What you see online, on social media of someone is rarely ever the whole story. It's an edited and muted version. We all are the protagonist in our own story. And no matter how “good” we think we are, you bet your bottom dollar you’ll still be the villain in someone else’s story.
But remember, what you see online is just a highlights reel of someone’s life. We paint ourselves the way we want to be painted. There’s nothing wrong with it. We’re just all touched with a little bias. And we’re still entitled to our own privacy. You can keep whatever you want hidden. No one’s going to stop you from lying anyway. But that’s the thing. What you see is not the whole truth.
So remember not to criticize yourself too harshly. Be easy on yourself. Don’t envy other people’s lives. You don’t know what they have going on. You don’t see it all. They could be posting beautiful photos of them laughing and having a good time, but they may also be struggling financially trying to make ends meet. They could be dealing with tension between family members or loved ones. Or the loss of a loved one. You never know the case. Don’t ever want someone else’s life because you don’t know the entirety of what comes with it. They are on a journey you know nothing about and just because something looks “perfect” on the outside, doesn’t mean that it is. Sometimes that smile is hiding a darkness you know nothing about. Struggles you know nothing about. Obstacles they overcome that you know nothing about. You may wish for their life but like in Aladdin when Jafar wished to be a genie, you have to deal with everything that comes with it when you wish for something. And in wanting someone’s “perfect life,” you have to go through everything they endured to get there.
I used to envy other people’s lives because well, who doesn’t? I wished I was as pretty as the next girl, I wished I filled out my clothes as nicely, I wished I had a different lifestyle, income, etc. But as I grow older, I realized there was nothing wrong with the life I was given. The circumstances I walked through. The trials I faced and the experiences I’ve had. It shaped me into who I am today and I have no regrets, despite the struggles. Adversity taught me to work hard and fight through. I learned that I am capable of more than I give myself credit for. And I learned that if I wanted something bad enough, and set out goals to achieve it, and worked hard towards it, I could essentially achieve anything I set my mind out to.
And you can’t want someone else’s “perfection” if you’re not willing to put in the time and work for it. Granted some people are born with, or by a stroke of luck, given better circumstances. But that shouldn’t stop you if you want something hard enough. Want that body? Put in the work. Want that degree and title? Put in the work. Want to land that job? Put in the work. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take when you sit around whining and complaining instead of getting up and doing something about it. Work towards it. And if you fail? Guess what? It’s not the end. You work harder and keep trying until you get it. Re-strategize. Try something new. Ask for help. Figure out all your resources. Use them. Swallow your pride. Put in the work.
Like Shaun T said, stop saying “I’m going to TRY out this workout.” Start saying “I’m going to FINISH this.” And don’t quit just because something felt hard at the first hurdle. You keep going and you get good. Make a to-do list. List all the steps you need to take to work towards your goal. Celebrate the little wins. Be proud of your milestones and take note of every obstacle you defeat. Those are your own personal highlights. Share it with someone. There’s something amazing and special about having a support system that helps uplift you and is excited for you when you have those little wins to share with them.
And don’t sweat the little things. Remember to ask yourself, “Is this worth it? Will this matter years from now? What can I take away from this? Is there a better way to react?” No more getting mad over silly things. Pointless things. Of course, it’s natural to react to things, but the thing to work on is not to let it get to you. Don’t let it delay your progress or ruin your mood or your day. Move yourself forward, not backward.
When I started my Instagram years ago, social media wasn’t as big a role in our lives as it today. The “likes” didn’t keep people up at night and people had not yet started leveraging social media as a tool to market or brand themselves. I actually resisted opening an account for the longest time, despite one of my friends insisting I make one. I didn’t want to download another app on my phone and have it eating away at my memory space. When I finally made an account, I didn’t post a lot but I didn’t post with the intention of wanting to garner “likes.” I never understood why people based their worth and value over that. If people like your photo, ok they like it, but after that what? It does nothing for you other than instant gratification in the moment. I shared my photos just because I liked sharing photos. Even today, I’m still the same. I appreciate the likes but the algorithm doesn’t get me down when a photo doesn’t get enough likes as I want it to. It doesn’t discourage me from posting. Why? Because I don’t allow those number of likes to represent how “good” my photo is. I don’t let that number define me. I let ME define me. Besides. A garbage selfie could garner 1000 likes while a well thought out photoshoot with effort, timing, hair, makeup and pose on point might not get as many likes. I’ve learned that people like garbage. The work you put into something might not always be noticed. But that’s why you never place your value on the validation of others. If you think your body of work is good enough, guess what? It is. Own up to it and work it.
