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Sara Zambrelli Headshot

Under The E-Fluence: How I Broke the Cycle of Compare and Despair

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What do we do when we live in a world that functions by comparison? Can contentment exist in the digital age? I often think about how, from a young age, we are programmed to emulate the lives of others in order to possess those qualities ourselves. When we are young, we learn things by watching others. Once we have grown up to a reasonable "adult age," however, what purpose does this emulation really serve?

When I was boyfriend-less, I would spend way more time than I care to admit looking at other people's relationships via photos posted online and I would think to myself: "Why can't I have what they have? What's wrong with me?" Sometimes I became enraged that others were in relationships; sometimes I would focus my energy asking those friends how they met their boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife/partner. I knew I was being annoying, but I did not care. I had to get that relationship. Inevitably, I made myself nuts. Instead of doing something I loved, like putting on music and dancing around my apartment, I would spend that time glued to the screen, the feed, the image -- images of "love" I convinced myself I would never have.

In an age when everything is instantly digitized, promoted, displayed, viewed, posted, pasted and plastered, how can we find true authenticity when we're being tossed from one byte to another that tells us: "look at my kid," "look at my boyfriend," "look at my cool new shoes," look at me!!!!!!"

My experience is that when I am in touch with my most authentic self, I am not engaged in the bottomless pit that is social media. When I am busy being myself, I am not looking over my shoulder to see what other people have or what they are doing or what they like. Some might call this "being in the present moment." When I am in this state of mind, I believe that whatever is meant to come will come (boyfriend or not, kid or not, job or not, new shoes or not).

When we are so busy focusing on what we don't have, we lose sight of the fullness of our own lives. When we can remember what we have, we are much happier, much more content. I am not talking about fly me to the moon, 4th dimension happiness but simply "cool with being me" happiness.

People who are content do not spend all of their psychic energy on others, and particularly thinking about others in comparison to themselves.

So, how can I stop comparing and despairing? I want to be myself and be happy being myself. How can I live authentically in a world that begs for conformity and self-promotion?

These are age-old, existential questions. I think as human beings we can all fall into the trap of compare and despair at certain times in our lives. Often, as I pointed out, we engage in this pattern of behavior when we are most vulnerable; when living in someone else's shoes seems like the easier, more joyful way.

The trick is to notice when we are falling into this compare and despair mode. Once recognized, it signals something deeper going on inside. That's the thing we are trying to reach and to change. Am I lurking at my ex boyfriend's profile because I feel lonely? Am I staring off into Instagram space because I am bored at work? Instead of asking my co-worker if she needs help, I fall into my own self -- my ego -- checking how many people liked my recent uploaded photo on Instagram. This behavior inevitably insures that my ego gets wounded, because I've forgotten that I am at my best when I am not looking at what other people have or are doing.

Here's another thing I have been thinking about: we can't all be fabulous at the same time. It's just not possible. People don't post tweets or pictures about how they are bored or their boyfriend cheated on them or their kid didn't get into the school they wanted to or their mom is dying of cancer.

This is because people would never want to fawn over life's imperfections. That's what living is for! That stuff scares us. It makes us see we are human; that we are fallible. That we are capable of being like everyone else.

To compare and despair is to unsuccessfully try to mimic others' happiness. And that, my fellow millenials, is how we come to develop a false self.

Of course, there are those times when I want to Google my ex and wonder about our seemingly perfect imaginary life together. But then I shut down my computer and leave the office, and am simply taken by the amazing weather outside.

Once we are grown, we can begin to trust that where we are and who we are with and what we have or what we don't have is just right. It's exactly where we are supposed to be. So tweet that.