Highlight Reel Vs. Behind the Scenes

I have found that comparison truly is the thief of joy. It is so tempting to compare myself to other people, and I usually walk away feeling inferior. I think society has conditioned me to feel like different is always better. I can be doing something amazing, but if someone else is also doing something amazing, their experience must be better than mine because it is different. Right?

Intellectually I know there is no real way to rank experiences, nor should there be, because each experience is different and subjective. But society (with the help of social media) has conditioned people, myself included, to behave as if their value is ranked based on where they live or travel, and how many likes their photos get. We have started living our lives and making decisions accordingly, deciding where we go and what we do (and how we dress or decorate or eat) based on how photogenic the outcome is. And then we spend the entirety of these impressive experiences glued to our phones, doctoring up the most Instagram worthy photo and waiting for the likes to come pouring in. And even after all that we still feel inferior because everyone else is doing the same exact thing with their different experiences, and we just can’t be content with what we have or where we are.

The only way to combat this is to remember that people are putting their best selves forward on social media. Girls don’t put up selfies showing off their acne outbreak or bad hair day, they put up highly filtered selfies, usually after hours in the bathroom perfecting their hair and makeup. Couples don’t put up Instagram stories of themselves fighting about bills, they put up stories of their carefully planned and executed dates. And hey, I am guilty of this too! I have absolutely been sucked into the cycle of trying to make people think my life is comprised solely of the highlights, and that there are no “behind the scenes” moments. But that is so far from the truth. I have a great life, and I am very happy, but just like any life I have my fair share of behind the scenes moments that are not even a tiny bit glamorous.

My highlight reel:

In 18 calendar months I will have gone to all four Orlando Disney parks and Universal Studios several times, as well as multiple Disney cruises with stops in Mexico and Castaway Cay. I will have gone to New York City and Washington DC multiple times each, as well as day trips to Philadelphia, Virginia Beach, Charlotte, and Charleston. I will have spent dozens of long weekends in New Orleans, and about a half dozen in Houston. I will be living in Santa Fe, and traveling to Albuquerque, Colorado Springs, Denver, and Las Vegas. I will be going to Iceland, England, France, Ireland, and Nova Scotia. This is all easy to do because I work from home full time for an awesome company that gives insane PTO.

My behind the scenes:

In 18 calendar months I will have moved cross-country three times, and experienced all of the “joys” that come with that. Living in a completely empty house for days, and deep cleaning with borrowed equipment. Arguing with property managers who try to assess fees for documented preexisting damages. Saying goodbye to amazing friends, not knowing if or when we will ever see them again. Then driving/flying thousands of miles (without using any of my PTO) to stay with family, living out of suitcases for weeks/months, and securing housing in a city I have never been to, completely sight unseen. All while being apart from my husband, and traveling up and down the coast visiting people who wouldn’t take the time to drive to me. My amazing work from home shifts start at 7:30EST, which means I will start work at 5:30 AM in my new time zone. Oh, and by the way, I am 25 years old and still get acne.

So there you have it: My life is equal parts lame and lux. Honestly, probably much more lame than lux. So the next time you see me post a photo from Disney or New Mexico or Reykjavik, please know that just because I am doing something cool at the moment doesn’t mean every moment of my life is cool. And I am going to try to do the same. I am going to try to stop comparing my behind the scenes moments to other people highlights. I am going to try to be content when things in my life are ordinary, and just be happy for other people when they are doing something extraordinary.

Has there ever been a time where comparing yourself to someone else sucked the joy out of your own experiences?

One thought on “Highlight Reel Vs. Behind the Scenes

  1. Debbie

    My scenario is vastly different from yours. I am 67, I work as a secretary and my circle is very small.
    My comparison issues are not with what is online but with my past. You are still very young so you don’t have decades of experiences to compare your current life with. Some day, 40 years from now when you life will probably be much different, you might look back on these years with nostalgia.
    I look back and long for the days when I was learning to keep house – cooking and sewing, , raising my daughter, being physically strong enough to take long hikes, taking hours to lay or sit with a good book, taking road trips with my husband, – all of this was before the Internet, and way before social media. LIfe was in the experience.
    Now I so spend hours online every day – working on genealogy projects, playing games, visiting Pinterest (where my chief pins are nostalgia) and some Instagram. I deleted Facebook and Twitter about a year and a half ago. My goal is cut back to just an hour or two online per day and get back to doing those things that I miss doing.
    You are on the right track.


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