snapchat me that panic

Recently I have watched some of the most talented people I know have mini melt downs. My ears have been filled with similar statements again and again, regardless of age/career field/success level: 

 

"I feel like an imposter."

"My work will never be good enough."

"I can't stop having panic attacks. My anxiety makes me feel like I am dying." 

"What am I doing with my life?"

"Everyone is doing cool shit but me."

"Fuck you and your beach view." 

"If I see another job promotion on social media, I will kill myself." 

 

A couple years ago, I was complaining to a girlfriend. When I finally ran out of energy, she had only one thing to say in response. 

"You know what your problem is? You think everyone has it figured out, but they don't."

She couldn't have been more right. 

Based in a city where appearances are highly valued, it's easy to think that I'm the only one whose afraid or sad. That other people are content with their lives, happy with their partners and satisfied with themselves. Unfortunately, you can't catch restless thoughts in a Snapchat. There is no way to Instagram the deep seated anxiety that sits in so many people's chests. And it's not exactly appropriate to air suicidal fantasies on Facebook. 

How naive we have all become, staring into our phones and the faces of friends. Believing that everyone else is ok, that they are doing so much better than us. Gliding gracefully through social interactions and work requirements. When in reality, the human condition is filled with struggle and questioning. The path towards true self love is almost always long and arduous. And getting to the other side of fear is one of the greatest challenges we will face. 

Do you realize how little effort it takes to fake a smile? I know because I have a big one that can be turned on and off with ease. I also have friends who tell me they are fine, when they aren't. People who so readily spill out confidence, only to then shrink when it's challenged. And let's not forget how many adults rely on orange pill bottles as life force. We all already know that what we see is not always what we get, but how quickly we forget. 

While I was traveling, I found myself hanging out with a few "Insta famous" folks. And what I found was revealing- none of their lives matched up to their profiles. Their insecurities, like their personas, had become magnified in the public eye. Time was a valuable commodity, as their images had created an abundance of consuming opportunities. And happiness didn't always translate to real life. I sat with one at a dinner table and she was, well, pretty boring. She barely said more then a few sentences and continued to refresh her latest photo. Her life included the beautiful body, handsome boyfriends, incredible clothing and trips to the best places on the planet. And yet, she couldn't have seemed more bored. While boredom isn't harmful, other afflictions I came across included social anxiety, depression, body image issues and disordered eating. One thing quickly became obvious: don't always trust the 'gram. 

While I spent a long time hating my "darkness", I now take solace in knowing it’s not just me. That these sort of feelings are the very thing that connect me to other humans. In a weird way, the common emotions are like an invisible string weaving us all together. And in a world that can feel so very isolating, this is sort of everything. Of course, we can also connect through joy and creativity and humor. But when those are missing, it's nice to know that we aren't insane. 

So the next time you feel like giving up or find yourself grunting as you scroll mindlessly, put down the phone. Take a big deep breath in and remember that you're not alone. Drop the story of why you aren't good enough and all of the reasons why your dreams won't work out. And allow the emotions to pass through you. It's temporary. Both the feeling and our time here. While fear and sadness are normal, our lives are short. Make the best of it and try to believe in your own goodness and worth. It's what I (try to) do. Day in and day out. Quietly reminding myself that I belong at the table.