Here’s the problem.
Out there in the wide, wide world of social media, we see a lot of success. Whether it’s the highlight reel of Instagram, or the humble-bragging of LinkedIn, it seems like every person we grew up with, ever met, or even crossed just once on the street, is doing better than us.
I recently read a post which suggested that stories showcasing success do best, as people love to read a happy ending.
But I disagree. To me, the stories which are most resonant are those which share a bit deeper than superficial happiness or achievement. I love to see how people struggle and how they overcome their difficulties — or didn’t. And I think there are more people like me.
When I think about my own life, and consider sharing it with others through writing, I hesitate. I’m filled with doubt. I look at what others have accomplished and I feel lesser. My knowledge, my experience, it isn’t good enough.
My stories sit as drafts, forever unpublished. (This story has been floating around in my written drafts for two weeks, as an example.)
But I’m sick of feeling paralyzed by the thought that I might not be good enough. I want to read more stories that aren’t just about success.
Humans are judge-y. We see just a tiny facet of someone’s life, and we think we know the whole story. There’s no real cure for that, other than introspection, but it’s just a fact of life.
The problem with selectively sharing our stories means that when I see your post about how you make X amount of money by being an Instagram influencer, or how you’re quickly rising through the ranks of Y corporate job, that that you achieved your lifelong dream of Z in just two short years, I see the incredible success, but I am not shown the struggle.
What isn’t visible is the huge number of steps it took to get to where you are today. What isn’t shown is how hard you work to create your following. What I don’t see is that there was a good deal of effort behind the accomplishments you make look so effortless.
So I think: “Huh. They did that amazing thing, and they made it look easy. Why can’t I do it?”
And I’m not alone. There are studies showing that people feel like underachievers or unsuccessful after browsing social media. It’s insidious.
Logically, we know people only post about the good stuff, not the bad stuff. Our brains will tell us there’s more to the story. But when we mindlessly consume other people’s lives, whether through blogs or videos or pictures, we’re not stopping to psychoanalyze our own feelings. We simply begin believing we’re not as good.
I love failures.
I love mistakes and mishaps. Out of all the stories we can share with one another, I want to see the highs and the lows. Whatever you feel comfortable with sharing, I want to know about it.
I don’t like reading books where the hero is perfect; I enjoy stories where the hero is flawed and has to struggle to have a happy ending. I like stories where the hero doesn’t get a happy ending, because that’s just real life.
It shouldn’t be surprising to realize it’s not great for me to only see success in my non-fiction entertainment, too.
So tell me about your dips, trips, stumbles. Publish your tales of staggering success, yes, inspire me to new heights, but don’t forget the mediocre and mundane. It’s great to read about what it’s like to be at the very apex of what humanity can accomplish, but honestly, I’m more interested of reading about how you got there.
We’re not perfect. I want to read stories about humans, not as pseudoheroes who are capable of anything, but just regular folks who mess up, just like me, and can signpost the way.
What we can learn from each other:
If I read ten thousand articles by CEOs about how they became successful, I’ll have read ten thousand articles telling me to wake up at four in the morning.
But when I read diverse, nuanced views by people from all walks of life, who have overcome so much, I grow as a person. I learn about situations I’ve never considered, I begin to dream about things I’d never thought possible.
When I read about failure, I learn so much more. Not just about the author, but about the struggle. Every person is unique, but the problems we face are all the same.
Those are the stories that teach us how to live our best lives. And these are the stories we all want more of. Publish your struggles, not your successes.