39 is fine: or it would be if I could stop spending the last year of my 30s comparing myself to ever
So here's the post I didn't write last week. I am suffering from a bad case of over-comparing - constantly wondering why I am not doing more, being like so-and-so etc.
There have been some reasons for this escalating lately. The BRILLIANT catastrophe started again this week. Written by Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney, it gives me total and utter fangirl envy. I want to write a sitcom! Why haven’t I written a sitcom?!
Then there’s the NOKIA 3310. You know, the old one, with snake, being re-released, which made me feel things were simpler ‘back then’. You know, B.I. (Before Internet).
Only, no they weren't! You just turned up on time more often because you couldn’t what’s app to say you were late. You still had boy woes, clothes woes, coolness woes.
A friend called this comparison epidemic the 'new OCD' in an article - Obsessive Comparison Disorder. I compare all the time, and it gives a strange, often draining feeling of self-criticism and needing to please – a panicky wave of self-criticising prickles. And at the moment I feel like it's a high speed train I can't jump and that doesn't have a station stop planned.
It’s quite funny to actually be ON apps like Instagram at 39. It’s by choice, and as a non-millennial, they’re not always the easiest thing to navigate. I’ve learned about boomerang video, and still have no idea how most of my apps work (you know, the secret bits that are really useful…). I use about two of the insta filters and I don’t know how to make a link shorter on twitter. But still I persevere.
I asked for some comments on Facebook as I like to do for this blog, and replies focused (perhaps due to the way I phrased the question?) on comparing physically. But my personal comparisons stretch further: to career, to home, to family, to leisure time.
I keep finding quotes that make me feel a bit better... like 'The key is to stop comparing yourself with young or old, and start enjoying the age you feel (Jan Masters)'. Or ‘Your time is limited so don't waste it living someone else's life’ (Steve Jobs).
But these quotes are on NAFFING INSTAGRAM!!!! You see the irony, non? Brands (fashion, media, etc) are begging us to interact with them while telling us to go live our own lives.
I decided to download an app I read about, Moment, which shows you how much time you spend on your phone. But then that means spending time on the app… on my phone…
So I am locked in a vicious circle of posting, looking, comparing, pondering why I am not friends with/as ‘cool’ as at least one of three other women I see, checking for likes/hearts, getting them, feeling liked, posting again, spotting someone else... AND SO ON.
Here's how it tends to go:
Open app. See so-and-so is at xyz event, or launching her book. WHY AREN'T I?! Screams the voice in my head. Then I remember that I am - I have a book. (Voice: BUT WHY NOT HARDBACK?) I have a job at a newspaper BUT WHY NOT THAT COOL WEBSITE?!
I have a blog! BUT IT'S NOT A MONEY SPINNER! I have a home! BUT IT'S NOT TWO BED
I have a boyfriend! No issues there, actually :)
Am I part of the problem? Possibly. I’m aware others may see my posts and think perhaps my job is ‘better’ than theirs, or I seem happier etc. That my home is one bed bigger than theirs. I get that.
Also, the good thing about blogging is there’s no approval of a person at a publication. There’s no editing of my voice, my feelings, my words. I love that part of it. BUT - then the approval of the wider world is what I seek….. from you, dear readers… Oh lord....
In her new book ‘Just. Can't. Stop.’ Sharon Begley (http://www.sharonlbegley.com/) says: 'It is not Internet use, per se, nor specifically social media use, that is compulsive. Instead, the compulsion is to avoid feeling lonely, bored or out of the loop'. Thing is, I do kind of like it all, too. I like posting food, I like the buzz of a like or heart. I like it when a post gets a good reaction, either supportive comments or people joining in a conversation. I am a massive attention seeker, and social media indulges that side of me. Comparing can be a good thing, too. Seeing someone else's book, or sitcom, or dog, or fitness report, spurs me on to keep going, keep trying, keep aiming and achieving.
It can be a bit like school, you know, keeping in with the cool girls, doing things that'll make them like you. Social media has turned into something of a playground where the cool girls hang out on one side and I try to wave and get their attention. Why am I not waving them over to MY side of break time? We used to have 'form orders' posted on the notice board every half term, where they'd say who had the best end of term exam results. It was my first ever experience of achievement comparison.
One thing I need to realise is that actually many people ARE doing better than me. Many are more successful, and more creative, and more recognised for what they do by my industry. It's a fact of life – many work harder! Some started sooner, some are older, wiser, more talented... all that stuff.
It's about a balance I guess. When, like me, you know it's affecting what you do because you're busier looking at other's than working out your next step, perhaps it's time to change some habits.
I need to remember to focus on MY goals, not someone else’s. To remember that others are looking at me in the same way and I should get a grip and realise this is human nature.
And most of all, I need to realise that there is plenty of time to do more and write that sitcom (all being well). That while seizing the day is ace, you can be an Oscar winner at 51 like Viola Davis, become a blogger at almost 40 (living that dream!) and there is no deadline on achievement. I read this week about a Chinese woman who developed her own app at 81!
I decided to ask Twitter for some more comments and got a great line from Stephanie Roper (AKA the wardrobe angel). '[comparing yourself] can be motivating but I always say "stay in your own lane" - social media is the best version of ourselves.'
I remember that feeling - when I was deep in the writing of my novel, and due to the deadline and my love of writing it, was so in my own lane I could have been on train tracks. I need to find that space again.
My friend Jo added: I just read an excellent quote that I think we all need to take heed of - "don't let comparison be the thief of joy" I am going to repeat this myself every time I start to compare myself to others. It’s a good one to remember if you’re posting this weekend.
With that in mind, I have some rules that I am going to try and stick to and think you should too:
Only follow people who make you smile - and find some likeminded ones to follow. I am now following more female comedians, for example, than yoga bunnies. I am NOT A YOGA BUNNY.
Don't follow people just because they follow you (got this one from The Boyfriend, he always looks at a follower to see who they are. I just follow back in a desperate friend-seeking attempt).
Be kind - think twice if a post would upset someone
Be honest - don't sugar coat it all so much you make others envious. I am a big fan of the not-perfect-make-up-selfie
Be real - at the same time, your life is going well, don't be afraid to say 'yay me!'
Right, just off to post this on social media…