The trouble with perception and reality is often they are infinitely separated from each other. Our perception is often biased by our partial view, skewed by an incomplete understanding of the truth. Whereas, reality encompasses the entirety of the subject – the good, the bad and the ugly.
This is the reason why we need to stop comparing our internal reality to our external perception of others. It’s an unfair comparison since we all know all the mistakes that we made, all the faults that require fixing, all the little imperfections and quirks, and yet we compare this inside knowledge to our external view of other people.
We don’t get the same behind-the-scenes access to their story. All we see is what they chose to share: the highlights, the good stuff, the wins. We compare that to our everything, including the challenges, the frustrations, and the losses. In doing so, we instantly set ourselves up for failure by comparison.
Take social media, for example. We post the cute new shoes we got on sale, the exciting news we got in the mail and a photograph of the beautiful sand beach we visited on our last vacation. The constantly barking dog, the annoying commute, the frustrating day at the office, if mentioned at all, are humorous anecdotes in our otherwise perfect lives.
So by taking that perfect picture and comparing it to our behind-the-scenes view, we see our success is something less. Like somehow the 55 pounds lost by your high school classmate takes away from the 6 pounds you worked tirelessly to lose. By comparison, your success is less worthy.
Your success is yours, no matter how small it is compared to the grand scheme of things. So what if your classmate now fits back into her skinny jeans? She no doubt has other internal stories that tell a less flattering tale about her life (the ones you won’t ever see posted on her Facebook page).
The worst part is that it’s an insidious habit – a pang of jealousy here, a twinge of regret there – and before you know it, we are suddenly defining our success, not by our own values and aspirations, but what other people consider a success. We negate our own personal victories in the eyes of others.