Does this sound familiar: You're clicking through the photos on your high school friend's wall and you start to feel jealous. She's posing with her family in some exotic location, she's standing with her children in front of their big, new house, she and her husband and children are professionally photographed in matching outfits looking like they don't have a care in the world. This mom seems to have it all. And you're left feeling, well, green with envy because you haven't been on a vacation in years and you and your tween had an argument this morning.
Therapist Julie Hanks, LCSW, owner and executive director of Wasatch Family Therapy, cautions women to remember that a digital life is the best version of someone, not the entire picture. "Someone's cyber life is the equivalent to a perpetual first date. Women don't post pictures of the dinner they burned last night or themselves when they wake up in the morning on Facebook. They don't take videos of the fight they had with their hubby right before they went to dinner on the exotic beach in the Caribbean. Every woman has strengths and weaknesses, things that are going well and things that are falling apart!"
Hanks urges women to remove the shoulds from their vocabulary. "When you see someone's newly decorated kitchen or family photo with matching outfits, it's easy to turn those feelings of envy into 'shoulds'... I should get family photos taken like that, or I should redecorate my kitchen but that doesn't mean you should do anything about it," says Hanks.
Christina Steinorth, M.A., MFT psychotherapist and author of Cue Cards for Life: Gentle Reminders for Better Relationships stresses that envy doesn't make you a better person. "It doesn't make you smarter, better looking or any happier. If you find that you can't help yourself from experiencing cyber envy, limit your time online looking at other people's lives to a maximum of 10 minutes a day. This will help you break the cycle of cyber envy by limiting your exposure and more importantly, it will get you back into your own life so you can live it," says Steinorth.
Hanks agrees with Steinorth to take a few days off from Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, or blog reading to let your emotions cool, adding, "Investing more time and energy in your face-to-face relationships and focusing on the blessing you enjoy can help shift your focus from what you wish you had to what you do have. Challenge yourself to go for a walk with the family and leave your smartphone (gasp!) at home so you can practice being emotionally present in your relationships. Your family will thank you."
Stephanie Sarkis PhD, psychotherapist and author suggests taking a step back and looking at your life outside of social network sites. "Are you feeling fulfilled? Is there something in your life that just doesn't feel right? Sometimes envy of others means we are missing something in our own lives."
Hanks says instead of letting envy fester or elicit negative feelings about yourself, let it be inspirational. "For example, if you see some amazing photos online from someone's week-long family cruise, instead of thinking, 'I'm a horrible mom... Our family has never taken a cruise... What losers!', you can think instead, 'That looks fun. I think it's time to start planning and saving to take my family on a fun trip.'"
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