We all think we know what’s really going on in other people’s lives. Our neighbors, coworkers, and friends on social media—we assume because we see snapshots of their existence that we have a pretty good sense of what their reality is actually like. But the truth is, we have no idea; you never know what someone is going through.
The struggles, hardships, heartbreaks, and daily battles that people face behind closed doors largely remain unseen. What we perceive as perfect lives are often far from them. As we go about our day, quick to judge and make assumptions, many around us are simply surviving, hoping for kind words and compassion.
The truth about people’s lives is that there is usually so much more going on than meets the eye. We think we know, but we have no idea.
Table of Contents
Why We Pretend to Understand the Human Experience
You Never Know What Someone is Going Through, But You Think You Know. Why?
1. We crave connection.
We all want to feel like we understand each other. As humans, we crave connection. So we make assumptions, fill in the blanks, and pretend we know what others are experiencing.
The truth is, we never fully know what someone else is going through or how they truly feel inside. Yet we continue to judge, label, and categorize people based on appearances and our own preconceptions. Why do we do this?
2. We project our own experiences onto others.
We’ve all been guilty of it at some point. We see someone reacting in a way we don’t understand and immediately think, “If that were me, I’d handle it differently.” The truth is, we have no idea what that person has gone through or is currently facing.
3. We mistake empathy for understanding.
We think we understand what others are going through because we can imagine how we might feel in their shoes. But the truth is, we have no idea. Our experiences shape us in profoundly personal ways. Even if we’ve gone through something similar, we can never fully grasp how another person perceives and processes the world.
4. We love to judge and label.
We all do it. We see someone on the street or scroll past a photo on social media and immediately make assumptions. “Oh, they look like they’re having a bad day.” “Wow, their life looks perfect.” The truth is, we have no idea what that person is experiencing. Their outward appearance tells us nothing about their inner world.
5. Life is complex, and people are complex.
We all think we understand what others are going through in life, but the truth is, we have no idea. Each person’s experience is unique. There are so many factors that shape who we become: our upbringing, life events, health issues, relationships, beliefs, environment, access to resources, and so much more.
6. Someone’s public persona tells you nothing about their inner life.
You can’t judge a book by its cover.
We all put on a show for the public—a curated version of ourselves we want others to see. But behind closed doors, in the quiet of our own homes, the truth is far more complex. Our struggles, fears, and deepest secrets stay hidden from prying eyes. No Instagram post or friendly “How’s it going?” can convey the full, messy, and beautiful humanity we all share.
7. Pain is often invisible.
We think we understand what others are going through based on what we see on the surface. The truth is, we never really know the full story. Pain and suffering are often invisible.
Why is It Important to be Understanding of Others’ Struggles?
Because you never really know.
We all struggle in our own ways, even if we don’t show it. As fellow humans, it’s so important that we offer understanding and compassion. Rather than make assumptions, we should seek to uplift and support one another.
What are Some Signs that Someone May be Going Through Something Difficult?
As social creatures, we often assume we understand what others are experiencing based on appearances alone. But there are subtle signs that someone you know may be going through difficult times:
- Changes in mood or behavior If someone who is usually upbeat seems sad, irritable, or withdrawn, it could indicate they’re dealing with challenging circumstances.
- lack of interest in activities they used to enjoy. When life feels hard, it’s difficult to muster enthusiasm for hobbies and socializing.
- difficulty concentrating or making decisions. Mental or emotional distress can impact focus and cognitive abilities.
- Changes in sleep, appetite, or hygiene Both depression and anxiety can lead to disruptions in normal routines and self-care.
- expressing feelings of hopelessness. If someone says they feel like giving up or that things will never get better, it’s a cause for concern.
Though we can never fully understand another’s experience, we can offer compassion and support. Reach out and let them know you’ve noticed they seem to be struggling and that you’re there to listen without judgment. Even small acts of kindness can make a difference.
There are Reasons for Behaviors You Don’t Understand.
We all make judgments about people and their behaviors without knowing the full story. The truth is, there are many reasons why people act the way they do that remain hidden from us.
