I can’t stop comparing myself to my classmate on Instagram. How can I deal with this?
Remember, it’s only pictures, says our elder. Concentrate on real life instead.
I tend to compare myself to this classmate on Instagram a lot. Everyone at school knows her, and she is very pretty and nice. Her Instagram posts are so pretty and she edits them in such a pretty way. She herself is so, so pretty and she has many friends. She also posts about her family, who are very loving and fun. She always gets so many likes and comments. I always compare myself to her, like the amount of comments and likes I get, and how pretty she is and I’m not, and how my family vs hers is, and editing skills, etc. My ex-crush used to like her. I’ve been working very hard to improve my Instagram feed and myself because of her. How do I deal with this? I cannot delete Instagram either, because I have very important ties on it.
I can tell that this situation is really troubling you. I understand that you consider Instagram to be very important and, don’t worry, I’m not going to try to talk you out of that notion. But let’s stop a minute and “talk” about what Instagram really is and what it isn’t. It is a way, and in your classmate’s case a very calculated way, to make a person look good- pretty, popular, well-dressed, loved, etc. But, remember, it’s only pictures and those, as you rightly point out can be and often are edited. This leads to the clear conclusion that what someone sees on Instagram may not really reflect the reality of who a person really is and what their life is like. It’s a show, an effort to shape and portray an actual life that may look on Instagram (or other social media platforms) a lot different from what the reality is.
So, where do we go from here? If I were you, I’d start with what’s real, not which is an edited, made-up version of reality? And let’s make this about you, not your classmate. What kind of impression do you want to make on others? More importantly, what kind of person do you want to be? What qualities do you want to express? I encourage you to really think about this and maybe even make some notes. Some possible qualities might be kind, caring, helpful. You might think of things like pretty and popular, and that’s fine. Whatever qualities are on your list, the next step is to consciously incorporate them into your life.
Here’s an example from my own life. When I was in early high school, I was pretty shy and I got tired of it. I decided to research what it would take to be less so and even be popular. This was back in prehistoric times before you could find just about any information you need on the internet! I read a particular book that contained the idea, “You be friendly first and see what happens.” I went on to run for pom-pom girl (you had to be elected and that included having a campaign and doing a pom-pom routine in front of the 1,500 student body!). I won with more votes than anyone else!
I thought about the “you be friendly first” bit a lot and realized that idea needed to be unpacked. Here are the key things I discovered. First, listening and paying careful attention to others is super important! If you learn to be a really good listener, you’ll see your popularity increase. And how do you become a good listener? Here are some steps:
- Cultivate being really interested and curious about what others have to say. Value them as unique and interesting.
- Listen for both the content of what they say and the feelings they are expressing. Pay attention to things like tone of voice, speed of talking, smiling or not, eye contact or not, and how the parts of the body may be engaged (for example lots of hand gestures vs. holding the arms tight against the body). A way to get into this kind of attentiveness is to practice by yourself in front of a mirror, say in the bathroom with the door closed! Take a simple sentence, such as, “I’m going to the dance” or ,”My family really loves me” and try saying it in different ways using the different elements I just listed. See how different the same words can come out?!
- When someone says something to you, learn to repeat it back to them so that they know you get them. I don’t mean word for word, but paraphrasing, so they feel heard. For example, say a friend comes to you and says, “Do you know what the homework is for math today?” If she looks (frowning) and sounds (tense) worried, you might say, “Yes, I can tell you what the homework is. It sounds like you’re worried about it. Can I help you with it?”
As you use your new and/or improved listening and attending skills, you will find more and more people will like you and want to hang out with you. In addition, these skills will serve you well in just about any situation including your interactions with your family.
You mentioned how loving and fun your classmate’s family is. The only problem with that statement is that, from what you told me, the only way you are getting that impression is from pictures that she chooses to post, not to mention edit. I suggest that you think about cultivating loving relationships with your own family, perhaps thinking beyond your immediate family to aunts and uncles and cousins.
You talked about how pretty your classmate is. “Pretty” can be a subjective thing and there’s lots you can do to learn to use hairstyle, make-up, and good clothing choices to make the best of what you have. Do some research! Do an internet search on “teen fashion advice” and you’ll be surprised how much great information there is out there. Try out different looks, different colors, and styles. Perhaps you and a friend could do this together. It could be fun! (Special tip: when you are trying out unfamiliar colors, check out consignment or second-hand clothing stores so you don’t have to spend much money.)
You may also decide that caring for and about others and making a difference is important to you. You might think about how you could put these qualities into practice. Could you volunteer at a food bank? How about walking dogs at an animal shelter? Or maybe visiting elderly people in a nursing home? Or perhaps you could do environmental cleanup by helping with park or beach clean-up days depending on where you live. If you don’t resonate with any of these examples, check on line and the old-fashioned Yellow Pages under Volunteer Opportunities in your area. The point is to participate in real, meaningful activities.
As your life becomes more interesting and meaningful and you feel better about yourself, you will have a real life from which to draw real images to share on Instagram. This is being genuine, not trying to create an image. When you have your own authentic life, directed towards being the best person you can be, you are very unlikely to feel jealous of a classmate whose life may or may not be what she chooses to show. Don’t get it backwards! Real life comes first and the Instagram images follow, not the other way around!
I hope these ideas are helpful to you.