Imagine a world where you didn’t know what the person you sat next to in Algebra twenty-five years ago had for dinner? That was life before Facebook. Imagine a world where you didn’t know there were so many different ways to braid your hair. That was life before Pinterest. Imagine actually choosing to see 186 pictures of a friend’s kid playing on the beach and then wondering if your kid needs more beach toys. That is the power of social media. These things have become such mainstays in our lives it is almost hard to imagine life BFB (Before Facebook). A lot has been written in recent years about the power of social media and its impact on how we view and portray ourselves. Perhaps you don’t like to admit it, but you’ve probably dipped your toe into the vat of social-media-comparing at least once or twice. You are tired after a long day so you decide to kick back and catch up on some Facebook. Scroll, scroll. Click, click. Before you know it you are feeling mildly irritated and a little lonely and you don’t even know why. So you decide to click on over to Pinterest. Scroll, scroll. Pin, pin. And before you know it you are feeling discontent and thinking you need to remodel your entire house, in particular your kitchen, because you must have those subway tiles! (Ah subway tiles… the holy grail of kitchen décor)
It does not take researchers in Sweden or California to prove what many of us already know deep down inside: we love our Facebook and Pinterest and Instagram, but we can let those things get away from us. Before we know it, we are feeling down, dissatisfied, and disconnected. Research shows that after viewing Facebook, women are more likely to struggle with comparing their lives to others and report feeling less happy and less content with their lives. Oh Facebook, you seductive drug! You make us feel so good and so bad at the same time!
As much as I love Facebook, I have had an altogether different relationship with Pinterest, but one Pin in particular provided me with a huge epiphany about myself. When I first discovered Pinterest, it made me mad. It literally made me mad. So mad, in fact, that my husband told me to either get off the website or stop talking about it. First of all, you have to be “invited” to join Pinterest. Seriously? Could there be anything that more triggers the 12-year-old girl just wanting to belong lurking in all of us? Once I got invited to sit at the cool kids’ table, I saw all these things people were pinning… pictures of beautiful living rooms, kids birthday parties with these elaborate themes and all these matching party goods, clothes and jewelry that looked way more chic than anything I had, and kid craft projects that made Martha Stewart look like an amateur.
I was totally befuddled and dumbfounded. Were people just pinning this stuff wanting people to think they were eating, wearing, decorating, and entertaining in these ways? OR were people really making and wearing all this stuff? I couldn’t figure out which of these possibilities I found more frustrating. How did they know where to find all these super adorable and professional looking party supplies? How is someone so creative that she can look at a rubber doormat and think, “I can paint this white and hang it on my wall and I’ve got wall art”? Do people really spend the time I imagine it would take to make Santa heads out of strawberries?
(Photo by LeAnn Bakes)
I was completely lost. I had stumbled into a cyber world that triggered every insecurity about my home, culinary skills, fashion, and hair. Scroll, scroll. Pin, pin. Compare, compare. And with each comparison my life seemed more and more drab.
Then one evening I stumbled across this Pin with the caption “Best Housewarming Gift Ever” and I was set free.
Yep, folks, your eyes are not deceiving you. That is a lime tree with a perfectly tied bow and a six-pack of Coronas encircling it like a wreath. Best Housewarming Gift Ever. I can’t even seem to bring friends dinner when they have babies, and now someone out there is saying I need to bring creative housewarming gifts? Deep in the throws of my comparison-induced-self-pity, I thought about how I would never be creative or crafty enough to come up with this idea. I don’t even know where you buy lime trees, not to mention I cannot tie a bow to save my life. Then full of discouragement I thought, “That is just not me.”
And then I thought it again… That is not me. (Discouragement subsiding.) That is not me. (Epiphany blooming.)
That is not me! (Confetti and streamers falling from the ceiling!)
That is not me and it probably never will be because… I don’t even need a reason! That is just not how my mind and creativity work, and that is okay! But thank goodness there are people out there that can look at a lime tree and think “Housewarming Gift” or look at a doormat and think “wall art.” Thank goodness for those creative types! But that is not me! It was an enormous epiphany to have that recognition and not feel guilt or a sense of criticism along with it.
Sometimes we look at other people’s skills or talents and think that is not me and we feel jealous or discouraged. Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and he was absolutely right. It is the thief of joy and the fertilizer of bitterness, jealousy, and resentment. Nothing good ever comes from comparing. When we step into the comparison ring we leave either pummeled by discouragement and defeat or pumped full of pride. Neither of those colors look good on anyone.
We defeat our comparison addiction by accepting who we are, who we are not, and not feeling as though we need to explain or clarify. Sometimes we think that is not me and we feel less than and that we are not measuring up to some evasive standard. But what if, instead, that statement was heard as permission to step away from the yoke of comparison and step towards self-acceptance and awareness of the qualities and talents that you do have. Trying to live someone else’s life takes time and energy away from living your life well. If you spend your time trying to make yourself into something you are not, then you will be unable to discover and cultivate your innate attributes and gifts.
Yes, social media can provide all sorts of opportunities to play the comparison game, and sometimes it can be beneficial to step back and take a break. But sometimes, through all the scrolling and clicking, you stumble upon an epiphany that provides a key to freedom and acceptance. That is not me- and that is okay!
How can you reframe the statement “That is not me” from a defeatist statement to a statement of permission, acceptance, and freedom? What are the qualities, skills, and talents that are you? What if you gave yourself permission to boldly claim all those attributes and let go of the standards and expectations that leave you feeling less than?
P.S. In case you are wondering, I did make my peace with Pinterest. I now use it as an online recipe box, a way to keep track of nail polish colors that I will inevitably never try because I can’t remember the name once I get to the nail salon, and as a place to collect pictures of kitchens with subway tiles… oh the subway tiles!