1. Past Trauma
Someone may be dealing with past trauma that influences how they think, feel, and interact with the world. Traumatic events like abuse, the loss of a loved one, or a difficult illness can shape a person in ways not visible on the surface. Be kind; you never know what inner battles people are facing.
2. Mental health issues
Many people struggle with anxiety, depression, PTSD, or other issues that can manifest in behaviors that seem unusual or irrational to outsiders. But for that person, those behaviors make sense as coping mechanisms. Rather than judging, show compassion.
3. Physical health problems
An underlying health condition could also be the cause of behaviors that puzzle us. Chronic pain, sleep disorders, and other issues may lead someone to act in ways we don’t fully understand. It’s always best to respond with patience, empathy, and care.
4. Environmental Influences
A person’s environment, upbringing, and life experiences shape them in complex ways. Someone who grew up in a dysfunctional family or dangerous neighborhood may have developed behaviors as a means of survival that continue into adulthood. Try to be understanding rather than critical.
5. Secret Struggles
There are many personal struggles and difficulties people face that remain private. Financial troubles, relationship issues, family problems, addiction, loss of purpose or meaning, and existential angst can all manifest in ways not obvious to outsiders. We are all fighting secret battles; be kind.
What Really Goes on Behind the Scenes
The truth is, we never have the full context of people and their lives. There are countless reasons why individuals act the way they do that remain hidden from view. Rather than making judgments, it’s always best to respond with empathy, compassion, and care. We are all in this together.
The person next to you may be struggling.
We never really know what’s going on in someone else’s life. The person next to you—whether a coworker, classmate, or stranger on the street—may be struggling in ways you can’t see.
My family and I learned this lesson the hard way. Our neighbors, the Smith’s, always seemed to have it all together. Two kids, a nice house, new cars—the American dream What we didn’t know was that Mr. Smith had lost his job months ago, and they were barely scraping by. They were too embarrassed to tell anyone they were in financial trouble.
- It’s easy to make assumptions based on appearances, but you never know the full story. Making assumptions based on appearances is easy. The smiling woman you see every day at the coffee shop may be dealing with a chronic illness or the loss of a loved one.
- The kid who acts out in class could be dealing with problems at home like neglect, abuse, or a lack of support.
Before you judge someone, try to extend empathy and compassion. A few kind words or a simple act of kindness could make a difference in their day. If someone seems off, don’t be afraid to ask if they’re okay or if there’s any way you can help. Let people know you care about them.
Everyone has invisible battles. They are fighting
We all have struggles, but you’d never know it by looking at someone. As people, we’re incredibly complex. There are so many things going on beneath the surface that we hide from the outside world.
My wife and I know what it’s like to put on a smile when you’re breaking inside. A few years ago, we went through a miscarriage and didn’t tell anyone. We acted like everything was normal at work and with friends, but we’d just hold each other and cry at night. Looking back, we wish we had opened up to others who could have supported us.
A friend of ours battles depression and anxiety but is one of the funniest and most cheerful people in public. We had no idea until she confided in us, and we were able to be there for her when she needed it most. This is a true story my friend told me. That’s why he wrote it using his own words.
You never know if someone is caring for a sick family member, struggling with a loss, dealing with a mental health condition, or facing any other personal challenge. So many people are fighting invisible battles every day.
Instead of judging others for how they appear on the outside, we should lead with empathy, compassion, and kindness. Make an effort to really listen without judgment and to be there for the people in your life. You never know when someone might need you, even if they don’t show it.
Traumatic experiences shape us in ways you can’t see.
We all have a story, and often it’s not a pretty one. The truth is, people go through incredibly traumatic events all the time, and you’d never know it just by looking at them or chatting with them casually. These traumatic experiences shape us in profound ways, even if the scars aren’t visible on the surface.
- Physical or emotional abuse as a child can lead to lifelong struggles with self-esteem, healthy relationships, and mental health.
- The loss of a loved one, especially at a young age, leaves an irreplaceable void and sadness that lingers for decades.
- A serious health crisis or accident can instill a sense of mortality and vulnerability that forever changes your perspective on life.
The impacts may not be obvious, but they run deep.
