I woke up with an unusual emotional pang this morning, which I was able to trace back to something I saw in my Facebook feed the night before. It's not something that happens too often, but there are times, after scrolling through countless images of friends, acquaintances, and peers celebrating milestone events, true love, career achievements and otherwise perfect lives, a voice of discontent can murmur within: "I am not enough."
The phenomenon, which has been called "Facebook Envy" or "Facebook Depression" has been well documented, and it's not hard to draw a paradoxical line between excessive social media use and feelings of disconnection. Most of our feeds are a gallery of carefully curated versions of life: perfectly filtered selfies, epic adventures, huge victories. Taken at face value, our own ordinary reality can feel empty in comparison.
It reminds me of a parable I heard of a man who once hired an artist to buy a picture of a fish. Day after day, he would visit the artist, who would tell the man "it's not ready yet, come back later." This continued on for several weeks, until one day, the artist answered the door and said it was finally ready. He led the man inside, sat at the table and on a clean sheet of paper, quickly drew the perfect fish. The man, puzzled, said, "I don't understand. If you can do it so quickly, why did it take so long?" The artist took him to his desk and opened a drawer. Inside were thousands of discarded drawings of fish and explained, "it took this many to get this one right."
Something we rarely see in social media or any other portrayals of success or happiness, is the days, weeks or even years of hard work that it took to get there. Not having access to the effort and struggle that it often takes to produce these small moments distorts our perception of other peoples' lives relative to our own.
If you have a moment like the one I did this morning, take a moment and reflect on this amazing journey you're on. It will have its peaks and valleys; no matter what it looks like on the outside, trust that we are all struggling through this life the best we can. Each trying to do the right thing, and be happy while being the best person possible. It's not easy for anyone.
And even if it's not photographed and shared with hundreds, our small moments of progress and joy are no less meaningful, and the effort and struggle it takes along the way is something we share with everyone.
A quote sometimes attributed to the Scottish author Ian MacLaren comes to mind: "Be kind; Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about."