Your perfectly edited and formulated Instagram grid? Nobody has probably looked more than once — maybe twice — and probably just in passing.
The promotion you were overlooked for? Most people probably don’t even know what you do.
Those cringeworthy moments from your past you replay in your head over and over again? Nobody remembers them, the same way you can’t remember anyone else’s.
Those incremental signs of aging, or unseemly details of your body — nobody is thinking about them, and more importantly, it is absolutely impossible to imagine how another person sees you. It’s mostly just a projection of how you see yourself.
Nobody is evaluating you the way that you think they are, because nobody cares enough about your life in the way you’ve been led to believe that they do.
Being in an age where we document and present the smallest details of our lives as a sort of reel for other people’s consumption has created an intense spotlight complex that is probably affecting you more than you realize. Human beings are naturally inclined to think that the world revolves around them, Facebook amplified the noise.
Nobody really cares about your life the way you do, nor should they. That kind of concern and investment is reserved for the people who are actually close to you — your immediate family and friends. Anyone else? They might follow you to keep up, or because you create some kind of valuable content that they want to consume. But that’s all.
Nobody really cares about every single thing you saw on your last vacation. Nobody really cares that you don’t look the way you did in high school. Nobody really cares about the beer you had at the bar on Saturday night. Nobody cares that you’re watching fireworks on the Fourth of July.
Nobody really cares whether you’ve succeeded or failed, how far you’ve gone or how close you stayed, what you’re doing on the weekend, or tomorrow morning. Nobody really cares if you live at home or own your dream place, nobody really cares if you’re hitting milestones the way you thought they would.
This is true even if you have a community of supportive followers who truly love you and cheer you on. This is true if social media is how a lot of your friendship group keeps up with one another. The point is not that you are irrelevant as a person, but that the constant dread to prove that you’re doing well is unnecessary. It feels unnatural to most people to share so much of their lives, and that’s because it is unnatural. As socially inclined human beings, our propensity to care whether or not we’re acceptable is given a truly wild platform to show itself. So many people are no longer living for life, but living for an image of it.
Stop psyching yourself out. In the exact same way that you are not evaluating the lives of the hundreds of people you follow, nobody is evaluating yours — at least, nowhere near the capacity at which you fear they might be. They are all too busy imagining their own lives through other people’s eyes to care about what you’re doing.
This is not a bad thing. This is not proof of your insignificance. This is a fact that will finally liberate you from yourself. You are free. You can exit the life competition you never signed up for.
It’s okay if you don’t take nice pictures. It’s okay if you don’t document every hour of your next trip. It’s okay if you give periodic updates once in a while. It’s okay if you like to share a lot more than that, as long as it feels natural to you, and improves your life.
For everyone else who is stressed out and anxious about whether or not their appearances measure up — relax.
There’s a reverence and sacredness to privacy, and reclaiming your life for yourself. Take it. Savor it. Be in it. Build something you actually want to live out. And if a few great photos are taken along the way? That’s wonderful. But make sure your time is spent capturing special memories, not trying to piece together a thesis about why you’re a good enough person.
Remember that the only person staring back at you through the screen is you.