Who knew that posting a picture could trouble me so much that it would stimulate a sort of
rant commentary on my feelings regarding inadequacy and the perfectionist mentality of social medias such as Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest?
It started out simple enough: I had uploaded a photo to my Facebook timeline that received a little attention (yes, I still use Facebook privately… yes, clearly, I’m a dinosaur). Some of that attention came in the form of private messages from a few of my male friends, some came in the form of comments and a few Likes… not tons, but considerably more attention than most of my other pics (primarily of the bunnies) or educational/funny/weird info posts.
It was a flattering photo of sorts that I had taken myself and hand-selected from 4-5 other pics I had taken at the same time. Let’s just say, I liked it and decided to share it.
Now, to get to the heart of this post… I have some issues with the way that much of our lives look all shiny & perfect through the lens of social media. I feel like it’s an unrealistic, slanted, perfectionist view of our lives that breeds feelings of frustration and inadequacy.
In a nation where the fashion industry will never suffer any catastrophic losses, everyone uses Photoshop to hide their flaws (even high school girls), and we live our lives by a “more is better” mentality, our news feeds can start to feel a little bit competitive, even if we’re not actually aware of it. We get caught up in making our online personalities sparkle to some degree or another. Even those of us who use social media primarily to share our attitudes or opinions are carefully crafting and designing what we let other people see.
That said, I’m totally guilty of doing this. I’ll often only share the things that I feel highlight what I consider to be the positives. This got me thinking: I wonder if there’s anyone out there that looks at my posts and rolls their eyes in disgust because I made something less than perfect look or sound really great. (Not that my life is all that fabulous or envious by ANY stretch of the imagination! But, we tend to compare ourselves to our peers in an attempt to see where we stand at any given point in our lives.)
We often look at a person’s timeline, photos or comments and compare them to our own lives. When we see picturesque views of amazing locations, expensive cars/homes/jewelry/whatever, or profile photos taken in just the right light or angle or with the perfect outfit, it can easily make us feel like we’re lacking something in our own lives.
To cite an example, I was following a fellow blogger on Facebook who writes Cupcakes and Cashmere (her blog is way better than mine). Everything about her posts were always beautiful and perfect. I’m sure you must be aware of at least one person or group out there in this wide world of interwebs who is like this. At one point not so long ago, C&C had given birth to a gorgeous new baby and was posting pics the next week looking fantastic for someone one week postpartum, not to mention, she had a beautiful, decked out baby nursery.
In my own life, I had also just had a baby and, rather than actually relating to her posts, I ended up just feeling bad about myself. I was already feeling horrible and unattractive (like most new mothers) and had recently been thrown out of my home by the Corporal, so I was crashing in my parent’s spare bedroom just a few short weeks after the birth of my baby, and I certainly didn’t have a proper nursery.
During what was already a trying time in my life, I would see C&C’s posts and find myself feeling angry at this blog writer who seemed to have it all while I sat back and suffered. It didn’t seem fair. It may sound trivial, but I was deeply affected by this comparison and my feelings about the things that I lacked were amplified by this one single person’s portrayal of her life, or rather, my feelings about what I was seeing displayed on my screen.
I remained angry at her posts until I allowed myself to realize that, like me, she most likely still had to change poopy diapers and deal with a screaming baby at 3am. C&C was probably sleep-deprived, didn’t have time to shower or eat properly, if at all, and may have been dealing with her own body image issues. She just chose not to show that side of her life. And this simple, silly thought brought me comfort. She’s still got it way more together than I do, but I’ll bet that her husband is more supportive than abusive or violent, which, when you look at it, could be a major contributing factor.
Look, I get that social media is about having the ability to share all the awesome stuff in our lives with the rest of the world, so don’t get me wrong, keep sharing that stuff, it’s great! But, maybe, it couldn’t hurt to sprinkle in a little of the not so pretty realness sometimes, too. If only just to keep the rest of us sane! But, sanity aside, I really do believe that there’s beauty to be seen in the “dirtier” side of life that can have just as much value as all the shiny, pretty aspects do, too.
So, in an effort to keep it real, here’s an awesomely real pic that beautifully highlights my seriously dark eye circles. As a single parent with two babies under two years old, I don’t sleep much and also suffer from some serious stress sometimes.
A friend and I were making joking comments about this pic and the nickname “Zombie Mommy” came up… how many other mom’s look like this, I wondered. How many other mom’s feel bad that they don’t look better because of social media showing off the perfectionist in us all? What about other aspects? How many of us wish we could afford to go on vacation when we see post card-worthy pics show up in our feeds? Or feel bad that we don’t make enough money to afford the same shiny new car our friend just showed off with their new keys in hand?
I think it’s time to tell the whole story, not to just show off the part that looks all perfect and gorgeous.
On the day I snapped my “pretty photo,” I had been in court that morning. I was wearing makeup, dressed in my nicer clothes (not covered in spit up or snot stains), and had worn my hair down. So, I liked how I looked and decided to take a photo. On the flip side, I had just spent an excruciating three hours in a PFA court hearing that morning and, if I could have snapped a photo while I was in the courtroom, you probably would have seen the tension in my face and the stress oozing from my body. That photo was also taken with my mother’s very nice camera in her lovely bedroom (none of which are mine… even the shirt I was wearing was my little sister’s).
I took the other, less flattering pic at a random time on some relatively uneventful day and it’s a more accurate portrait of what I look like every day. I may look weary and bleary-eyed in that photo, but I remember that being a really great day. It was the first really beautiful day of the season and I had spent the morning running errands with the bunnies. They were both little angels all morning and then we went to the playground and played for a couple of hours. It was an ordinary day, but one that sticks out in my mind as a good day.
My point is simply this, dear reader: Our lives are messy and chaotic, but we love looking at beautiful things. I can see the value in that, I truly can. I can also see (and have experienced first-hand) how it can also mess with our heads.
So, here’s my challenge to you, world. Show us your ugly, your dirty, your tired, your poor, your not-so-pretty moments. Be willing to embrace that part too (though this is not an invitation to show off anything “inappropriate” and I know you know what I mean!). Let’s stop this mentality that the grass is always greener or that we have to keep up with those stupid Kardashians and, instead, love our light and our dark (eye circles).
Have something you want to share here? Leave me a comment! I’d love to see your photos or hear your stories about your messy bedrooms, un-retouched photo blemishes, t-shirt stains and all. Or maybe you’ve had an experience with social media inadequacies like mine… tell me all about it in the comments below. Peace out om-ies! <3