As I sit here entering deeper into the black hole of Instagram, scrolling through pictures of people who I don’t even remember, I find myself feeling progressively worse with each passing post.
I frequently discuss with clients the dangers of comparison and how it impacts our sense of self-worth and confidence, yet in this moment I realize how hard it is to avoid doing so. I did not seek out this moment of wondering how much money these “friends” of mine must make to afford their designer clothes or luxurious vacations, yet here I am. While I enviously admire their Restoration Hardware—filled homes, I’m also becoming even more aware of the pile of dirty dishes, coffee-ringed counters, and tumbleweeds of dog hair in every corner of my house that as of late have become less temporary and, well, more of a permanent fixture. Interestingly, as I begin to beat myself up about how I can’t keep my home in a decent state, I feel less motivated to do something about it and more motivated to simply go downstairs with a bag of chips and binge watch Netflix. As you can imagine, this leads me into further negative self-talk and suddenly I’m starting a fight with my husband about, “What was the point of buying a house if we can’t even take care of it properly?” What in the world is happening here?
I am confident when I say I am not alone in this experience, and this is probably more common than many of us would like to admit. The truth is, my home has been in this state for longer than I would like to admit. Yet it didn’t have this impact on my self-worth (or marriage) until I popped onto Instagram to numb out and found myself getting caught in this dangerous comparison trap. It wasn’t until I saw how “perfect” other people’s lives were that I noticed my life’s imperfections and felt shame that I took out on my undeserving husband. Despite knowing that social media is a place where we go to portray only the beautiful, flawless parts of our lives, it still feels almost impossible not to internalize the images that we see and make judgments about ourselves, our bodies, our marriages, and our families. And sadly, comparison and judgment are not where it ends: We also lose appreciation, gratitude, joy, and self-worth, all of which are wholly unrelated to the price tag on our clothes, the cleanliness of our houses, the brand of our furniture, or the color of our perfectly manicured nails.
As I take a step back from my imperfect house and look into the face of my recently shamed husband, I get a wave of clarity. I realize that my house is imperfect not because we are lazy but because we choose to spend our time doing other things. Some of those things are not always fun; we both work very hard and at the end of a long day zoning out to a couple episodes of Friends before going to bed feels much more important then vacuuming up the dog hair. Some of those things are extremely fun, such as spending quality time with friends, taking the dog to the dog beach, exploring the nature preserves in our new city, going to the farmer’s market. These are the things that fill our hearts with joy and will never compare to what kind of car we drive to get there. The dishes will get done, the hair will get vacuumed, and the coffee rings will eventually get washed away. But first I think we will enjoy a cup of coffee outside on this perfect Sunday morning.