I didn’t start this blog to gain internet presence. I was already blogging for years to begin with, but on a private site, closed down to a reader’s list so that only my friends and family who had access to it could read it if they wished. I finally made a public one because I do enjoy sharing my adventures, photos and experiences with the world. But if you like it, cool. If you don’t, that’s cool too. Just carry on your wayward, son. I’ll still keep going even if no one reads it or enjoys it. If someone wants to follow, cool. I’d rather it be because they genuinely like something anyway. Not because it was bought or f4f or s4s. But I’ve always been this way even during MySpace days. Like something because you actually like it. But don’t let those numbers define you.
So down to the nitty gritty, earlier this week I received a DM similar to other DMs in the past I frequently get.
“…how did you get where you are. Your life is amazing. You’re always doing all these cool and wonderful things and you’re beautiful and you get to travel and your husband spoils you. I mean how did you get such an amazing life? I’m struggling to pay my bills every month and I’m only 21. I feel like I’m too young to be so miserable and stuck in life so what’s the secret?”
So. What IS my secret?
There is no secret. I don’t have everything. I don’t have it all. But everything I do have, I worked hard for.
First off, my life looks amazing because again, social media is a highlight reel. Although I don’t doubt that my life is amazing, but like all things, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You say amazing, one of my best friends says I’m boring. But that’s the thing. Two people can have the same exact thing and be miserable and complain about how shitty it is, while the other is excited and grateful to have it. It’s the story of the prince and the pauper. But that’s life. You should live it how you personally want to live it because guess what? This is your life and your happiness. If my life looks amazing to you, thank you. But you should live your own best life too and how YOU want it. Remember not to play the keeping up with the Jones’s game. Someone else’s happiness and goals may not necessarily be your own and when you catch up to the Jones’s, you might end up still feeling empty and unsatisfied because again, those things were not genuinely your own end game goals. Chasing the wrong dreams will leave you feeling inadequate and feeling like you wasted your time.
Secondly, “these cool wonderful things” I do aren’t anything special honestly. I’m just another IG hoe, living for the gram. I take photos in cute places because I’m vain. Honestly, anywhere can look cool and wonderful if you have the right eye for a good photo. I’m on a mission this year to show that the most ordinary of places can be beautiful backdrops for a photoshoot. The places I go to, a lot of them are locally by me - farms, parks, musuems, libraries, gardens, city pop-ups, etc. A lot of them are free too because I’m a cheapass. And I only recently started traveling a few years ago after I got married at 26. Before that I didn’t really go anywhere. In college while all my peers were out getting lit on spring break all the time, I stayed home and just worked every single school break. Summers too. My entire college career was me working all the damn time, whether it be at work study, at the pizzeria, or in the pharmacy. Oh yes, I started my humble beginnings making $7.50 an hour at a pizzeria for summers on end. I struggled to pay my own bills too at 21. But that’s 21. You’re not supposed to “make it” at 21. I mean, kudos to those that can but you're not expected to. Don’t ever compare the pace of your journey to someone else’s. Even celebrities didn’t make it big til much later on in their careers. They struggled through homelessness, drug addictions, bankruptcy, broken homes, etc until late into their 30s or 40s sometimes. Every one’s journey is different and just because you don’t fit the cookie cutter mold timeline of diploma, career, marriage, kids, house doesn’t mean you didn’t “make it.” It might not even be the path for you. Or maybe you just need more time. Remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint. And in marathons, you need to strategize for yourself how to complete it. Focus on completion, rather than finishing with a good time trying to beat the guy next to you, and you’ll be fine. Enjoy the journey and don't overwork yourself trying to complete it or you'll injure or burn yourself out before you can even reach the end. Take it slow. Take your time and perfect your art.
Set goals. Write down what you want to do in life. Take steps to work towards them. Even if they might take time, years even. Work towards them step by step. Get out of your comfort zone. Put in the work. You can’t be envious of someone else’s life, again, if you didn’t put in the work. Nothing is going to be handed to you, everything is earned. Cinderella didn’t wait for Prince Charming to come to her, she got her ass to the ball. Even if it was with the help of her friends. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! When I struggled last year with my weight loss problems, I reached out for help. And my friends and family and followers came through and gave me support even if it was just simply rooting me on. A little encouragement goes a long way. But it doesn’t apply to just fitness. It goes with anything.
I’ll let you in on a secret. I almost dropped out of pharmacy school. I was salutatorian of my graduating class in high school but in college, I completely lost my drive and motivation and got lazy and didn’t give it my all. I played Pokemon, Guild Wars and other trash video games on my laptop in class most of the time and in my fourth year of pharmacy school I was failing and almost went to the dean’s office and dropped out. I felt like such a failure but looking back, I know it was my own fault for not putting in the work. In a last attempt to not fail the semester, I got my shit together, recorded all the lectures, listened to them several times every day after class, re-doing my notes. This was back in AOL instant messenger days too. I started using my resources and messaging my friends more and asking them for help and help, they did. Knowing that I was struggling, some friends reached out to me to provide old exams they had to help me study, and other friends would help tutor me and go over their own notes with me. And in the end, I ended up passing the semester with a decent enough grade to move on to the next course and remain in the program.
