Is this the real life // Is this just fantasy

I watched a really great TED talk last night about why thinking you are ugly is bad for you. The speaker presented some statistics about women who would skip school, underperform, and even no-show to job interviews if they felt they looked ugly. Or fat. Mind you, this is completely independent of how they actually look, and how well they actually perform. Crazy, right? Not really.

I am one of those women. I opt out of, say no to, or downright flake on social and professional opportunities regularly because of how I believe I look and how that belief about my appearance makes me feel about my value. The modern obsession with social media only perpetuates these issues. We are in a position to constantly compare our lives/popularity/body with the very carefully selected –and edited- images posted on instagram or facebook. What are we seeing? Is this feed actually someone’s real life?

Let me be very clear about what I share: My photographs form a highlight reel. They are the result of three, four, maybe five images taken. I reject the photos that ‘make my face look the way it does when my mouth does that thing I don’t like etc. etc.’ I use filters. I choose to share the really kick ass moments, moments I’m proud of, funny moments, social moments – the list goes on… but the point is, my feed doesn’t represent my every day. How damaging is it to compare the ordinary, day to day moments of our own lives to the inauthentic, overproduced images of peers, celebrities and strangers? These comparisons are complex, because as aware as I might be of my own critique/selection/edit process, I still get caught up in comparing myself to other people’s feeds as though they are real. And part of me really wants YOU to buy into the fact that MINE is real. Because how much more interesting would I be if my instagram actually captured my REAL LIFE.

Here’s a new perspective on my pictures:

  1. Epic active adventure – I can guarantee you I either whined, got frustrated, bickered with Aaron or cried (or some combination of the above) at least once during said adventure. Oh and I definitely felt like I sucked at whatever sport is depicted somewhere along the line as well.
  2. Social event with friends – At some point, I either dreaded the get together or wanted to cancel it. Nothing against my friends –they’re great- but because I had anxiety to some degree about how I looked, felt, and/or believed my life was going at that time. Aka I felt like a loser and wanted to hide. Probably because of comparing myself to someone else’s highlight reel. See how crazy this shit is?
  3. Romance – I love my boyfriend, and we have lots of lovey-dovey fun together. We also drive each other crazy. Sometimes things just feel “off.” We go through periods in which we feel disconnected. Sometimes I really need space. Sometimes he really needs space. We argue. We hurt each others’ feelings and make each other mad. We’re real people.
  4. Selfies/photos of just me – Where to start… very select moments. Carefully chosen images. Moments I am proud of. Moments when I feel beautiful… or strong… or athletic… smart… creative… you get it. But as to why I feel the need to show you…

What is this compulsion to self-promote? Is it about having something to prove? Is it modern day marketing? Is it really just about getting external validation through ‘likes?’ When did liking MYSELF stop being enough? I’ve got a gut feeling brewing that says my posts on social media are irresponsible too. They are crafted, they are phony, and they are embellished. I, along with some 200 million other instagram users, are creating and buying into images, personas and lifestyles that don’t exist – and measuring our own lives based on these fantasies. We are collectively perpetuating that which is damaging us.

I don’t have a solution. I don’t think facebook and instagram are going anywhere anytime soon. I do, however, think it is crucial to disconnect regularly. I believe it is vital that I have a reality check from time to time. To be really honest about what my life is actually like vs. what I “share” my life is like in order for me to recognize the same misrepresentation in what I see online.

Here is what is really happening today.

real life

It is noon. I haven’t done much other than throw on big, baggy sweats, brush my teeth and make coffee. My bed is unmade, and my hair is a mess. I have cooked one breakfast to a crisp, thrown it away and started over (plus turned on the fan and opened all the windows to get the smoke out). I don’t have a job, and I don’t have a ton of money. Most of my daily activity involves working out, so I’m delaying it in order to have something do to with my Monday. I am not unhappy; rather, I have chosen to take some time off of “go go go.” Sometimes I get bored, but for the most part I am satisfied with this slower, unassigned period of my life.

