You’ve probably caught yourself doing it. Life has been rough or depressing, but your social media feed looks awesome. Someone asks how much money you make or how sales on your project were, and you round up quite a bit. Or maybe you’re similarly generous when you talk about your sexual conquests, or commensurately stingy with your weight.
Obviously this sort of deceit is not a good thing and we should all try to stop doing it. But what’s interesting is how, when we compare ourselves to other people, we rarely stop to consider that they are probably lying too. You think those Instagram influencers actually live like their photos look? You think it’s not in their financial interest to make their career seem more lucrative and stable than it actually is? And yet, there we are, feeling envious or insecure. You think it’s good business for your competitors to talk about how much trouble they’re having lately? You think that athletes and CEOs are actually working that grinding schedule they talk so much about? That it’s not just basic mythmaking or a way of psyching out the competition? You think that artist or actor in the middle of a whirlwind press junket is going to admit that they’re not happy? Or shoot down the wildly inflated rumors of how much they got paid? Of course not!
Marcus Aurelius talked about how even though we are all selfish people, we seem to care about other people’s opinions more than our own. We know that we are prone to exaggeration and posturing, but we seem to have a blindspot for the fact that everyone else is doing this too. It’s like the Missile Gap that John F. Kennedy campaigned on. He just couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that the Soviets were lying, that their system was falling apart and they weren’t ahead of the US, but were laughably behind!
We’d all do better and be happier if we realized that this kind of deceit is incredibly common. Everyone is lying—about what they make, about how confident they feel, about how hard they work, about how well things are going. Stop comparing yourself to these lies. Stop thinking about them at all.
Focus on your own truth.
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