Hi. I’m Sarah and I sometimes struggle with discontentment, and right now that discontentment is centered on living in D.C. and comparing myself to others on social media. It’s just awful, living in this beautiful city, steps away from the U.S. Capitol building and being forced to do things like kayak on the Potomac River on the weekends. Or being forced to look at pretty pictures on Instagram while I wait at the dentist. Silly, I know. But my discontentment has more to do with with self-pity than my actual circumstances. So I’m learning how to fight discontentment and pursue happiness instead.
It’s not that I’m unhappy. In fact, day to day I am. I love my job, my husband, my apartment, my cat. I love the fact that I can walk everywhere and there are opportunities here in D.C. that I would not be able to get anywhere else.
But it’s almost like in my mind I have my bags already packed, waiting for an opportunity to get out of here. Which is not helpful when your husband loves his job and this city.
But I am no city girl. A lot of days I feel drained by the constant noise and commotion. Don’t get me wrong, it’s no New York City, but I still wake up to most days to the sound of a fire truck siren than birds.
That’s just circumstantial, though.
Sure, I’d love to live in a real house and have a garden and not be surrounded by activity all day long, but to say that causes my discontentment is the same as saying those things – although good – are the root of my joy. They’re not. Too often I let things like four walls of a building or lack of quiet dictate my happiness instead of my faith in God, relationship with Christ and knowledge of His deep and everlasting love for me.
Plus, I feel like there is this pressure to always.be.doing.something here. Every night there are five different activities or events you could attend. And if you just want to stay home and watch Jeopardy it makes you feel like you are missing out on life. (PS, you’re not. Staying home ROCKS, just read about it in this post The Benefits of Staying Home More Often.
Part of my problem is because I am an introvert. And let’s be honest, more outgoing/type A people are drawn to cities, so it makes sense that they would constantly be wanting to plan events and get together. But it’s draining! Some good news, I am working on that though. I even wrote a post on how to host better if you’re an introvert and if you’re an extrovert it might give you some insight into our hermit minds.
But I digress!
The other part of my discontent problem – and I’d say probably my main problem – is social media. And I have a feeling this is a big one for many of you too.
How to Fight Discontentment in an Instagram Perfect World
Now, I will make a quick note that I don’t think social media affects my discontentment of living in D.C. I just miss my family and the slower pace in Buffalo. It DOES however play a huge role in day-to-day discontentment. Even if I lived in Buffalo social media is such a part of our lives I think I’d still feel like I was missing out on some fun somewhere and comparing my life to others exciting lives.
That’s because thanks to Instagram we have access to beautiful women with adorable well- behaved children in their gorgeous, perfect homes – but most of the world is only putting their best face forward on social media.
(To those that post photos of your hair looking messy and kid having a tantrum – thank you for reminding us of real life!)
For the most part though, and believe me I’m as guilty as the rest, I only post positive things on Facebook or Instagram. There’s nothing wrong with that either. When I got the Noro virus in December I didn’t take a quick selfie of myself puking my guts out to post the next day. No one wants to see that and there is just no reason to share those details of my life. (Except right now. You’re welcome!)
Instead I post photos of when my husband and I take a trip together, my nieces and nephews, my cat (so, so many. I’m sorry), and flowers. These things make me happy and I like being able to come back and look at them. I don’t think the majority of people post things to make others envious, we just post what we like.
The problem is we only see everyone else’s good and think no one else is going through the bad things we are. OR we let our self-esteem be affected by not getting enough “likes.”
The root of discontentment is simply not getting what we want when we want it.
Whether that’s because of our circumstances, or seeing someone on Instagram that has something we want.
Today, take a note of all the things you complain about it. I’m guessing the real root of all your complaints are because you didn’t get your way in a situation. Your boss gave you too much work. Perhaps your boyfriend or girlfriend seemed short with you. Or your kids were acting up. You don’t have enough money to afford that vacation you really need. You best friend cancelled plans, again. Only 10 people liked the photo you posted after your hike. SAD!
