In my guest post today over at The Halbert Homestead, I mentioned an incident involving a dressing room and a lot of tears. You see, before my trip to visit the Duncan Hines test kitchen, I knew that I needed a very professional looking wardrobe, and I thought it would be fun to spice it up with some new clothes. I scoured Pinterest for inspiration on what to wear, and I came up with the perfect outfits! I knew I wanted a new pair of nice black slacks, some comfortable cute shoes, and two solid tops, preferably ¾ sleeves, scoop neck, and the list went on and on.
I had built up this image in my mind, knowing the colors I wanted, the shape I wanted, the fit I wanted. Anything less would have been a complete disappointment. My mom went shopping with me because she provides the perfect second opinion on outfits for me. We looked around the first store, and I was already frustrated. They didn’t have a single solid top that wasn’t a tank top. Forget it, I can’t do this, let’s leave. I kept repeating that mantra again and again.
The first store, the one I demanded we leave, is actually one of my favorite stores. See, I had compiled a list of stores I can always find something in, so I knew that each one would be a slam dunk.
Store after store we walked in, looked around, I got upset, and I left. My mom finally said “Listen. You’re picking some things. You’re trying them on. We’re not leaving until you buy at least one thing. When we hit the next store, if you find what you’re looking for, we can come back and return it on our way home, but you’re buying something here.”
I cried. I tried on clothing, and I cried. The clothing piled up on the floor. These pants didn’t fit right. That shirt had stripes. This shirt had a square neckline. This shirt doesn’t have any cute accessories to match. This shirt’s sleeves are too short. They show my flabby arms.
Outfit after outfit was a flop.
I found one top, finally, after much protest. It wasn’t my favorite, but it was comfortable. It had the sleeves right, but nothing else. I bought it, though, figuring I could always return it if I found something better.
We hit another store, and had the same argument, the same frustration. But I did finally find one top I was in love with… the only trouble being that it was sleeveless. Nonetheless, I purchased it.
After getting home, I realized something. The more I let go of what my “image” I had built in my head was, the easier it was to find an outfit I loved. Once I stopped focusing on every detail of the perfect outfits I saw on Pinterest, I started finding clothing that would work for me, for my body, for my trip, and for my needs.
That was when it first struck me… as good as Pinterest is, it can be a really bad influence sometimes. You know the story well. Our parents, grandparents, they felt the need to keep up with the Jones’…. New cars, new clothes, new home décor, new recipes… a lot of it was a drive to keep up with the people next door, the people down the street, that perfect family, that perfect life. The grass is always greener, right?
Well here’s news for you. Pinterest is the Jones’ that you feel the need to keep up with. It’s our generation’s version of that. We browse Pinterest thinking “If only I could dress better/organize better/cook better/do whatever better, I’ll be happy.”
We are setting ourselves up to fail. I mentioned in my post over at The Halbert Homestead that so many times, we look at Pinterest as a collective ONE person, instead of a group of thousands of users. Think about it. Suppose Pinterest were a person, let’s call her Pinny.
Pinny is the perfect mom. She has a set schedule filled with games and educational activities for the children. She starts her Elf on the Shelf in July because she has so many amazing ideas—101, 300, 1,050 ideas for where that elf can hide, and she needs to start it early! Dinner is always on the table at 5, and she never repeats the same meal twice (unless of course, her perfect husband with their perfect marriage and perfect date nights rates the meal a 10 on a scale of 1-3). Every meal has a dessert, and every dessert is homemade. The house is spotless and everything has a place. What doesn’t have a place is suddenly whipped into shape with cabinets from ikea, shoe racks in the pantry, can storage made out of old pop cans. There are mason jars in every nook and cranny filled with home canned items because store-bought taco seasoning is POISON! Vitamin water from the store is POISON! Cream of chicken soup in a can is POISON! She is thin. She has abs. Her husband looks like Channing Tatum mixed with Adrian Grenier mixed with Ryan Gosling. He’s always complimentary. “Hey, girl…” Her children are perfect. Every day she sets them up for an adorable photo shoot, and edits the photos herself. Her front door has an ever-changing display of seasonal wreaths that fit the house and the theme perfectly. Every holiday is perfectly decorated, and her home’s décor is always spot-on beautiful, with perfect paint (no smudges on the ceiling!) and perfectly made beds with plush pillows. Each year they go on vacations that are equally budget-friendly and absolutely glamorous.