The life I have now wasn’t an easy path from point A to point B. It didn’t happen without struggle or hard work. I put in the time, I stuck it through and I worked at it. There are several elements that went into it and even today, just because you see a “happy” highlight reel on Instagram, doesn’t mean I’m not struggling to pay all my bills from month to month either. I still have to worry about my mortgage, student loans, utilities, health and everything else. I just don’t let it ruin my day. I cry when I do my bills once a month, I adjust my spending, and I move on. Don’t let it drown you as you’ll waste time just being upset about it instead of using that energy elsewhere to uplift you and work on building a better tomorrow.
My family life was also not always as happy as it is today. If you read my past blogs, I hint at past troubles. Without going into much detail due to privacy issues for my family, my siblings and I grew up with a lot of domestic violence with our father. There were a lot of CPS cases opened and left unfounded, a few broken bones, broken dishes, and a lot of broken hearts. My best friend ended up getting involved in one occasion in having to call the police on my own father. I ran away from home after I had just turned 16 that fall. But looking back now and having grown up, I don’t hurt anymore. I believe what he did was wrong but I forgive him and I’m no longer angry with him. He ended up dancing with me at my wedding and I’ve never seen him happier. There’s a photo from my wedding with us on the dance floor that I absolutely cherish and love. I had it framed after the wedding for him.
As for my husband, he spoils me because he loves me and I spoil him back. But there’s a lot that goes on behind closed doors that you don’t see. We’ve been together since 2000 so we’ve been through a LOT of fights and tears already. Again, I don’t go into much details due to privacy issues but it doesn’t come without hard work from both sides. It takes TWO people to make a relationship work. If it’s one sided, it’ll never work, as one person will always be left feeling taken for granted. And we work at it every day. We do little things for each other to remind the other how much we love them. Whether it be taking the time to prepare someone’s lunch for work, leaving flowers in someone’s room, picking up their favorite candy/snack at the grocery store just because or taking their car to the autoshop to get tires fixed. We also don’t do everything together, giving each other individual time, space and respect for each other’s hobbies. But when we do get to spend time together, we try to maximize the time we spend loving each other and enjoying each other’s company. We try not to get into fights because this time is so limited to begin with, so we’d rather not waste it. But that should be the mentality of all relationships regardless of if you get to see your loved ones daily or a few days a week or a few days a month or whatever. Put aside the pettiness and focus on your love for each other. If you can’t do that, then maybe there is something else at play that needs to be discussed.
Another person asked me how I kept high morale during rough patches. This isn’t easy to do but you have to go into it with the mentality that everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, you haven’t reached the end yet. Growth is uncomfortable. But you must be willing to be uncomfortable today in order to live a life of comfort tomorrow. You can only grow when you leave your comfort zone so go into it with the mentality “How can I grow from this? What can I take away from this? What can I learn?” Make changes if need be, to better your life. You need to fall in love with your life. Find ways to breathe life back into it. I re-wired parts of me to think differently so that I view life in a different light. For example. A lot of people of hate Mondays. I say why? Why hate Mondays? Because it’s a start of a work week? What’s so bad about that? Do you hate money? No, so don’t look at it that way. I look at Mondays differently so I don’t dread them anymore. I redefined them as the start of a fresh new week, with new goals to crush and opportunities to reach for. So when I get to Wednesday I’m excited because I’m like what did I accomplish in 3 days? Even if it’s just half a pound gone off the scale, it’s still a win. Don’t live for the Fridays, for the summers, for the happiness to come to you. Change your outlook and habits so that you’re not wasting any more of your time. Despite still struggling to get out of bed every morning, I look forward to each and every workout because I love going through it and putting in the work and getting results. I no longer waste my mornings sleeping til I have to get up for work. I spend it wisely working on myself. Investing in myself. By making time for myself.
And remember, you’re right where you’re supposed to be. You’ll appreciate the light after being in the dark for so long. “A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it, it just blooms.” Don’t worry about the rest. Let them judge you. Let them misunderstand. Let them gossip. Keep doing you. You will shine through in the end while they were too busy squawking. Other people’s opinions about you are not your problem. What matters is what you think of you and your authenticity to yourself. Most people in this world are only as happy as they’ve made up their minds to be. The key is to love the little things in life.
One day you’re going to look back and see you were blooming all along.
“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life.”