If we truly want to be content, we must first flee from things that cause us to be discontent, I call them Discontentment Killers.
How to Fight Discontentment
1. A focus on self and entitlement
When you notice yourself complaining a lot or having a pity part for yourself what you’re really saying is, “Me! Me! Me!” People that are focused on others do not have time to worry about what they are not getting or who is not paying attention to them. As a whole we also feel very entitled. We often feel we deserve a high-paying job that doesn’t require us to work one hour longer than we want to, a supermodel boyfriend/girlfriend, exotic vacations and in my case…my dream home ASAP! But life doesn’t care if we feel entitled. Sometimes we get what we deserve, and sometimes we don’t. Focusing on what we don’t have will only cause a downward spiral of discontentment where we feel like nothing in our life is good.
2. Letting circumstances or people dictate your happiness
We let circumstances and people dictate our happiness when we compare our lives to theirs. Again, social media is not helpful here and I really do believe is killing our self-esteem.
I recently read a great blog post about how we’re only viewing people’s highlight reels on social media. Meanwhile, we never see what goes on behind the scenes. Their life is not as great as it is pictured on Instagram or Facebook – plus real life doesn’t come with pretty filters. We need to stop comparing our bad to everyone else’s highlight reel.
We also – and I’m speaking from experience here – let people steal our discontentment by their actions. No one wants to be stepped on or spoken rudely. At the end of the day WE are in charge of our feelings. As much as we’d like to (and sometimes I really would like to!) we cannot control what other people do. Sure, there are people in our lives we need to distance ourselves from, but I recently realized that God brings difficult people into my life not to annoy me – but to refine me, soften my hardened edges or even bring joy in a way I would not have otherwise experienced.
3. Worry and Emotions
I’m constantly guilty of letting worry kill my contentment. I’m what you’d call an “anxious person” and if there is something to fret about, chances are I’m doing it. The Bible tells us not to worry about what we will wear or eat (or in my case many, many other things…) but instead to focus on today. If we fully trusted God and His plan, what would be left to worry about? (Easier said than done, I understand. BELIEVE ME. I’m a work in progress.)
If we truly want contentment, but must do more than just stop focusing on ourselves or complaining, we must be proactive about chasing it as well.
How to Pursue Happiness
1. Fake it to You Make It – Gratitude Style!
Here’s a mini homework assignment. This week every morning before you get out of bed list 10 things you are thankful for (I then thank God for giving me those things!) It may feel fake at first but I assure you, with constant practice you’ll find a change in attitude. If you need extra help, check out this post on What To Do When You Don’t Feel Grateful.
2. Turn Your Thoughts From Yourself to Others
I need to take my own advice here because most of the time I’m trying to run away to be by myself. But the second greatest cure to discontentment is focusing on others. If you’re unhappy most of the time chances are you’re focusing on yourself too much. Start small. This week list maybe a few friends you’ve lost touch with to send a kind note to. Or call them up. Or offer to grab lunch and make a note NOT to talk about yourself, but ask them how their life has been.
3. Be Creative with Serving Others
If you’re doing the above that naturally lends itself to serving others. Offer to make dinner for a friend, look for ways to volunteer at your church or in the community. Find a young person to mentor. I have a long way to go with this step too, so don’t feel discouraged. You can serve in small ways every day. Dealing with difficult people at work? Look for ways to serve them and show kindness instead. Or how about you’re frustrated with a friend who seems distant? Reach out and think of ways you could bless their life.
While it may not seen natural, we must learn to ditch discontentment. Because true contentment really does lie in focusing on others instead of self, and turning our complaints to praise.
Give it a shot. You may find not only the key to contentment, but also true happiness as well. And if you need a little extra boost, ditch Instagram for a week, too.
“But Godliness with contentment is great gain” – 1 Timothy 6:6