When I was a little girl, we didn’t have mobile phones, computers, or internet at home.
We had a landline phone at home and we could use computers and browse the World Wide Web in IT class at school.
There was no Facebook or Instagram where we could share the highlights of our lives with everyone. But we had outdoor programs, neighborhood friends, pen pals, and photo albums.
I believe we used to use photo albums back then as we use our social media now. With the difference being that now the whole world can see what you’re up to; back then, you showed your albums to the person you wanted to charm with.
If friends or distant relatives came over, we proudly pulled out the photo album to show pictures of our latest holiday, how happy we were on family BBQs and birthday get-togethers, how cute our babies were, and how beautiful we were on our weddings.
Even if we had pictures from sad moments, we didn’t stick them in the album. They were kept somewhere else in a forgotten box in the wardrobe. Somehow, we still didn’t think our life was perfect because we had a real connection with the people smiling back from the photographs. Modern technology, while it brings us together in a global perspective, it separates us on a smaller scale. We can follow anyone and everyone on Instagram and friend request them on Facebook even if they live on the furthest, remotest point of Earth; we know everything about our neighbors from their social media feeds yet we know nothing about them.
When you’re scrolling over someone’s SM feed, most likely what you’ll see is a highlight reel of what that person wants to show from their life.
These can be (hopefully) a selection of their best moments and selfies taken when they felt really good. And even though we know it’s just a highlight reel of people’s lives, we still romanticize these feeds.
It’s great that we got to a point where we can talk about all these things—the non-perfect parts of our lives—but we still pose for the perfect picture. No one posts on their SM that their son has drug problems, their husband is beating them up, they are depressed, or someone died.
We have to learn to look at these feeds photo albums. To read between the lines, look behind the picture and the perfect smiles, to see the actual person and not just a seemingly immaculate life with an open heart and mind and acceptance for a fellow human.
No one has a perfect life and probably most of us don’t even stage it consciously to make it look like it is. It’s the imagination of the person who looks at the pictures, who colors the whole scenery behind it. It’s human nature to always look for happiness, so don’t blame yourself.
This article was born because lately I got tons of messages from people—people I know from childhood, people I just met once in my life, and people who read my articles. These messages talk about the same things: “You have a perfect life, I envy you.” “I wish to live like you one day.” “You’re so brave, you made it.” Even my mom keeps telling me that people stop her on the street to tell her how much they envy my life.
I never thought that my life might come off as “perfect” for others, or that when they read my articles they see a perfect life.
I am happy with my life, but it’s far from perfect. It never will be perfect; there’s no such thing as a perfect life. There’s always room for improvement; things are forever changing, and there are things that are inevitable in life—loss, pain, and hardship. That is how we grow.
I often wondered in the past weeks if I painted a false picture of my life, but I think I did not. I also share the good moments of my life—though not the best, because if the moment is so beautiful, I don’t even think of pulling out a camera to take a photo of it; I’m so embedded in the experience I just live in it.
I share the hard and sad moments of my life, so is it that people do not want to see it?
When my old school classmate contacted me telling me how he envies my whole life—my Camino experience, my tree planting, traveling the world, finding love on the way, having such a supportive family, and everything just working out perfectly—I was wondering. He has a lovely wife, cute kids, a well-paying job, vacations to amazing places like Egypt, Malta, and Mallorca, staying in luxury hotels. From my perspective, it seems like he’s the one having it all.
But we can never know, right? He probably did not see when I was sleeping on the beach on the Camino, waking up in pouring rain, or the pain of walking bare feet because of lost toenails. He probably doesn’t know about my worries about visas, the uncertainty of volunteering, and not knowing where to go next, getting exploited by your hosts, the arguments with my partner that happen when we can’t balance alone time, work, and our time spent together. The struggle to try to live without money but constantly finding yourself in situations that require money, and then trying to make money. Living in a tent that leaks and getting sick because all your things are wet for days.
I also don’t know details about his life—there might be a reason why he’s not satisfied with his family life and perfect vacation spots, spas in the hotel, and the cinema-screen-sized TV, dining out in Michelin restaurants.
You never know what’s behind the perfect picture. You never know about the fights of couples, problems with kids, unfair work situations, issues with extended family, abusive partners, mental health issues, addictions, and so on.
We have to learn to pay more attention to pauses and SM breaks because people are too busy with problems and running on autopilot survival mode to notice when someone stops sharing or starts to share different things, to read between the lines and understand what might be behind the quotes they share. Life is ever-changing, there are ups and downs, but that is how you achieve balance.
Don’t have illusions about how life really is. Everyone has their own problems and your problems are the hardest for you. Stop comparing your life to others; you can never really know how it is.
We are all just looking for the silver lining.