any sort of obvious, outrageous fun, but I'm seeing and experiencing new things, which is kind of the whole point of it all anyway right?

And it also helps me tremendously to realize that everyone Lives and Has Fun in different ways. I still struggle with feeling inadequate as a 20something year old, but I think if I'm happy with my life, then I shouldn't feel left out or as if I'm missing something. And if I do feel like I'm missing it, then I should obviously go out and seek it out for myself. Instead of pining over the fact that I'm not experiencing that (and others are), I should instead make plans to have it happen (whether it be a trip or some sort of new hobby or what have you). I haven't gotten around to practicing everything that I'm preaching (as self-perception & life attitude changes are rather slow and gradual for me), but it's helped me a lot so far. It's okay to be happy and content without doing everything that's popping up on facebook.
posted by mittenedsex at 9:59 PM on April 15, 2010

I'm pretty sure that what you're feeling is in fact the primary reason why everyone's updating their Twitter and Facebook with stuff about how awesome their life is.

Alice posts "OMG I just got engaged!"

Bob, seeing Alice's post and feeling sad about his recent divorce, posts "OMG I just bought an iPad!"

Charlene, seeing Bob's and Alice's posts and feeling wretched about her inability to lose that extra 40 pounds AND not having an iPad AND not being engaged, posts "OMG yoga class tonight was amaaaaaaazing I feel so fantastic!" Even though it was sweaty and hard and she just feels, you know, meh.

And so forth.

It's a war of escalation that cannot be won. Except by a total douchebag. Be glad that you are not that douchebag!
posted by ErikaB at 11:00 PM on April 15, 2010 [12 favorites]

This happened to me once. It was a phase. I kept looking at facebook and kept specifically looking at all the people who were mean to me in high school and how they were all married and smiling and tanned and exactly how it was obvious they would turn out to be. I even wrote a song called "All the girls who were mean to me in high school are married now." I imagined them looking at my profile and thinking that I was still this weird, immature unloveable failure at life. And then my friend said no. He said, look at your facebook profile. Here is a picture of you smiling. Here is a picture of you with all your friends. Here is a picture of you with a boy who appears to be your boyfriend. He said, you live in New York and have an impressive job and here, look, it says you are about to go to an ivy league graduate school for something cool. He said, here you are looking pretty and skinny. He said, here you are making a witty comment. He said, they look at you and think your life is exciting. You are very kind, I said, but I come home and pick at my toenail and nobody loves me. And he just looked at me.

BUT! But, I tell you, that I got his point. I figured it out. The point is: that's the thing about facebook, and that is the point of this comment--anyone can look happy and exciting and successful on facebook. It's a self-reporting medium. Apparently, even I look happy and exciting and successful on facebook, and I come home and pick my toenail and nobody loves me. I assure you.
posted by millipede at 11:00 PM on April 15, 2010 [16 favorites]

Tim Kreider (yes, that Tim Kreider) wrote some a very insightful editorial about this very subject for the Times.
posted by griphus at 6:48 AM on April 16, 2010

1. Everyone is fucked up in some way at some level. Everyone hurts sometimes. Remember that, because it helps a lot with perspective on yourself.

2. However, there's no need to think poorly of all of your twitter and facebook friends, like some people suggest here. They may be happy, they may not be happy. They may be materialistic, but maybe the gadget they post about is the first gadget they've bought in years. The answer to this isn't to judge, because judging and looking down isn't going to help you like yourself more. The answer is to, as many people have said, do stuff. That is the answer because you need to boost your self-esteem, and the most powerful self-esteem booster I know is to develop yourself as a person through finding your own interests and doing your own thing and being your own funky self. Above all, work on not basing your self-worth on how you compare to other people.
posted by hought20 at 6:49 AM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

This front page post leads to this, which is extremely relevant (though not in the sense of Jewishness or religiousness).
I'm a fan of Facebook in general, but have noticed that using the network not only can distract me from other more introspective or meditative pursuits, but it can also induce comparing mind — "so-and-so's life is more interesting, meaningful, fun, etc." I wanted to create awareness around how Facebook can actually serve to alienate us, and to find support in abstaining from something that is so common-place.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:59 AM on April 16, 2010

There's a certain degree of amplification just from number of friends, as well. If people post about something really good that happened once a month, and you have thirty friends, then you could expect to see something really good happening to someone about once a day.
posted by kaibutsu at 2:03 PM on April 17, 2010

I've realised that everyone has problems and issues and insecurities and weaknesses..what they are presenting to you is a facade, an image of how they want to be seen by the world. I'ts just ego. Most people live completely from their ego's..which is the false version of self or idea of self. And it's just a superficial facade. Usually when someone can't relate to this it's because they're a bit more in touch with their depth even if they don't yet know it. And they..are yearning for more true and deep connections. And when your like this you can become disillusioned by all the falseness people project. You should be happy to be you! not jealous! embrace who you are and just enjoy you, being you! Love yourself and the world will love you too.
posted by lavender9 at 4:00 AM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ask yourself if you're happy doing and being the way you are living at the moment, don't bring what others are doing into it. If you're happy the way you are then just keep on going as you are, if you begin to see and appreciate you for what you are the comparisons will fall away. If you're not happy with what you're doing, then try to bring something into your life that brings you joy - maybe it's just taking a dance class at nights or going to the country for a walk on the weekends, find anything that you truly enjoy then start doing that. Doing this can help you become more confident in who you are and it may even inspire a greater shift in your life (changing your work, moving to another country)
posted by parryb at 2:23 PM on May 29, 2010

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