Fantasies are usually filled with magic, miracles, and imagination. Whether in written form or performed on stage or on screen, we’re often enthralled by their power and influence. When we’re young, fantasies are blatant as we watch them on our TVs, read about them in books and sometimes wear them on our shirts and backpacks. When we get older they take a mature form, sometimes in a disguise so good it’s as though they’re real. The illusive shape these fantasies take help create expectations we have for ourselves and implement a comparison mindset. In other words, we develop this false sense of what our lives should look like and often compare ourselves to others in the process.
As kids, we might think fairy tales, mythical creatures, and spells are real and then we grow up and learn that it was all make-believe. At that point we think it’s clear to us what is reality and what’s not. However, with the magnitudinal presence social media has in our lives, we become kids again, only this time our imagination tends to take hold in a more negative fashion. There’s a reason “Instagram vs. Reality” is a constant template on our feeds: we know what we’re seeing isn’t real but we view it as such anyway.
As we scroll through our feeds and swipe through stories, we’re stimulated by other people’s lives. We think, “They have this,” or, “They travelled there,” tending to follow it with “So, I should, too.” We get caught in the “shoulds” or the “supposed tos” when it seems like everyone is getting engaged, everyone is having babies, everyone got a job after graduation, everyone… This comparison mindset is drawn up in a fantasy land that resides in our apps, but has a reach far beyond the confines of our phones. Unlike our childhood fantasies that came to an end (usually with a “Happily ever after”), these fantasies leak into our lives, fabricating an ideal that then spirals much like Dorothy’s house in a twister.
Thankfully, we don’t have to get sucked into this comparison trap. When we tire with the “supposed tos” and the “shoulds” we can turn to these four helpful tips:
- Take a social break. Sometimes there’s a lot of good on social media (I mean, do you follow @revivecfw?) and sometimes it breeds a comparison frenzy. There are probably many random times in the day we find ourselves on Instagram- Bored waiting in line? On the couch after work? In the bathroom? And when we’re not intentional about why we opened the app in the first place, it can be the catalyst for comparison. Catching ourselves mid-rabbit hole gives us the opportunity to stop comparison right in its tracks. Then, giving ourselves time away from it altogether provides us with the necessary space to check back in with ourselves.
- Don’t judge a book by its cover. Remember that especially when it comes to social media, you’re only seeing the filtered version, the “magic,” of people’s lives. Keep in mind that there’s more than likely a lot more to their story than the fantasy lets on.
- Practice gratitude. Maybe you don’t live in a fantasy world. Honestly, you probably don’t. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things that do exist that you can draw attention to. We love gratitude, so much so that we spent all November talking about it. Read this, this, this, and this for more on that!
- Inspiration trumps comparison. It’s one thing to feel envious and a completely other thing to feel moved. Shift your focus to those who inspire you. When we’re envious we’re disappointed. When we are inspired we’re motivated to make a change.
Fantasy lands like the ones in Disney movies and Harry Potter have a lot to offer us. They’re entertaining and so different from our realities. However, spotting the masked fantasies gets a little more complicated. Try out one of the tips above and let us know which of your fantasies begins to dwindle… almost like an enchanted rose dropping its petals…
Catherine at Revive