I’m not sure if we’ve all experienced this, but I’m hoping it’s not just me.

Have you ever looked at a friend or colleague’s photo on Instagram and just think, “Ugh, she/he is so lucky.” or “How come they get to do that?” We may even say to ourselves, “I should be doing something like that.” Even if we don’t say it, that’s probably what we’re thinking.

I used to be terrible about looking at what my peers were doing from afar and finding myself feeling envious. If I’m being honest, I still struggle with it sometimes.

We live in an age where we put everything we are doing on blast – using social media for some version of self-promotion (whether we admit it to ourselves or not). And typically, those images we display have been through some manipulation or filter. Either we aren’t showing the whole picture, or it’s not exactly the situation we’re describing in our captions, or we are just simply showing a brief highlight of an otherwise horrendous day.

Years ago when Instagram was getting popular, a friend of mine and I were discussing this issue — how everything we post/view is a highlight. She said, “We should start Instagram pages for the mundane shit we do every day. Like, just a filtered photo of the stack of bills on my mail table. Or the computer screen I stare at for 8 hours a day. Or what I look like right when I wake up.”

We laughed at the thought of it, and then went right back to posting the pretty sunsets we saw, so we could show everyone else our views were better than theirs.

But when I noticed this envy monster in its most ferocious state, is when I saw others in my field posting work they were doing. And let’s be clear, I work in a lot of different fields — film making, writing, and fitness just for starters — so it was exhausting.

“I could be doing that.” “Damn, how did they get that job?” “I should have gotten a job like that.”

My mind would just swarm with these destructive thoughts. Which, by the way, were all ridiculous for several reasons. When I think back on the things I have done — which takes significant work because I also struggle to stop and smell the roses (a product of my “family hero” status from my alcoholic upbringing) — I realize I’ve also done some really great things that I’m sure people have envied. And I know that they don’t happen every day, because there are those days when we stare at a screen for 8 hours, or are drowning in a sea of bills.

Those people are just like me and they aren’t posting those stressful days, either. They’re posting their highlight reels.

But for some reason, I couldn’t fill in those gaps and I could only hold onto the cool things I saw them doing. When I stopped and thought about how they might view my highlights or what they might post if they posted their stressful days, it allowed me to see things more clearly… and get back to my own damn work.

Once I got through that first line of insecurity, I could get to the real issue.

I’ll admit, I didn’t reach this point until recently. It took a lot of wins to allow me to get confident enough to see my life for what it really was and I what I really wanted it to be.

It went off like a light bulb in my head: “Wait… but…. I don’t really want to be doing what they’re doing.” “I don’t have a boss and I like it that way.” “I choose to do the projects I do and I make different kinds of films then they do.” “I provide a different service to the fitness industry.” “My goals aren’t the same; I want to write different kinds of books.”

My goals are different. We all are different. And there’s room for all of us to succeed.

What I envied in them, was usually what I lacked. But those aren’t the things that make me who I am anyway. So why would I care?

Now when I see something someone else is doing and that envy monster starts to rear its head, I ask myself these three questions:

  1. Is that actually something I would want to do? (and if so, why aren’t I?)
  2. Does that somehow affect what I am trying to accomplish?
  3. How is what I do well different than what they do well?

Then, I leave the situation with a feeling of gratitude and love.

I have a deeper love for what I’m specifically trying to do because I know no one else can do it the way I will. I also have a deeper love and appreciate for what that person is doing, because I know I couldn’t do it like he or she could.

It’s not a zero sum game. We all can win and have what we want. But first we need to recognize what makes us unique and how we can be different than others.

Because most of the time, being different is better than being better.

Picture via Rain Bennett

Rain Bennett is a two time Emmy-nominated filmmaker, fitness professional, public speaker, and writer. His mission is simple: to help people realize that they too can be great, no matter where they come from or what they start with. It just takes passion, persistence, and a plan.

Bennett directed and produced his first feature length documentary in true indie fashion by traveling the world with only a backpack and a Canon DSLR camera. That film, Raise Up: The World is Our Gym won “Best of the Fest” at the Hip Hop Film Festival NYC and received global distribution through Red Bull Media House. He’s been featured in publications like Men’s Health and Sports Business Global and is a regular contributor to Breaking Muscle. When he’s not making movies or training clients at Sync Studio in Durham, he’s hosting a new webseries called The Perfect Workout Show.