And Pinny is someone we’ll never keep up with. We can never be her. As I mentioned in my other post, she’s not real. She is a collection of people. But until we realize that, we’re going to keep comparing.
And the more we compare, the more depressed we’ll get.
Have you seen that Venzia commercial? The one with the girl who got her parents a facebook so they could be more social, and all-the-while, as she sits behind a computer screen being “social,” they’re out biking with friends and going to dinner, and all of these amazing things with actual, face-to-face people.
That’s us. Or, at least, that’s me. I get so wrapped up in my idea of what life should be like. I get the vision in my head of the perfect meal, the perfect outfit, the perfect whatever.
And you know what happens when I actually go to live my life instead of picturing it online?
I realize how much it doesn’t measure up.
And then I get depressed.
There is sound research on people literally getting anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression because of what they see on Pinterest. And a lot of people retreat right back into Pinterest because of it.
Think about it. When you last logged onto Pinterest, how many ideas did you pin, and how many did you follow through with? My guess is you did a lot more pinning than doing. I know I did. And then when I realized I couldn’t get the perfect stripes on my nails when I was painting them, because the tape kept peeling the polish off since I wasn’t patient enough to let it dry, rather than trying again and seeing if I could get it right, I wiped the polish off of my nails, and dove back into Pinterest, trying to find an activity that would make me happy, fulfilled, accomplished.
When we pin things, sometimes we get the impression we actually did them. Pinning organizational ideas makes us feel more organized. The other day, I was talking to my mom about organization. I told her, “Mom. I’m totally organized. You just don’t see it.” She said, “Jen! Your closet has stuff spilling out of it. That’s not organized!” Then, I launched in on a tangent about how I had all of these ideas on how to organize my closet but I was still figuring out what I wanted so it wasn’t done yet. I felt organized because I pinned a ton of ideas on organization… but in reality, my life wasn’t measuring up.
Six months ago I decided to re-do my room. I went to the store and got paint swatches so I could decide. I narrowed it down to a shade, and was going to go back to the store the following day to buy paint. And then I logged onto Pinterest to look up painting tips. And I found three more colors to look at. I got those swatches and I changed my mind on the color. I decided to buy that color, but I was pinning an idea for a comforter I liked and found a new paint color it would look better with, so I changed my mind again about the color. Now, it’s six months later, and my walls still haven’t been painted, because I can’t commit to a color for more than 20 minutes.
I love Pinterest. Please, don’t get me wrong. I think it’s a fabulous tool. When you use it correctly, that is.
But I see too often how Pinterest, or our little perfect friend Pinny, can destroy our self esteem. She’s that girl we’ll never be, and the more we think about how NOT her we are, the more depressed we get, and the more we want to hide from our mundane life.
Don’t hide from it. Embrace it. Breathe.
Life is beautiful. It’s not perfect. When you compare yourself, you set yourself up to fail.
Thank God for every single thing you’re good at. Work hard at the things you aren’t good at. But never, ever think you have to be perfect at everything, or even good at everything. Pinterest isn’t built on one person with a million talents. Pinterest is built on a million people each with one or two talents.
You might not be able to refinish that chair. Your friend might be a whiz at it. She may not be able to bake a pie to save her life, but you may have the flakiest, most incredible pie crust in the world.
Pinterest themselves actually acknowledge that their website can be damaging to users self-image.
Just know that you are enough. Whether you bake the pie or organize the closet or land the dream job or take the perfect photo… or you don’t… you’re wonderful, just the way you are. God made you beautifully. He formed you and shaped you to be exactly who you are. Should you strive to accomplish more and try new things? Sure. There is no reason not to work to better yourself or to try something new. But don’t break your spirit trying to be something that no one is… and that’s perfect.
Believe in yourself. Embrace yourself. Use Pinterest as a tool, NOT as an ideal life, and you’ll turn out just fine.
You don’t have to quit Pinterest. Just quit all of the comparisons to who Pinny is and love who you are.
For the record, you can find me over at Pinterest under the username jengerbread88.