I stand in line to buy groceries and magazine covers catch my eyes: some celebrity’s million dollar wedding, another holding her fashionably dressed toddler with carefree smiles plastered over both faces, another vacationing on an exotic island. I feel the jealousy bubble up inside me a bit, but I can quickly force it down. This isn’t their real lives, I tell myself, these are very specific moments carefully crafted to look perfect, but they don’t make up the entirety of their lives. Besides, I don’t know anybody who can relate to that lifestyle.
But then I walk through the back door of my home. I check Instagram on my phone, I do a quick scan of my Facebook feed, I catch up on my favorite blogs, and I feel it again. Waves of jealousy and inadequacy flood in. I should dress better. I should do more crafts with my kids. I should have weekly date nights with my husband. I should have a cleaner house. I should cook healthier food. Somehow it’s easier to remind myself that I don’t have to compare with magazine covers than it is to remember the same about my social media accounts. Maybe it’s because on social media, I’m seeing people that I actually know. Regular people, without nannies and personal trainers and billion dollar bank accounts; and it seems like they’re all doing better than me.
When my husband and I were going through our toughest year together, I often felt disappointed with the fact that marriage was so hard. I knew I didn’t want to quit, but I also had never expected it to be so painful. I remember one particularly tough day when I logged on to Facebook to take my mind off things, and I saw an anniversary picture of a couple that we knew. They looked amazing and the husband gushed on and on about how wonderful his wife was and how lucky he was to have her. He sounded like an 18 year old talking about his crush. It was adorable, but all I could feel was raging jealousy.
Those of us who use social media probably all post the best parts of our life on there. It makes us feel better. And there’s nothing wrong with that! We should do what we can to give ourselves perspective on our many blessings, and it’s often not appropriate to air dirty laundry in a public space.
But the fact of the matter is, life is imperfect and human relationships are messy. No human being alive has ever escaped that reality. We all fight with our loved ones and (hopefully) eventually make up. We all disappoint ourselves and those closest to us. We all wish we had more time in the day to get things done. We are all flawed. So why do we work so hard to make it look like we’re not?
The older I get, the more I want to be around people who are real about their lives. I’m not saying we should whine and complain all the time. But we don’t need to hide the ugly parts of their lives, either. When someone is honest about their experiences, I can be honest about mine with them, and then we can support each other in the realness of our lives, not just the internet versions.
I may always have to fight off feelings of being “less than” images I see in magazines or on Facebook, but in my heart I still know the truth. No one’s life is as easy and painless as we make it look online. But as for me, I’ll continue being open and honest about the enjoyable and the hard parts of mine and I’ll look for friends who will do the same. Because life can be hard enough on it’s own; we don’t need to add to it with unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others.
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