The Comparison Movement

This post isn’t about makeup.

But the real world isn’t all about makeup either, so neither is my life.

Gear up. Get a diet coke and sit down or read this when the kids are in bed because I have a lot to say. I want to hear what you have to say, too.

There has been a lot of buzz in my circle of social media lately about the issues that people have with it.  Myself included in this, many have taken to Instagram posts or stories to lament their feelings or frustrations. This has been mulling around in my mind and heart and there’s been so much more to what I want to say than what can appropriately fit within an Instagram or Facebook post.

I had planned to really prepare this correctly so that I would be understood the way I hoped to be. But, as I began my day and saw more and more posts and thoughts about this topic popping up on my feeds, I began to be really filled up with the energy of what I wanted to say and I didn’t wait to write. So maybe this will be unorganized and maybe it’ll be perceived wrong, but I need to say what I need to say. And I guess the reality is, I can’t control how anyone decides to feel about it. But more on that later.

 

The common theme among most of the posts I’m seeing about the dangers of social media is the idea of comparison. The idea that we have to be perfect in order to be worthy, and that by only posting the good, we’re telling others they have to be as “perfect” as we are. There is so much going on about this on social media, that I’d even call it a movement. This Comparison Movement, as I’ll refer to it from now on, is the idea that it’s detrimental that we only show the best of our lives because when we do that, we perpetuate the Comparison Epidemic. The Comparison Epidemic involves people comparing someone else’s “highlight reel” to their own “real life”, thus making them feel bad about their real life by comparison.

Making them.

 

Before I go on, I would like it noted for whatever record there is, that I think it’s important to showcase your reality once in a while and I think it’s refreshing. But that’s not really what i want to talk about. That’s not how I want to “get real”; not today. That’s not what I want to say to everyone.

 

I want to say that if you want to sit and scroll through your Instagram feed and compare yourself to everyone else, that’s your choice. I think that’s a bad idea and I think it’ll make you feel like crap, but you’re in charge of your choices. You’re in charge of what you accept as reality.  I’m not going to tell you all the things I hate about myself and say that by doing so, that makes me more real. I’m actually working on liking myself a bit more. Thanks, though.

I think we should stop comparing. But more importantly, I think we should stop blaming the people we are comparing ourselves to. More importantly, I think we should love ourselves more as we stand. Someone else posting their highlight reel does not make us feel bad about our own real life.

We do that to ourselves.

This isn’t a new issue. The thing about The Comparison Epidemic that is actually new is the accessibility we all have to discuss it all at the same time on a worldwide platform. Magazines have been around for generations, making people feel like crap because they look at the houses in Better Homes and Gardens or they look at the model on the cover of whatever trashy magazine is by the checkout and think that they don’t measure up.

To be honest and genuine, I’m really struggling with writing this post because I don’t want to contradict how I really feel and I don’t want to come across and someone who lacks compassion for those who feel unworthy or sad or less than. I might actually be the one who can relate to you the most in that aspect. Through my struggles with depression, anxiety, and OCD, I have absolutely had to learn about personal responsibility. Otherwise, the world would have swollowed me whole. I had to learn by clawing my way out of The Comparison Epidemic myself, that the way I feel is my responsibility. My initial gut reaction might be out of my control for a while, but that at the end of the day, I can mull around what has happened, what my opinion is on it, the different reactions had by myself and those within the situation, I can reach deep down for compassion for those I feel have hurt me, and then, with practice, I can actually decide how I feel. Because no one makes me feel one way or the other. I am in control of my feelings. I decide. And that is why The Comparison Epidemic and The Comparison Movement on social media have my head spinning. I want us to all feel worthy and beautiful and good enough. But the person with the perfect house MADE you feel like crap because your house doesn’t look like that? I mean, I just can’t stand by that idea.

So with that being said, I’m going to get a little bit controversial here. I want to discuss the flip side of The Comparison Movement and give a personal account of what it feels like to maybe be on the other side.

