In defense of my love affair with you instagramming of your perfect life.
Also in defense of authentic social media-ing.
Alternate title: The Antidote for Envying Others is Learning to Love What You Already Have.
The other day I was talking to my wife about photography, something that I have recently taken a bit of an interest in. I like to be comfortably late to every party, so I just discovered Instagram. Yep, I do what I can. My wife, who has taken gorgeous photos for many years, said to me, “It’s so cute watching you with your camera, it’s like watching a baby find it’s feet.”
At first I was vaguely insulted, but then I realized: yeah, it’s exactly like that.
Except, not my feet. It’s like watching this baby find her life.
My Instagram feed isn’t a treasure trove of comparison and images conjured up to make me feel like my own life is lackluster in comparison, though I do certainly understand the feeling. It is a carefully curated collection of feminine beauty and power – something that I find immensely inspirational.
Before I started loving my life, as it is and myself right along with it, I used to spend every single day comparing myself to everyone around me.
Oh that girl has such a perfect sun dappled couch and she’s sitting there with her artisanal cup of coffee, not a CARE in the world. Her life must be perfect.
Oh man, look at that, ALL THE COOL COACHES are hanging out together AGAIN. Why doesn’t anyone ever go on sunset walks and take shadow pictures with ME?!
If only my offerings were ______, then I would be _______, and everything would be perfect. I wouldn’t even have to work – all I would have to do is show up and money would rain at my feet.
She has such nicer ______ than me – I wonder what she’s doing? Maybe that would work for me?
Perfect wedding. Perfect children. Perfect hair. Damn her.
Lies. Beautifully cultivated lies – constructed mostly in the context of my own head, playing to my particular set of insecurities.
You have a choice with social media, like you do with just about everything. You choose to use it in a way that lifts you up, or in a way that breaks you down. Do you want to spend your everyday comparing yourself to everyone around you? How does that make you feel, honestly?
This week, Shauna Niequist wrote a post entitled Instagram’s Envy Effect, in which she stated, “Let’s choose community. Let’s stop comparing. Let’s start connecting,” and I couldn’t agree more. But, I don’t think that this community needs to be built at the expense of depicting the beautiful in our everyday lives.
I also suspect that it depends on your definition of beauty.
I love real things. Rough edges. Circles beneath eyes. Shadows. I crave powerful images – the kind that tell a story about your life.
I actively seek to add as many of those Instagrammers to my feed as possible. The ones with the gorgeous coffee, beautiful shoes next to inspirational sayings written on concrete, or beautiful faces that they take ten pictures of a day. I actively try to surround myself with as much beauty as possible, and I let it remind me that there is beauty in my everyday. My cup of coffee. My dog. My house. My face.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be easy. It can be joy-filled.
This isn’t about narcissism. This is about self-love. It is about finding the everyday magic.
When you start falling in love with what you have, you can stop judging yourself for what you don’t.
This isn’t about waiting until everything is perfect to take a photo, or pay attention to yourself, to your life. This is about finding your beauty in every moment – no matter how tear-filled or heart-breaking.
It is about me, showing up as myself, and doing it proudly. Often.
It is about me, standing in my own power, and claiming my place in my life, after a life of shrinking or hunching my shoulders or hiding out.
Because this baby is not just finding her life, she is cultivating the most beautiful life she can possibly manage for herself.
And, hey, you don’t have to share every photo that you take, or every moment that you document. It doesn’t become beautiful just because someone else says that it is. It is beautiful because it is your understanding of your life – your photo, your moment, your document.
This is about your relationship with yourself.
If you want to learn how to use self-portraiture as way to learn how to love yourself, I highly recommend Vivienne McMaster’s class Be Your Own Beloved. Registration is open now for May’s class – I’ll see you there.