You can’t see the anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress someone lives with every day as a result of the unknown hardships they’ve endured. You don’t notice the hypervigilance, the difficulty trusting others, or the survivor’s guilt. These life-altering experiences are often invisible to outsiders, but they shape a person’s character, choices, and path in profound ways.
We all have a story, so try not to make assumptions or pass judgment on others. Be kind whenever possible, as you never know the secret struggles and trauma people have faced in their lives. Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about, so offer compassion and empathy at every turn. Our stories unite us in our humanity, even if we keep the darkest and most painful chapters to ourselves. There is solace in knowing we are not alone in our suffering, and we can find strength in supporting others who have walked a similar path.
People’s pasts impact their presence in complex ways.
We all have past experiences that shape who we are today in complex ways. Our upbringings, relationships, hardships, and life events all combine to influence our perspectives, behaviors, fears, and dreams. Yet from the outside, it’s impossible to know the full story of what someone has gone through to become who they are.
Nature and nurture
Both nature and nurture—our genetics and our environments—determine how we develop as individuals. The family we’re born into, the neighborhood we grow up in, the schools we attend, the friends we make, the opportunities we’re given or denied—all of these nurturing factors help shape our sense of self, our values, and our outlook on life. At the same time, some parts of our personalities seem inherent from birth. The interplay between nature and nurture is intricate and impacts us in ways we don’t fully comprehend.
Events leave lasting impressions.
Certain life events, especially traumatic ones, can be profoundly formative. The loss of a loved one, a difficult illness, abuse, neglect, poverty, violence, and natural disasters—these types of events shape our psyches in lasting ways. They influence how we see the world, how we relate to others, and the types of situations and relationships we seek or avoid. The impacts may be partly conscious but are often subconscious as well.
You never fully know another’s story.
No matter how well you know someone, you can never fully know their whole story—the experiences that made them who they are. We all have parts of our pasts that remain private, memories that still haunt us, and events that continue to shape us in unseen ways. This is important to keep in mind before making judgments about others. Their behaviors, perspectives, and choices may be influenced by factors you know nothing about.
In the end, we are all far more complex than we appear on the surface. Our pasts impact our present in intricate, multifaceted ways that often remain hidden from outside view. The truth about people’s lives is that you never know the full story. We each move through the world shaped by a past that others may never fully see or understand.
Even the most put-together people have vulnerabilities.
We all think we have a pretty good idea of what’s going on in other people’s lives based on what they share on social media or the snippets of conversation we overhear. But the truth is, we have no clue. People are complicated, and many aspects of their experiences remain private or hidden from view
Behind the facade
We all put on a brave face for the outside world, but inside we’re struggling with our hidden challenges and insecurities. Even the most put-together, accomplished people you know have vulnerabilities they don’t show.
As we go about our daily lives, we make assumptions about others based only on what we can see on the surface. The reality is, we have no idea what’s really going on in people’s personal lives or behind closed doors. The smiling co-worker could be dealing with a loss or illness in the family. The always-busy friend may be struggling with anxiety or depression. The neighbor who seems to “have it all” together could be facing a crumbling marriage or financial difficulties.
Life has a way of throwing curveballs at us when we least expect them. Any one of us could be hit with a health crisis, job loss, addiction, or other personal tragedy at any time. We’re all susceptible to the ups and downs of life, no matter how perfect things may appear from the outside.
Rather than making snap judgments about others, we should lead with empathy, compassion, and kindness. A simple smile, compliment, or kind word can go a long way toward brightening someone’s day or easing their burden. We’re all in this together, facing challenges big and small. So next time you see someone who seems to “have it all,” remember that you never really know what they might be going through behind the scenes.
Comparing yourself to others is a losing game.
We all do it from time to time. Scroll through social media and see posts about our friends’ exciting lives, accomplishments, and milestones. It’s easy to start comparing ourselves and feeling like we don’t measure up. But here’s the truth: You never really know what’s going on in someone else’s life.
Social media is a highlight reel, not the full picture. For every glamorous photo of a friend on vacation, there are likely 10 more mundane moments in between. Just because someone posts about their new job or relationship doesn’t mean they don’t face struggles you know nothing about.