As my business has grown, Instagram and Facebook have become platforms where I am introduced to other colleagues in the industry as well as a way for clients to find me. I’m nowhere near “Instagram famous” but I don’t care to be. I want my social media to grow because I want my business to grow because I like paying my bills. It’s really that simple. Social media has changed, no, revolutionized the small business owner’s platform of promotion and marketing. Algorithms and figuring out the system aside, social media is a way to connect to your clientele without hitting the physical pavement. That being said, you have to actually market yourself. And that’s scary and vulnerable and you open yourself up for judgment and criticism.  In my world, as a makeup artist, to post a picture of my work might make Sally (Sally isn’t a real person, calm down) say, “Wow, I really like that work. I’m going to hire her.” And then because of that post, Sally hires me to do her makeup for her wedding and then I pay for Basketball league or buy birthday presents or pay the city bill. Because this is my job. My actual job. But, on the flip side, posting that same photo might make Betty say (again, not a real person!), “She’s so into herself. She thinks she’s perfect and it’s so annoying. She’s not even good.” So Betty will unfollow me or block me or talk bad about me or whatever. Knowing I will get both outcomes is a risk I’m willing to take, because social media has, like I said, revolutionized the way small business owners conduct their businesses.

As my business began to gain some success, I started to notice that some family members or some people who are friends were taking the route of Betty and unfollowing or blocking me. I took this kind of personally and it hurt my feelings. I chose to take this personally and decided I would allow it to hurt my feelings. I wondered, “Am I annoying? Am I bad at my job? Do they not like me? Why don’t they want to support me? I’m proud of them when they succeed. Why aren’t they proud of me?” I actually called out an acquaintance who did this and asked her why citing marketing purposes. But that was disingenuous on a few levels. Though I did want to know, for the sake of my business, if I was going in the wrong direction, it was mostly about wanting to know why she didn’t like me anymore. It was about being vulnerable and feeling stupid and being ashamed and worrying about what other people think if other people think I’m worthy of being good at something.

She was honest with me. She said that following me made her feel bad and that the comparison game was not good for her. So she needed to unfollow my business account because she was comparing her life to mine and it made her feel bad about herself.

My initial gut reaction was that it stung. I couldn’t fully control my initial feeling.

I had to try REALLY hard not to choose to have my feelings hurt. I failed a bit. A lot.

Because I was finding some success in my business that I was putting my actual heart and soul into, people in my life were unable to support that because they feared my light would dim theirs? The answer to that is, unfortunately, yes.

That’s the end of my personal story about the flip side of The Comparison Movement. The truth is, we’re all people. We are just PEOPLE. And the one thing all people have in common is that we want to be happy, loved and we want to fit in. We just want to belong somewhere.

So, what’s the point? My point is this: I genuinely think it’s okay to be a part of social media because I know that it’s not real life and I will not compare myself to something I know isn’t real. I make that conscious choice. I know when something isn’t reality because I live in reality and it doesn’t look like perfectly white sofas and unblemished skin all the time. But if you want to compare yourself, I suppose you can. Because it’s your choice. Go ahead. I’d advise against it, but your call.

MAYBE, just maybe, the issue isn’t necessarily that we are all posting our highlight reel. Because I love some good, fresh reality, but I also love pretty things. I love to look at flat lays of designer bags I’ll never own. Because I know it’s not realistic, it’s just pretty. I love to see the inside of homes that I could never buy or decorate. Because I know it’s not realistic, it’s just pretty. I love to see beautiful makeup or an outfit of someone walking down the street that looks phenomenal while they’re stopping in for groceries because I know that it’s not realistic, it’s just pretty.

Maybe the issue is that we have actually chosen, or allowed ourselves to be convinced, that their highlight reel is the reality. And then we’ve allowed ourselves to feel bad. We chose to feel bad about it.

