My friend recently posted a picture of her family on a hike. The children were laughing and having a great time. I was instantly inspired to do a fun activity with my family. I thought, “Hiking is a great idea! We should plan a time to go on a family hike.” My friend was capturing what to her was a beautiful, maybe even picture perfect, moment. She was expressing her gratitude and happiness for such a special moment with her family, and was likely hoping it would inspire someone to look for opportunities for more family fun and appreciate their family, too. It worked for me, but did it work for everyone who saw it?
Healthy perfectionism occurs when the listener or viewer of the perfect moment or story is ready to be inspired or take action. Healthy perfectionism is self-motivating. For many years, people have shared their perfect photos and their happy moments for various reasons. Some people share them to express gratitude and joy, thereby spreading goodness. Other people post the perfect photo to see something going well on a hard day. And others might occasionally pridefully post perfect photos or stories to brag or make others feel inferior.
In our photoshop world, we’re regularly warned about the fake and ultra-perfect images we might see. The warnings come from people who fear for our mental health, and hope we will not compare ourselves to perfection, but love ourselves as we are and for the potential we have. While this counsel is wise, and the truth about photoshop and vanity or emotional controlling needs to be recognized, are all perfect pictures bad?
When I see a happy baby or hear about someone’s 25th wedding anniversary, I don’t feel jilted because someone else is happy. I feel happy for them. I feel joy that my friends and acquaintances are feeling joy, too. In order to experience healthy perfectionism, we must not think only of what we have or don’t have. These selfish comparisons, which are rooted in prideful thoughts, ruin our own happiness. Why would we do this to ourselves?
Pointing Fingers at Perfectionism
Unhealthy perfectionism is when a perfectionistic person constantly sees the happiness in someone else’s life as unfair, or even an attack on their own life. Internal pressures for perfectionism partnered with a negative orientation and comparison to others leads a person to view a perfect moment and consequently experience fear of missing out [FOMO].
The results of FOMO are even more pessimism, disconnection from happy people, lack of motivation, sadness, discontent, stress, and jealousy. It looks like this: Let’s say a young child sees her brother come home from the store with a treat, but they didn’t bring one for her. If the sister doesn’t have a skill for handling disappointment, such as knowing how to accept a “no” answer, then she will likely feed her sadness and discontent by complaining, whining, or arguing to try to get something special for her.
FOMO leads to entitlement. People who experience FOMO naturally find themselves thinking that someone else has made their life hard, so it’s up to someone else to make their lives good again. If only they knew that they could choose happiness at any time, no matter what anyone else does to them.
Due to the increase of FOMO in society, many people stopped posting photos of their happy, joyful moments. People chose not to spread happiness because they didn’t want other people to perceive their perfect moment or happiness as a bad thing. Consequently, many people now see much more negative messaging on social media.
People with FOMO shied away from posting because they didn’t see their lives as picture perfect enough to post about, until recently. In recent years, many of the previously posting-shy people experiencing FOMO have embraced a new view of their lives. Many people are now choosing to have the joy of missing out [JOMO].
JOMO is when a person decides to have pride in missing out or not being perfect. JOMO posts that attack previously-acknowledged happy social norms are becoming more popular online. People are sharing sad, depressed thoughts in a glorified, happy way. Some might suggest that this is a way that people who are struggling within are reaching out, and that this is healthy for them, but I’m not sure I agree.
I’ve spent most of my life studying what it means to self-govern and find self-control, and the following is a principle that is true about finding happiness. A person doesn’t ever experience light and joy or find truth and purposeful living by wallowing in their problems. Wallowing in problems stops a person from finding solutions to their problems, not the opposite.
Deliberately Changing The Way You See The World
When I did treatment foster care for troubled teens, they would often choose to completely lose control of their emotions and try to engage in power struggles. Some of the youth were so strong-willed that as soon as they felt themselves calming down and stopping to power struggle, they would start pushing themselves to become more negative again. I discussed these cycles and desires to stay mad and downcast with the youth at times when they weren’t out of control, and they acknowledged that they often felt like they wanted to make their lives bad and hard during those times. It was a habit they had to break. I would then point out other times they had chosen to be happy and we would discuss the charitable, light feeling they had during those times.
After this good self-assessment, which is required in order to self-govern, we made a plan for how they would choose to have happiness instead of sadness next time they started spiraling out of control. We deliberately planned with their cognitive abilities and willpower for how to catch and stop damaging, depressing thoughts and behaviors from taking over their happiness.
It’s true that some people fake perfection online and in the media, but some people are trying to spread light to the world. When darkness is prevalent, good people have a duty to spread light. We only make the darkness and depression thicker and more unbearable if we point fingers at healthy perfectionism and engage in JOMO behaviors.
Before you post something next time, ask yourself this question, “Does this post lift up or tear down?” If it tears down, even if you are trying to make someone else or yourself feel better, you could be engaging in JOMO, and life will seem less hopeful and happy for you and countless others who read your post. Happiness always starts with a choice.
Learn more self-government skills and principles for family unity at teachingselfgovernment.com.