Our lives move at different paces, and there’s no “right” timeline. Maybe your friend bought a house, but you’re not in the financial position for that yet. Or a former classmate started a family, but you’re focused on your career. Don’t feel pressured to achieve life milestones by a certain age just because of what others are doing. Your journey is your own.
Comparing ourselves to others is a losing game because we will always find ways we don’t measure up if we look hard enough. But that’s missing the point. Your life has value and meaning, regardless of what anyone else accomplishes or experiences.
Rather than comparing yourself to others, focus on your own growth and progress. Celebrate your wins, big and small. Be grateful for what you have. And remember that behind the scenes, most people face struggles and insecurities too. We’re all works in progress.
Keep improving, learning, and becoming a better version of yourself each day. That’s the real race that matters.
Being kind is always the best approach.
You never know the struggles someone else faces.
We all have hard days, weeks, months, or even years. As much as we think we know what’s going on in other people’s lives from social media or quick chats, we have no idea the depth of their struggles or hardships.
Someone may be battling illness, depression, loss, or financial troubles without us realizing it.
Our neighbor could be caring for an ill family member; a colleague may have just gone through a breakup; and a friend might have lost their job. Yet when we see these people, they put on a smile and continue with life. We’re all fighting some battle—it’s just not always visible to others.
Rather than making assumptions, approach each person with kindness, empathy, and compassion.
Give people the benefit of the doubt. Smile, make eye contact, say please and thank you, hold doors open, and offer to help carry bags or boxes. Small acts of kindness can make a big difference in someone’s day or life.
Listen without judgment when someone opens up about their troubles.
Provide a sympathetic ear and a shoulder to cry on. Say things like, “I’m sorry you’re going through this.” Give encouragement and help however you can. Having a strong support system makes hard times more bearable.
You never know the impact your kind words or actions may have on someone.
While we can’t solve all the world’s problems, we can choose to make a positive difference through empathy, compassion, and kindness in our daily interactions with people. Approach each person with an open and understanding heart. We’re all in this together.
No One Has a Perfect Life: Remember That Next Time You Envy Someone Else
We all look at other people’s lives and think they’re perfect. Their relationships seem flawless, their jobs are amazing, and their lives are #goals. But here’s the truth: No one has a perfect life. Everyone struggles in their own way.
Behind the scenes
What we see on social media or in passing is just a tiny glimpse into someone else’s reality. We have no idea what’s really going on behind the scenes. Maybe their relationship is on the rocks, or their job is super stressful. Perhaps they’re dealing with health issues, money problems, or family drama. The truth is, we all face hidden challenges—some are just better at hiding them than others.
It’s so easy to scroll through social media and compare ourselves to others, thinking our lives don’t measure up. But that kind of comparison is unfair and unhealthy. We each have our own journey, and the only person you should measure yourself against is who you were yesterday. Focus on your own growth and be kind to yourself.
Instead of envying others, try offering them support. Reach out and ask how they’re really doing. Let them know you’re there if they want to talk. Helping others in their times of struggle is one of the best ways to gain perspective and feel better about your own situation. We’re all in this together.
Your life is enough.
Stop thinking you need what others have to be happy. Appreciate what you have and make the most of your own life. Your relationships, experiences, and accomplishments are enough. Learn to love the simple moments and find meaning in your everyday life. Ultimately, the only person who can determine your self-worth and the quality of your life is you.
So next time you find yourself envying someone else’s supposedly perfect life, remember: you have no idea what they’ve been through or what they’re dealing with. Focus on your own journey—your life is enough, and you have everything you need to be happy.
So there you have it, folks. We all think we know what’s really going on in other people’s lives based on what they post on social media or how they act in public. But the truth is, we have no clue. Everyone is fighting some battle we know nothing about, whether it’s health issues, financial troubles, relationship drama, or something entirely different.
The next time you find yourself judging someone else or thinking you have it so much harder than they do, stop yourself. Remember that behind the scenes, their lives may be far more complicated than you realize. We’re all in this together, so try leading with empathy, compassion, and kindness. You never know—it could make a world of difference to someone who really needs it.
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