 

What I’m saying here is that we live in a world where we’re constantly inundated with the best of what people have to offer. What I’m saying here is that I don’t think that showing your best work or your best outfit or your best smile or your best decor needs to change. What I’m saying is that it’s okay to admire something beautiful without choosing to think that it makes us LESS beautiful by comparison. Because Comparison is stupid and evil and disgusting. So I choose not to allow it into my world. And maybe the way some people don’t allow it is to avoid things that “make” them feel that way. But I think we should all try to have a little more self-responsibility instead. Maybe we should choose to support or be happy for whomever it is that “makes” us feel bad.*** Because ya know what? They probably feel less than all the time, too.

There is such thing as beautiful reality and I believe that’s what many of us already have. Cleaning the kitchen while you hear cartoons in the background while the kids giggle. Beautiful reality. The huge mess on the floor on Christmas day after everyone has run off to play with their toys and mom and dad are left with the war zone. Beautiful reality. Loving someone enough to snuggle them in the morning without caring about bad breath. Beautiful reality. Going a whole day without makeup and knowing you can rub your eyes or rest your chin on your hands whenever you damn well please. Beautiful reality. That sweaty swollen look all moms have in their first picture with their new baby. Beautiful reality. Finally waking up in the middle of the night to bottle feed your newly adopted baby. Beautiful reality. Hearing a teenager who is always mouthing off say, “Thanks, mom.” Beautiful reality. Finding happiness in the lives of the children in your life, even though it pains your heart to not have birthed any of your own. Beautiful reality. Your kid’s crooked smile when their adult teeth have started to grow in around their baby teeth. Beautiful reality. Finally having enough of a clientele to make a profit after all those years of building a kit without an income. BEAUTIFUL REALITY! When you look up at the kitchen ceiling and notice something weird and realize it was from a month ago when the mixer got away from ya and the banana bread batter went flying everywhere. Beautiful reality. You’ll never see those things on Instagram, not in their full, beautiful, realistic, messy, blemished glory. Those things are meant to be experienced, not viewed or “liked”. There’s a place for beautiful reality, and there is a place for a perfectly staged and heavily edited flat lay with a great pair of jeans and Louboutin’s. Both are okay. Both are good.

All I’m saying is that instead of being frustrated with people posting their highlight reels, maybe as a society we should just take a big drink of “Good for You and I’m Happy Too” and keep scrolling. Or hell, give it a double tap and be happy for someone else’s perfectly white sofa. It doesn’t mean that yours is worthless unless you let it mean that.


***I would like to edit that this is not in reference to abusive people or relationships, but that I’m only referring to comparing your life to someone else’s and choosing to allow that to make you dislike your own life. Abusive relationships and people should not be tolerated.

2 Replies to “The Comparison Movement”

  1. I think you hit the nail on the head with this. It is absolutely our choice whether or not to compare ourselves to the posts we see. It’s awful that so many people A. Don’t understand that they’re looking at a highlight reel and B. Feel the need to follow because they can’t help but let themselves feel bad.
    BUT I think there’s an important thing to mention here: I think this conversation should never stop. While it’s new that we have the platform to talk about it with social media I think that’s a huge blessing. American is one of the only affluent countries that teaches no form of media literacy. So we grow up not understanding the concept of a highlight reel or the reality and prevalence of photo shop. It’s human nature to compare ourselves with everything, that’s how we understand our place in the world. What we need is for this conversation of, “what you see isn’t the whole story” to extend the far reaches of the internet and continue teaching media literacy. I agree that we don’t need to start posting real, unedited photos all the time. But the occasional “this is real-life” photo would add to what I hope can become a media literacy movement.

    1. Jocelyn,
      Thank you so much for your comment. I really agree with what you’ve said about this conversation not stopping. I also think it’s so interesting what you bring up about media literacy. We need to teach our children the difference between reality and highlight reels so that they have the tools they need to be responsible for their own feelings and thoughts. We can’t ask our kids to eat their vegetables without first teaching them to hold a fork, and we can’t ask them to rise above the noise without the right tools. THIS is why this discussion is vital. Also, I’m all about those fresh reality moments.

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