Style or Substance?

This one goes out to the normals!

Am I the only one who sees those motivational pictures of someone hanging on to a cliff with the tagline of “Hold On For Success” or some other cheesy cliché and think “Who on Earth finds this shallow crap motivating”? It can’t be just me, there are others right?

Personally I prefer (where the featured picture comes from) who make demotivators I can actually relate to. They are much more relevant to real life, and I defy anyone who has worked in some form of corporate world (or probably any environment with middle managers who think they are executives) for more than five minutes to not find some reality in it. The sad thing is exactly that – reality. Reality cannot be fixed with high fives or a motivational poster. Reality can only be impacted by human connection, and when it happens it is truly life changing.

And here is the real problem, there are too many people putting too much effort into looking good, playing the game that things are going well, and afraid to show the cracks. One reason is the stigma that is still, even today, attached to mental illness or any form of mental weakness. Social media has done nothing to help this situation, with most people wanting to present the positive side of their life and the exciting things that are happening. This gives people watching the impression that life is a bed of roses for that person. What about when you have 100, 200, 500 or more people all presenting a picture of their lives as being positive experiences and you are sitting at home eating Ramen (or Pot Noodle in the UK) while your friends are seemingly on their eighth week of a three-day trip? There are articles at the bottom that talk about the dangers of upward comparison (basically, comparing yourself to the things your friends want to show about their wonderful lives on social media), and rumination (mulling over the deficits in your own life compared to the lives of others).

You can break this cycle in four steps, but you will need to discipline yourself, and here’s how:

1 – Make the decision to value substance over style. This doesn’t mean exposing your darkest secrets to everyone you meet, it means being honest with yourself about who you are, your strengths and weaknesses, and being unafraid to be vulnerable.

2 – Remember that what you see your friends post on social media is a snapshot. OK, for some of the people you follow it may be a live stream of their life, but it is still a managed forum where you only see what they want you to see.

3 – Katy Perry recently said how much she is struggling with the character of Katy Perry and that “I so badly want to be Katheryn Hudson that I don’t even want to look like Katy Perry anymore sometimes — and, like, that is a little bit of why I cut my hair because I really want to be my authentic self.” She isn’t the only one playing this game, but it must be so much harder in public. That doesn’t mean it is easier for those of us not under the spotlight though. There are characters we all play, styles we wear for a different audience, and the further you get from being real, the less healthy you become. Be yourself, authenticity is respected, and fakes are always exposed.

4 – Create your own goals and take steps to achieve them. Don’t compare your success to the success (perceived or otherwise) of others. Compare your success to the goals you want to achieve for yourself, and I guarantee that while you are taking steps to meet your goals you will feel better about yourself.

It’s not easy, if it were easy everyone would be doing it, but with discipline and a decision to value authenticity over falseness you can avoid the pitfalls of upward comparison, clean out the frauds in your life, and achieve your goals in the process.

And if all else fails, just pop along to and you will soon realise that you’re not alone – other people get it.

Appel, H., Gerlach, A. L., & Crusius, J. (2016). The interplay between Facebook use, social comparison, envy, and depression. Current Opinion in Psychology9, 44-49.

Feinstein, B. A., Hershenberg, R., Bhatia, V., Latack, J. A., Meuwly, N., & Davila, J. (2013). Negative social comparison on Facebook and depressive symptoms: Rumination as a mechanism. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 2(3), 161–170.

Vogel, E. A., Rose, J. P., Roberts, L. R., & Eckles, K. (2014). Social comparison, social media, and self-esteem. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 3(4), 206–222.

Zuo, A. (2014). Measuring up: Social comparisons on Facebook and contributions to self-esteem and mental health.



Categories: Goals, Hope, Mental Health

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