Is this the real life? Is this just Instagram?

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Posting this photo feels twelve kinds of wrong.

It's not perfect - I don't have any makeup on, my hair isn't done, and my skin is a mess. They're even old shots, taken in my old house, because I normally would not allow this kind of thing to be captured at all. Even my computer gave me crap about it - the title it assigned to one of them when it was imported started with "UNADJUSTEDNONRAW." Nice.

This is why on my own social accounts, you’ll probably see tons of pictures of my family and pets and random weird things I see around town, but almost none of myself. Candid shots posted by friends are the worst, because I can’t control what they show. What if I my muffin top is on full display? What if I have eight chins? I’ll admit that I spend so much time analyzing myself in the images and looking for flaws that sometimes I don’t even notice the other people in there with me, doing something fun. I look right past the experience that’s supposed to be captured there and only see the random spot on my chin or the stay hair I forgot to pluck.

Instagram has become the ex-boyfriend I’m worried about running into at the grocery store.

The one I want to think my life has somehow become flawless and perfect since we last met. Since we broke up, I’ve lost 30 pounds and now have a perfect husband and angelically–behaved child and pets that never make messes in the house. My job is amazing, and I’m probably due for a big raise soon. Also, my entire family is happy and successful and doing so well thanks for asking.

The entire conversation is based in reality – I DO have a wonderful family and job and I had a salad for lunch so I probably dropped 5 pounds just by chewing the lettuce – but tremendously embellished to be hyperreal. Because we don’t have a real relationship, I feel ok about the exaggerations. Because he doesn’t really know me, he doesn’t see the real day-to-day details of my life.  

Because I’m really good at overanalyzing myself, this tells me two things. 1. I am unsatisfied with my life or myself that enough to feel I need to compensate for parts, and 2. I am not comfortable enough with this person to think they would accept me as I am, zits and all. Number One is a topic for another time. Today I’m diving into Number Two. Ha ha? No? Okay, moving on…

After I had once spent five minutes picking apart a picture of myself, I had a friend tell me that he didn’t understand why I hated photos of myself so much. “This is what people see every day. Do you think you somehow look different in a picture?”  

Truthfully? Sometimes… most of the time, actually, I absolutely do.

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When you do see a photo of me on my Instagram or other outlet that I posted myself, you can be sure it took tons of work and pep-talking myself to get it there. There will be probably 20 or 30 shots that get culled because they aren’t good enough to put out there. I look so much better online than I ever could hope to in real life. It’s what I wish I looked like in real life. What I pretend I look like. Perfect lighting, the angles just right to hide extra chins, skin like a doll.

But this isn’t real life.

Real life has stray hairs and dirty dishes and kids wiping boogers on the wall and fights with your husband and stretch marks from the secret 10 pounds you gained over the last year. It’s what my friends would see if I let them come over right now.  

Now don’t get me wrong – not everyone is going to be close enough to me or to you to be part of the inner circle of people that have seen your mess in all its glory. And it goes without saying that I don’t think you should invite your ex to come check out your stretch marks. I’m talking about the friends we have in real life, that we can let see our flaws. That kind of vulnerability scares the daylights out of me because requires a huge amount of trust. But I’ll never build that trust with anyone if I keep pushing them away so they can’t get close enough to see the stretch marks.

This is something I constantly struggle with, and I’ll admit that I’m far from being good at it. My own insecurities keep me from trusting the people I see every day enough to let them be more than my Instagram-level friends. I’m afraid if they see anything less than my best, they’ll reject me. I’m trying to find the balance between respecting someone’s time and attention enough to change out of my sweatpants to see them, and not feeling like I need to wear Spanx and full makeup every time I go to the grocery store.

I’d love to know what you do. Are you more like me, hiding from cameras and containing your chins? Or do you love the camera? Do you have a circle of friends that can see your boogered walls and zits?