Snuggled on the sofa with my 15-year-old daughter, we scrolled through her Instagram feed together. 100, 115, 125 “likes” became a theme on each photo and it became clear that she’d found some committed “followers.”
“Wow, Abby, your last picture got 139 likes,” our 11-year-old daughter declared in amazement.
A check in my spirit occurred and I casually questioned our teen daughter, “What would happen if you put up a beautiful picture, but you only got a handful of likes?”
“Well, I would delete it because obviously, it wasn’t that good of a picture.”
Her statement came so matter of fact, so effortlessly. No thought pondered before answering; it was a given. She would edit what others deemed “less than.”
I’ve mulled over that conversation for months.
“Honey, you’d really delete the picture? You know that your worth and value isn’t found in how many people “like” a picture, right?”
“I know. I know, Mom. You tell me that all the time.”
I tell her that all the time, but do I live like I believe it?
I’m raising the next generation of world-changers, yet those very blessings that live under our roof are bombarded with the message of instant gratification and unrealistic comparison.
Their social lives and communication skills are chiseled before the altar of snapchat and Instagram where the mess of life is edited out, only revealing snippets of a photoshopped existence.
Yet every day I tap away in a world that relies heavily on social media: the likes, shares, comments and filtered photos. While I revel in the joy of embracing both the beauty and bedlam of everyday life, I realize that I’m falling prey to the very self-editing I claim to stand against.
Have you thought about this challenging balance?
I want to be authentic and real, but when does that line become blurred?
I struggle with a messy upstairs, but the extent of the mess? You may never know. I’ll just delete that reality online.
Last night’s post by your favorite blogger; the one where her words left you deeply moved, but wondering how she does it time and time again? It took her ten hours to pen those 600 “effortless” words.
Remember that gorgeous recipe that’s been pinned thousands of times? Why is it that when you made it, reality did not meet the original? It took 52 photos, two trips to the grocery store, a $600 camera lens and an hour of photoshop to create that look.
Our editing of life doesn’t just happen online. Understandably, it’s more prominent here, but it sneaks into the fabric of everyday life. In subtle choices; self-editing that we don’t even realize occurs.
It happens when our precious kindergartener comes downstairs showcasing her handpicked outfit, highlighting her creative fashion flair. We smile, pat her head and send her upstairs to change into something that matches. We polish her up just enough to run errands.
It happens when we roll into church, smiles plastered, nodding heads echoing, “Just fine, thank you, and you?” Inside we know our obligatory “fine” doesn’t tell the whole story.
It happens with raising children. While it’s one of the hardest, yet rewarding callings, we photoshop out the discouraging details such as our teenager, raised in a strong Christian home, drinking at a party, or struggling with online addiction or eating disorders, or even cutting themselves as a cry for help; just a few of the many struggles deleted from discussion.
Personally, it happened last week as I spent time with women I admire and appreciate. I found small glimpses of myself self editing so that I would feel more accepted, more popular, more worthy. I second guessed conversations, wondering if I had talked too much, too little, too loud, too openly.
I left our time realizing they rarely see the real me. The real me gets squashed amidst the photoshop process leaving only a hazy image of the original masterpiece God created.
That kind of living leaves me exhausted and empty. It is not who we were created to be.
Collectively, we stand at a pivotal juncture.
We know the truth. I know the truth.
John 8:32 declares, “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set us free.”
If I know this truth that sets us free, I need to live like I believe it and invite others into the mess.
Lean into it! Life to its fullest!
Galations 5: 1 also reminds us, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
This image creation and comparison? This photoshopping of details and editing of life? It is bondage. Slavery. It’s a yoke rubbing against the fullness and freedom which Christ has to offer: abundant living, joy filled living.
On a practical level, I’m still in the process of determining how to balance this continual rub. It’s challenging, but I’ve realized it’s often the pictures, facebook updates or situations I may want to “edit or delete” that hold the truest beauty. The messy, encouraging, life giving kind.
Last week, I brushed off the cobwebs and bared my heart in a Frugal Fashionista meets Psych 101 post.
The shackles of my paralysis began to fall off.
I am streamlining online interaction, re-setting family boundaries with social media free zones and deleting areas that pull me into the comparison trap.
When it whispers, scriptures remind me that His creative process, both online and in real life, is meant to give Life. As I give the Creator full editorial reign, He releases me. In that beautiful life unedited, there’s freedom and joy.
And my daughter’s Instagram comment? It was the catalyst needed for change.
I’m leaning into the imperfectly beautiful moments of life and savoring them all. Won’t you join me?
– Jen, Balancing Beauty and Bedlam