This time of year always threatens to leave me feeling a bit inadequate, as I think most normal people feel at one point or another. In part, I blame social media where posts abound of picture-perfect families at farms adorned by gorgeous fall foliage or holiday parties where the children are impeccably dressed after eating a gourmet meal that included, of course, beautifully decorated desserts. “Oh, come on”, you say. “Anyone with half a brain knows that people put their good times on display! Who really wants to see pictures of their friend’s kid crying or a post about someone burning dinner after getting into a fight with their spouse?” I’ll be the first to admit that you’re absolutely right. Hell, I post the same happy pictures of my kids looking cute at the farm or laughing it up on vacation for the same reason everyone else does. No, I don’t mean keeping out-of-state family and friends abreast of my life’s comings and goings, although there’s that too. The real reason is validation. Validation that my life is okay. That I have people out there in social media land who agree that my vacation looked like a great time or that my kid is the cutest thing ever. As a society, we have become accustomed to craving this type of affirmation.
While it’s human nature to compare your life to the lives of those around you, it feels like we are increasingly holding ourselves up to higher and more unattainable standards. Social media is the product of our desire for validation, but it also seems to be propelling us deeper into the rabbit hole. It’s perpetuating this notion that we have to do just as much as our social media friends appear to be doing. We’re keeping up with not only the Joneses next door, but the Joneses living on a different continent, half a world away, who don’t really know us from Adam. And trust me, those Joneses ain’t perfect either. What’s even more frightening is that it’s creeping into every day relationships. Just in my own personal experiences, I have observed more and more people treating their interactions with not only acquaintances but friends and family as an opportunity for interaction as genuine and multidimensional as their social media posts. Let’s be real. For some people, appearing to be anything less than the perfect wife, mother, chef, housekeeper, athlete or friend sends them into a tailspin of insecurity, doubt, guilt or regret. Oddly enough, the people around them will often validate their attempts at achieving perfection as readily as they’ll “like” their online posts, which only motivates these perfection seekers to keep up the charade.
I believe this way of life is unsustainable, but perhaps I’m naively optimistic. I want to see this house of cards many of us are building come crashing down around us. This is not because I’m a hater. I just want to see the realness in people again. I want the messiness and the flaws, the rude children and bitchy sisters. Not because other people’s failures or mistakes make me feel superior. Rather, it’s because the crap that you deal with and suffer through is what makes you likable and relatable. It’s what makes you human. We’re all messed up in our own crazy sort of way. We all have skeletons we want to hide or embarrassing moments we hope no one ever hears about. We have all acted like assholes to our parents or jerks to our kids. ALL OF US. And deep down, it’s nice for us imperfect people to know that we’re not alone. Genuine relationships are built on connecting with others on a deeper level than this fake bullshit we put out there for strangers to consume. This fake bullshit that’s no longer just a mask, but something we have begun to internalize. So when you’re having an actual conversation with your real friends or a family member, don’t be afraid to let it all hang out. Please, I beg you. Stop the picture-perfect madness before we all implode from the pressure of keeping it looking so damn good.