Real Life Doesn't Pin Pretty
By Jen Holman
Clever memes have become key players in the social media game. Short quotes, often humorous, are paired with photos and shared from one person to another. There is a popular meme featuring “The Most Interesting Man in the World.” If created for this article it might say, “I don’t always <create memes>, but when I do <it’s to show off my mad skills in a Savvy column>.”
These memes appear in our social media feeds every day. We chuckle and share, or simply keep scrolling. But I saw one recently that put the brakes on my scrolling finger. The quote was too true—too close to home, and I couldn’t let go of the sentiment:
“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” —Steven Furtick
In this age of widely accessible WiFi, of unlimited data plans, of Facebook and Instagram and Pinterest and Snapchat, we are bombarded with images of perfectly dressed and coifed children, of decadent homemade birthday cakes and meticulously crafted parties.
While no one will ever accuse me of being crafty, I am guilty of only showing the world my highlight reel. A quick look through my own posts produces smiling and happy children, a spotless living room, vacation shots and donating time at the Angel Tree. I post cutesy photos from the pumpkin patch, of a lemonade stand, a school function, of fishing on the White River. I searched and searched, but was unable to find a single post featuring my 8-year-old having a meltdown to rival any pre-teen. None of my 4-year-old refusing to eat or throwing socks across the room because they’re “all wrong.” Not a single shot of my 2-year-old hitting her siblings, writing on my sofa, or stuffing an entire roll of toilet paper in the commode. No. Not one photo of the splotchy red faces produced by endless sibling bickering over...everything.
After poring over my status updates, I determined I have never admitted most nights we send the kids to bed with iPads instead of books. I can’t recall sharing that I’m usually so ready for 8 p.m. my smile isn’t a smile at all, but the result of grinding my teeth to get through those last minutes. Why is that? Why are we so happy to share those shining moments, the good stuff, that highlight reel, but never reveal the true behind-the-scenes moments that make up daily family life?
Certainly, one reason is we don’t think to document fits and fights with photos. But also, it’s unsavory. Do I want the world to know we moved the hamsters to the laundry room because they stink, and no one really ever played with them anyway? No. Would I post a picture of the ever-growing corner of my dining room where I’ve begun to deposit things without a true home? Huh-uh. Do I admit that though I work from home I still can’t manage, and have someone help clean the house every other week? No, that never seems to come up.
Deep down, I know most families are like mine. I know it, and yet insecurity seeps into my sleep- and adult conversation-deprived brain. In moments of frustration I think ‘Katy’s house is so organized,’ or ‘If I was a good mom I’d take my kids to the park as much as Cindy,’ or ‘I should really wear makeup and real clothes every day like Beth.’
Why do I think my friends’ and neighbors’ lives are any different than mine? Better, even? Because I see their spotless houses on Facebook. Happy and active children at the park or on their bikes litter Instagram. Family beach vacays overwhelm my feed.
These photos are wonderful and welcome, but they’re not the whole story. It’s likely that two minutes after those perfect photos someone had a meltdown. Maybe mom just couldn’t take one more minute of whining and hid out in the bathroom for a while. Perhaps the baby ate sand or ruined her smocked swimsuit. It’s possible little brother was jealous and threw big sister’s iPod in the duck pond. We will never know because those awful moments aren’t documented in photos.
This year, I resolve not to compare my behind-the-scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel. Life is messy. It’s tough to navigate, and it’s impossible to get right every time. Real life is perfect in spite of its imperfections— perhaps because of them. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.
Jen Holman is often irreverent and frequently imperfect. But she’s happy, by God, and that’s what matters. She lives in Little Rock with her husband, three children and a nephew, striking that delicate balance between inspiration and frustration. Jen has published two novels under the pseudonym Jen Crane, the second of which was selected by iTunes/iBooks as “Our Pick” in fantasy sci-fi.