I don’t just seem like I’m perfect on the internet: Why being a crab in a bucket is really not the way to help your self-esteem

Grumpy Readers,

I am amazing. I truly am.  I have achieved more than I ever could have dreamed of as a child.  I try to make the world a better place.  I am continually living and growing and working and doing what I can to make my utility curve hit my budget constraint, wherever that is at the time.

YOU are amazing too.  I mean, assuming you don’t post racist memes or put kids in cages or donate to anti-LGBT causes because you don’t want people who are different to be happy.  (One would think that would be a pretty low bar, but hey, it’s 2020 and Trump is president.)  But there are other things about you that make you amazing, not just the absence of being a horrible person (horrible people sometimes hate-read, but they don’t tend to stick around, so we’re fairly confident in assuming you’re not one of them– if you are, maybe stop being horrible?).

Think on some of the ways in which you are amazing for a moment, and while you do it, pretend that the patriarchy doesn’t exist so when you start on the, “but..” part after the amazing part just shut that down and end it with a period.  There are so many ways– and they are all valid (unless they include hurting vulnerable people).

There’s research that shows that people are, on average, happier when they’re off Facebook, and that the reason they’re happier is because they’re not comparing themselves to other people as much.  But something hidden in that research is that it’s only true on average, and only true for a certain kind of people.  Some people are VERY affected by comparing themselves to others and some people are not affected at all.  And that difference has to do with personality traits, not things like income or types of friends (probably– there’s still more research to be done in this area).

I strongly believe that this need that some people have to feel better than others, high on the relative scale of worth rather than just high in terms of levels is one of the reasons that we have so many social ills today.  Some people are racist because they want to feel better than a group of people no matter how terrible things are for them.  They are sexist for the same reason.  They want to keep the poor from eating because people not like them are undeserving and shouldn’t eat.  Or from marrying because they themselves are not lgbt.  Or from being included because they consider themselves to be an exclusive sort of prosperity-gospel Christian and others are non-Christian.  From this viewpoint, there’s only so much awesome to go around and they need to keep other people from having it, particularly people who are different.

But that doesn’t have to be how it works.  Awesome grows more awesome.  Making the world a better place creates more benefits for everyone, except people who get off on being bigots.

And you, grumpy readers, are not those people.

You know that if you focus on relative awesomeness there will always be someone who appears to be better in one aspect or another.  That can’t be a healthy measure of one’s own worth.  It’s much better to plant your own garden and focus on your wants and your goals.  The argument that everybody has problems they’re hiding so you should feel good about yourself is a good way to keep people down.  The only way to win that game is to not care if other people don’t have problems, and instead to focus on yourself and make comparisons to yourself.  Learn from other people– don’t pull them down.

Grumpy nation, when someone on the internet or in real life seems pretty awesome, that doesn’t mean they have inner demons or a horrible family life or etc. etc. etc. that they’re just keeping hidden.  Maybe they’re just pretty awesome.  And maybe if you want to be like them, you can learn from what they do.  And if you don’t want to be like them, you can be secure in that choice.  Sometimes people have instagrammable holiday decorations because that’s what they value, and maybe that’s not what you value.

Where people end up is a combination of so many factors– structural advantages, luck, effort, preferences, and so on.  We can work to reduce structural disadvantages.  We can remember the importance of luck.  We can change our effort level, or remember why we don’t actually care enough to do so and be mindful of the things we do care about.  What we don’t need to do is pull someone down because they have something we wish we had.

So I’m not going to say that it only seems like I have a charmed life but in reality there’s things going on behind the scenes… because really there’s not.  Each day I think of my blessings with astonishment.  As a child, I never actually believed my life could be this comfortable.  Or maybe you don’t value the things I value and value other things and that’s fine too (assuming you don’t value bigotry– then that’s not fine)!  Remember that when someone else brings perfect Christmas cookies, you get to eat the cookies without having put forth any effort to make them.  And that’s much better than feeling threatened by someone else’s perfection.

In this New Year, if I have any hopes for the grumpy readership, it is that you will think upon how you can use your awesomeness to make the world a better place.  Because there are people with so many disadvantages who are under attack because bad people feel threatened by them.  We have the privilege and the power to fight.  Let’s make 2020 a year of action.

Happy New Year!

What is at least one way in which are you awesome?  (Warning:  NO but/although/even though/etc. allowed.  Just put a period without a disclaimer.)  What are your hopes for helping the world in this New Year?  What are some suggestions for what we can do?