Struggles with Social Media (and how to end the constant comparison to others)
This post has been a long time coming. I write it, then delete it. And write it again, and delete it. Repeat. Mostly because every time I think about how I compare myself to others, I feel silly. I feel immature. Every time I write a post or post a new image, I worry about who will judge me, who will unfollow me, and who will think I'm a fake. And I know I'm not alone. It's the nature of social media, blogging, and putting yourself out there. And while this may be a creative outlet for me as a 20-something mom, I put a lot of myself into these pages and there's always a risk in doing so.
So here we go.
When you are 2 years old and cry out, "IT'S MINE!" for the first time, an innate sense of jealousy creeps out. Someone is playing with your toy, you want it back. It escalades to elementary school - a kid in your class has the exact backpack you wanted (but Mom said no...) and you get a strange sense of anger. That's jealousy. It only gets worse as you get older.
And when you're older, it doesn't become about a toy or a backpack - it becomes about much bigger, more personal things. There are things that trigger insecurities and your confidence might as well go jump off a cliff.
For some, it's going to the gym: You see trim, fit, people strutting around in their tight-fitting clothes, and there you are, overanalyzing every inch of your body. Too much cellulite there, an ounce of back fat there, the list goes on...
For others, maybe it's a co-worker. They can do no wrong, they are Miss Popular of the office. Always the most put-together outfits, deadlines are always met, and the boss seems to be wrapped around their finger. Whereas you second-guess every report you send, every graphic you create, or even the sweater you wear at the [freezing cold] office.
Those gut-wrenching feelings can send you into a downward spiral that causes you to question how you look, your personality, how you act, and even how you think.
It's a dangerous, slippery slope.
A big part of what plays into our day-to-day insecurities is social media. Yes, it is a great way to connect with others and stay in touch with childhood friends, but study over study has proven that social media is responsible for triggering more sadness and perceived isolation.
The Struggle with Twisted Reality
There are days when I scroll through Facebook and Instagram and I see gorgeous women wearing their designer tops, perfectly applied makeup, and Texas-big hair and I think "wow, I wish I could look like that." But instead I'm sitting on my couch wearing holey 6-year old leggings and a free Samuel Adams t-shirt I got when I was bartending (also about 5 years ago). My hair is in an unwashed, 3-day-old messy bun and the only makeup I have on is a few days old.
It's not that I don't love being a mom and having the ability to work from home, but it's hard to not compare yourself to others. Facebook and Instagram really promote the sense of isolation because it's so easy to post only the positive things and make your life look sunny, bright, perfect, and with kids that never throw tantrums.
Bloggers always seem to have gorgeous tans, smooth skin, nice thin waists, and stunning white teeth. That's not real life. Not saying they aren't beautiful people, but there is an art form to how they pose that makes them look thin. There are filters and presets and photoshop to smooth out any blemishes they have. Their job is to look perfect and showcase trendy clothes and products.
When people are sharing pictures of events and dinners and social outings, but you're home changing diapers and putting the kids to bed for the 3rd time (that night), it's hard to see the good. You feel alone, frustrated, separated from your peers... you feel isolated.
But what you don't see is the struggle that a single mom fighting through a custody battle. Or maybe you don't see the girl who had a huge fight with her boyfriend before storming out of the house to meet up with girlfriends. You see the photos of a new mom without bags under her eyes and a happy baby, but you don't see the 2am feedings and endless days of colic. You see a gorgeous trip to some foreign country, but you don't see the lost luggage from their red-eye flight.
The reality of it? People only show their best aspects on social media.
And that makes it so easy to only think the worst of yourself.
But what about the real life, messy moments that make life worth it?
Comparing yourself to others isn't only dangerous, but can cause immense sadness.
Mortal Combat with the Jolly Green Giant
A little real talk. I went through this shortly after moving into our new house, about 2 years ago. I was busy getting the house sorted out, taking care of a 10-month old, and Hubby was always at work. His hours are long, and it's hard. I couldn't go out with girlfriends without having a baby in tow, I worked at home, and didn't have much adult interaction on a regular basis. To say I felt lonely and isolated was an understatement. And I became resentful. It wasn't a good look for me. I was grumpy all the time, I took it out on Hubby, and finally one day, he snapped.
It was the best thing he could have done for me.
He didn't sugar-coat anything. He didn't scream at me. But he was mad. He told me I wasn't looking at the bigger picture. That I wasn't seeing all the good in my life. I was so focused on what I didn't have or couldn't do, that I wasn't grateful for what I had and didn't appreciate the position we were in. I was missing out on so much of the here and now. We had just bought a new house. We had a gorgeous, healthy daughter who was learning new things everyday. I was able to work from home so we didn't have to send our daughter to daycare. We didn't need anything and we hardly wanted for much either.
But being at home a lot and working in marketing and social media meant I spent a lot of time scrolling through social sites. And I was seeing friends out and about, total strangers living their "best lives" and the Jolly Green Giant of Jealousy came out. I was constantly comparing myself to them, or wishing I could do what they did. It was actually around the same time that I really started my blog and started on changing the aesthetic of my Instagram feed. I thought that if I worked harder at my blog that I would magically turn into this overnight success. Ps - it doesn't work like that.
My constant comparison to others stole the joy from my Instagram and blog. I was posting stuff that wasn't "on brand" and I was trying to be something that I wasn't, instead of being real, showing real life, and not worrying what other people would think.
It was also around the same time that I discovered this really cool community that focused on erasing the competition there was between creatives. And I started to dig in a little deeper.
Be Like the Rainbow Fish
This amazing community of creatives is the Rising Tide Society. Long story short, it comes from the proverb, "A Rising Tide Lifts all Boats." This idea of Community Over Competition allows creative beings and entrepreneurs to come together and support each other, instead of working against each other. By supporting other creatives, you will also benefit.
It's MD-based and a girl I went to high school with was always sharing stuff about it (she's a wonderful photographer BTW), so I looked into it. As soon as I joined my local chapter and started interacting with other female creatives in my new area, I started to see really cool results. I started putting myself out there a little more. I met some amazing women in my area who are doing big things and have the opportunity to collaborate on fun projects with a few of them. There are so many doors opening for me because of my blog and finding my way.
That's what is so special about putting aside competition and working together as a community of bloggers or creatives - you find your niche, you find your "groove," and open up a whole new world of networking possibilities. Collaborations with local boutiques, national campaigns, brand affiliations... the list goes on (even an upcoming local TV appearance!).
All because I stopped worrying about others. Sure, I still envy their shoes and their long flowy hair and their endless wardrobe options, but all it does now is encourage me to work harder at establishing my brand. All bloggers started at the bottom and grew - so instead of looking to others and comparing myself to them, I use it to fuel my drive, which turns into a passion.
The other night as I was putting my daughter to bed, we read The Rainbow Fish. And I couldn't help but relate it to this concept - by creating a welcoming community and sharing your joy with others, everyone will find happiness. Don't stand on a pedestal so others want to be you. Share in your success and mentor up-and-comers. Collaborate and share ideas.
Share your shiny scales - everyone will be happier.
So remember, while you are comparing yourself to someone, there is always a person who looks up to you and does the same thing. Spread joy. Build a community. When you stop comparing yourself to everyone around you, you'll be happier and good things will come.
Thank you to all the beautiful women who I have had the opportunity to work with, learn from, and who continue to encourage me and fuel my drive.