In the past six years I have moved over ten times. Five of those moves have been in the last two years. I have become an expert at packing and an inadvertent minimalist, continuously avoiding buying many new possessions because it will be less to pack in the next move. Whilst these moves have coincided with some of the most exciting times of my twenties; travelling, moving to Amsterdam and leaving the job I detested, in the past year I have had a longing to plant my roots, to settle down and to find a place to call my own.
I have no problem with renting. I do not necessarily think renting is “money wasted” as we humble renters are repeatedly told by the conceited home-owners, but I do dream of being able to put a nail in the wall without asking the landlord first. I long to have my own furniture that isn’t a dark brown colour, lighting that is actually cosy rather than decrepit and a sofa that doesn’t make guests rub their bottoms in pain after they have flopped onto it at the end of the night and found the sofa is more wood than cushion.
I know, I know. It’s shallow, but there you are. My point is, that this gap has not been helped by social media. As I gently scroll through some rose-tinted squares of house interiors, instead of inspiration I feel a sting of self-doubt. I feel like I am the only one renting a 50m2 apartment, instead of having purchased my own baroque and beautifully light, plant emporium with florid walls of different sized art prints. I have a feeling of under-achieving, that somehow, I should have been able to afford a mortgage once I left university, on-top of a growing pile of student-loan.
The reality, of course is very different. I discovered after wailing out loud to my sister-in-law that my brother and his wife “were so lucky have their own place” that in actual fact, they felt rather envious of me, being free of any responsibilities and being able to pack up and move to another country without the financial anchor of a mortgage. Friends who have broken up since buying a house together have said their housing situation is giving them serious anxiety. Other friends have confessed that they have had financial help from parents for the down payment of their place. Everyone is on an entirely different path due to different circumstances and the worst thing we can do for our own state of mind is compare ourselves to others.
At the moment, housing is my vice. For some, it may be scantily-clad fitness models that affect our body confidence (let’s face it who hasn’t been there), friendship group sizes that far surpass our own, travelling photos, jobs that look better than ours, people who have children, people who don’t have children. We can all look at each other’s lives and see something we don’t have. My boyfriend recently told me in all earnest that he has the same feeling when he sees photos of someone who has recently got a new puppy or a very handsome dog. Hey, we all have our weakness.
Self-comparison is an inevitable part of the human condition, and never before has it been so easy to access “real” people’s lives. Through social media, we can be in the knowledge of a huge amount of information of someone we have never met. We can get hooked living voyeuristically through someone else’s experience. If that is your bag and you don’t feel crap afterwards then that is great. We owe a responsibility to ourselves though, to self-preserve. We need to be aware of our mood after we’ve spent time on social media, and look out certain triggers that make us feel sad or depressed. Maybe self-preservation means giving ourselves a bit of time offline (Venetia Falconer is a great advocate of weekend digital detox). Maybe it means unfollowing/ muting certain accounts. Maybe it just means giving ourselves a good shake afterwards and telling ourselves that that photo of the beautiful dining table with a group of smiling friends all crowded round for dinner, is just one part of the story. The person behind that photo probably has a million things they are personally insecure about and would envy about us. Let’s be kind to ourselves. Let’s see the glass as half full and being grateful for all of the things we have accomplished no matter how insignificant they seem.
Let’s stop comparing and start and focusing on everything we do have, and giving ourselves a well-deserved pat on the back.