With so much of our lives being portrayed online through status updates, photo albums, blog posts, and so much more, we have a unique opportunity in this day and age to control much of what others see of us. Yes, the people who are part of our daily lives get a more realistic picture (assuming we are vulnerable enough to open up a little), but it's amazing to me how much of our opinions of one another are formed or influenced by our online presence. Today's post is about a trend I've seen and recognized in my life and the lives of others: the tendency to create an idealized version of ourselves to represent us online, while in reality, we are struggling with the perceived "perfection" of others and our inability to truly live up to those standards.
I love the ability that social media gives us to stay connected. It enables me to have more outlets of communication with the friends I've moved away from and to easily stay in touch with my listeners. Yet, there are times I find myself looking at pictures, status updates, pins of beautiful home decor or wildly creative DIY projects, and wondering why I can't seem to keep things together like that person. Of course in my heart I know that everyone with a house full of kids has to clean up daily messes, but home tours don't feature 57 random toys on the floor, they feature a pristinely decorated and cleaned room with one or two beautiful, handmade toys that perfectly accent the color scheme! I hate to admit it, but sometimes I get caught up in the beauty of those staged images so that when I walk away from the computer and see the pile of blocks and fake fruit on my living room floor, I feel somehow less because of it.
The internet can be an inspiring place, but it can easily distract our hearts from what is true and good. Maybe it's the excitement of trying a new recipe, only to be frustrated when it doesn't look as "pretty" or your oven gives you trouble because it's old. Or pinning 30 hair tutorials only to try, fail, and resign yourself to another pony tail. Maybe it's spending hours on style and fashion blogs, only to criticize your own body and wardrobe in comparison. Inspiration can easily morph into comparison, and when we're comparing ourselves to a fixed (and often intentionally styled) image, the effect is that much worse.
Jesus Christ died to redeem us. He died to make us new creatures that are more like him and less like us. Our gifts, talents, dreams, and even appearance, can be used to bring him glory and inspire beauty and creativity. There is nothing wrong with wanting to do well, provide for your family, encourage and inspire others, or create art. It's when we lose sight of reality and view those people as if their everyday lives are as perfect as the moments we're inspired by, that we begin to let doubt, envy, depression, frustration, and ill-will creep into our hearts.
Instead, I am asking God to give me eyes to see past the inspiration. I need to realize that what inspires me is a reflection of God and his beauty, and attempt to inspire others out of my love for God and desire to glorify him. I am learning to see things like toddler toys and errant scribbles (on anything but paper, of course) and to let my heart be filled with joy knowing that I have a creative, energetic little person in my house leaving those toddler trails. I know that no matter how many times I have to pick up the same mess, or instruct my sweet girl to do it, that those moments will soon be replaced by homework, sleepovers, or curfew negotiations. I am reminded that my family is able to eat good, healthy meals because I have a kitchen of my own, money to buy groceries, and years of learning how to cook without lighting anything on fire. :) I know that although I may not have the time to make my own candles, shelving units, baby clothes, etc...I am able to create music and play creatively with my little girl.
Theodore Roosevelt said "Comparison is the thief of joy". Galatians reminds us that, "...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other." (Gal 5:22-26)
In a world of "Pinterest perfect" images, photoshopped models, and coffee table books, I have to remind myself that my standard of comparison is outlined in the Bible, and that I can only achieve those things through the work of the Holy Spirit in my life.