The Thief of Joy

Taking a break from Facebook and Linkedin
I think I need to take a break from Facebook and LinkedIn.

I have a problem. The other day I found myself spending a couple hours browsing through friends and acquaintances’ FB timelines and Linkedin profiles.

Someone had a baby. Another person is traveling somewhere awesome. They are eating something that looks really good. He got a promotion. She’s doing something cool. They are hanging out with each other.

Seems all standard stuff right?

For the most part, social media is a pretty handy tool. It helps us stay somewhat connected and aware of what others are doing. But what happens when we start to look at other peoples’ lives and start to compare them to our own?

Therein lies my problem.

I’m sure this is an issue many of us face. It just so happens that I am the perfect combination of things that make online social networks very problematic.

First, I am self-conscious. I worry about perceptions. I think about myself a lot (narcissism, I guess). And yes, sociology friends, I analyze what I think others think about me.

Second, I love information. Particularly, new information. I want to know everything, and the internet feeds this addiction.

Lastly, I am competitive. Thanks to my family, being Asian, human nature, and American culture, I have a drive to be “the best.”

So when I spend time looking at profiles, updates, and job titles, I start to think about my life in comparison to others.

When I see that a friend of mine is a Vice-President of a huge, world-renown company, I think, “Wow. I am behind. Do I have financial security?”

When I see a post of my friends’ beautiful kids and what seems like their perfect family, I’m wondering, “Is something wrong with us not having a family?”

When I see people’s talents on display, I wonder, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if I could have a special talent.”

When I look at pictures of people and their amazing adventures, I wish I could do those things too.

I’m reminded of a quote Michelle shared with me a while back that reminds me how foolish and damaging some of these thoughts can be.

When we focus our attention on the things we don’t have, we take for granted the blessings we do have. We become petty, jealous, and distracted. We allow comparison to become the lens in which we view ourselves and all we see is faults, have nots, and concerns. We devalue ourselves into thinking that I’m not good enough, not smart enough, not talented enough to achieve things that others have.

We start to wonder if the happiness in our lives- the things we ought to be thankful for- is as good as others. The answer is it will NEVER be. What I mean is that you can always find something or someone that may be doing something bigger or supposedly better. Living this way, you’ll always set yourself up for failure.

We start to realize that when we compare our lives to others, we feel like failures because we are trying to live a life not our own. This was one of the biggest realizations of my life. There is no other me. We are all unique.

The best years of my life so far have been the ones when I started to make choices for me. Choices that helped me feel authentic and true to myself. I started to set goals for the life I wanted, my own bucket list. And one by one, as I achieve these milestones, I work toward the ultimate goal: living a fulfilled life, one that I am ALWAYS thankful for.

So there’s a good chance I won’t be on Facebook and LinkedIn as much as I used to be. Not because they aren’t great tools for connecting, but because I’ll be choosing to spend that time elsewhere for the purpose of bettering myself. To increase joy in my life.

Glacier National Park Highline Trail

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13 thoughts on “The Thief of Joy

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    1. Thanks Michael. Really interesting read. I agree that American language has a lot of words for comparison and competitive purposes. Did you feel then that Tanzanians were not generally competitive? Michelle and I felt that Jamaicans and Americans were very similar in this aspect, comparing oneself to others.

  1. I love this quote and this blog. I struggle with this constantly. I’m sure I’ve looked at some of y’alls pictures and felt “I wish I could go to that awesome place where Jedd and Michelle are”. Nothing steals joy like comparison, yet we are all supposed to lead different lives. There is no timeline set that each of us are supposed to follow accordingly, no set rules, and no path that is better than the other. Following our own path in our own way is the best way to live a happy life.

    1. Great point Heath. It’s funny because I definitely looked at your pics and adventures and was thinking, “Wish I was doing what the Padgetts are doing?”. Great to know that we have mutual admiration for each other. You’re right, we need to just focus on our own journeys.

  2. When I was a student in Belgium, one of the daughter’s of my host family mentioned that when we make comparisons, we don’t learn anything. So not only is comparison the thief of all joy – but a theif of knowledge and of life in complete. How tragic to miss out on the now of life. BTW – thanks for dropping by – great to see you guys!

  3. Jedd,
    What I love about you and Michelle is that you are always being reflective and intentional about everything you do. It is inspiring and challenges me to look at my own life. I have even found myself looking at your adventures and with jealously and envy, but only for a moment, because I then quickly pivot and am able to take stock of all that I love about my life. The short moment of comparison helps me to examine myself and look to my goals and desires and to either reinforce what I know or challenge me to improve or change. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself with so many.

    Jeff Davolt

  4. Jedd and Michelle, I stumbled upon your blog looking to see what other PCVs around the world are up to and I love it. What a great article. Being in a “Posh Corps” country of Peru, I live in a house with constant access to the internet and often find myself spending hours on social media envying all the delicious food my friends back home get to eat. Its definitely weird to see peoples posts about engagements, marriages, job changes, moves when as a PCV we can be so far away from all that. Hope you both enjoyed your service and good luck in all you do!

    1. Thanks, Adrienne! Being connected to social media during Peace Corps is definitely a blessing and a curse. You have to make sure “Fear Of Missing Out” doesn’t bring you down or distract you from the incredible, unique experience you’re surrounded by at the moment. All the best in Peru! -M

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