Christmas Comparison (Some notes on perfection at this joyful time)

A client was telling me the other day that she feels lackluster in comparison with so many others. Her social media feeds were apparently full of people totally winning at life.

Among the things I heard: color coded calendars, labeled bins for everything from sweaters to utensils, staged bookshelves, yoga routines filmed in front of waterfalls…the list goes on.

Christmas, as we all know, is near. Friends and family are sharing beautiful shots of their yards bedazzled in lights and their entry ways strung with garlands aplenty. Today I noticed a new trend (or new to me) – video footage of strangers giving tours of their lovely Christmas bedecked homes being shared all over. Now I love holidays and lights, and tinsel, laughing babies, and all the happy stuff of Christmas to be sure, but as I watched Unknown Woman give a tour of her house I felt the feeling my client had described to me.

Here I was congratulating myself on having the tree up, keeping my dogs from eating the ornaments on it, and having coerced my husband into running net lights over our shrubs out front and these internet strangers have literally decked, bedazzled, sprayed, strewn, stuck, plastered, hung, draped, and even constructed the halls with boughs of holly. A tree in every room that looks like Martha Stewart got bored on her lunch break and popped over to top it off. Pillow covers changed out to display Christmas tidings. Carpets, tablecloths, toilet seat covers – a tinsel trimmed squatty potty. Wha???

I could assume a “high-horse” position and say that the holiday has become so commercialized that competition and self-aggrandizement were the next logical steps, and there may be a seed of truth to that. The real truth is that every person has a thing they enjoy, a thing that is important to them, a thing they really like to do. Some of us really enjoy color-coding life and decorating and make time or have time to do it. Others of us really enjoy just winging it or can find our sweater bins without labels. To each, their own, the saying goes. It applies here.

There is a certain distance afforded us in the social media environment. We’re engaged, but not fully. It leaves us sort of witnesses to the things that our friends or others are doing, but not participating in it. It is an Instagram world – we are looking not just through our own beliefs and thoughts, but also the filters that others show us, the filters they put on their lives. This leaves us with a faulty tool for comparison.

A house I saw in a video had lit garland running the expanse of a wooden beam across a 15 foot ceiling. It looked perfect – beautiful, but the video didn’t show the work that went into putting it up or how many times they must’ve gone up and down the ladder to move it or how the decorators reacted when they realized they’d forgotten a bit on the ground or found a bulb that had burned out. Reality and what we have delivered to us are two very different things.

Comparison is the thief of joy and this applies here too – but it is especially the thief of joy when what we’re comparing ourselves too is a trimmed up, filtered, carefully edited version of reality, hand picked to entertain, delight, please, or impress.

Unfollow, have a grain of salt with it, acknowledge the bits that were left out, and be kind to yourself. There are people watching your life unfold on social media that think you’ve got it all and you’re doing everything and that you look great while you do it – even as you burn dinner, or forget your kid’s Christmas play start time.

Happy Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Happy Festivus, Happy Solstice, Happy New Year – wishing you happy times!

Whitney

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