Does my lifestyle make for interesting, likeable, posts online? Not really… I feel compelled to share it here anyway, though, because my suspicion is that there are a ton of people out there who have the potential to be satisfied with THEIR own lives too. People who WOULD be satisfied with their own lives if they gave up comparing it to what other people are essentially PRETENDING to be up to. Look, I am not saying that I am free of that habit,  of those comparisons, of getting caught up in the fantasy… but in this (hopefully not too fleeting) moment of clarity the least I can do is try to keep “keeping it real” going…

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Table for one, please…

So I was reading the most recent blog post by an acquaintance of mine, Jacki ( http://www.jackicarr.com She is a pretty dynamic human and writes posts that match), and the topic du jour was about dating yourself. You know- getting to know yourself, spending time alone, appreciating time spent by yourself, blah blah blah. Old news, I thought. I totally date myself. Yawn. Next.

No, wait. I USED to date myself.

Like, a long time ago.

In fact, if I look a little closer and honestly think about it… my dating life with me stinks. This relationship is on the fritz – ‘he’s just not that into you’ style. Wow. I’m just not that into ME.

I’ve spent so much time trying to see myself in the mirror of others. How do I come across? Do people like me? Am I cool? Pretty? Smart? Tell me, strangers. Tell me, folks I have no connection with, who have never met me, who don’t know who I really am or what I really believe and stand for. Right now. Because, really, I’m at a point where- if I don’t hear it from you- I can’t see it in myself. Especially if it is positive. Ouch.

I’ve lost touch. Lost touch with why I love me. Why I think I’m worth a damn. And I’m constantly looking outside of myself for the answer. Spoiler alert… The answer isn’t OUT there.

Note to self. More like admission to myself.

—————–
Sabrina, It’s not working. I’m not happy (It’s not you, it’s…well…yeah…).

But the thing is, I’m not going anywhere. Unlike other relationships, we won’t be breaking up. No one is leaving. No one is being left. We’re stuck, for better or for worse. The good news is, I’m going to make damn well sure that it IS for better.

Something is going on. You’re terrified (fodder for another post at another time perhaps). And clingy. And shit scared of losing control of the outcome of your life (which, by the way, you don’t have in the first place, so add to the list delusional). …and it is making you rather dull.

I want to start over. I want to court you. I want to date you. This might sound harsh, but I want to remember why I loved you in the first place, because while I know she is still in there, you are just a shell of the woman I once knew. I want to be excited by you once again. Because I DO love you.
———————-

So I’ve decided this: I’m going to date myself. I’m going to take myself on a date -alone- every week and learn who I am, what I like and don’t, what makes me tick, why I’m worth it. And I am going to be gentle with myself, to look at myself through a lover’s eyes… to talk to myself the way a lover would, and observe myself the way a lovedrunk partner would. Skip the usual self deprecating banter and focus, for a change, on the good. The existing good, the growing good, and the not yet in existence but certainly possible good. Because words from others are great… relationships with others are great (hi babe. I love you!). But the only person who can feed my soul and give me the deepest love is me. It isn’t called self-worth for nothing and it’s time.

crafting a vision.

She felt rich and full of gratitude and she slept soundly through the night with her lover.

She woke up easily and early, just before her alarm was set to go off. So ready to embrace the day was she that she didn’t bother to wait for it to chime. The days of hitting snooze were behind her, and she was up out of bed after a quick stretch and a moment of peace to settle into her body. Their room was clean and spacious, so it was easy to find the pile of clothes she had set out the night before in the barely there dawn light. Running shoes, shorts, sports bra, and visor topped with her ipod, garmin and sunglasses. The sound of the coffee pot sputtering to life and the sweet sighs of her still sleeping boyfriend made her beam. She loved this day. She loved every day. The cats brushed along her legs as she savored a few sips out of her mug. After placing a gentle kiss on his curls (which he sleepily responds to with an outstretched arm and a squeeze of her hand), she popped her earbuds in and shut the door behind her.

She is fast. Faster than she ever imagined she could be. It feels effortless this morning. She feels light and free, an athlete moving gracefully through the world- her playground- as the sun rises. Though it is clearly going to be a warm day, the morning air retains the slight chill it picked up during the night. There are few cars on the road, and those that are out are turning their headlights off one by one to make way for the ever brightening morning. A golden pink glow falls on the world, making even the street scene look magical under the neon cloud studded sunrise. Her breath flows easily, her legs feel fresh, her ipod plays the perfect playlist. She is training. The two of them are training for an ultra. It is something neither has done before and neither is afraid of. She trains, he trains, they train. Alone, together, with friends. They love it, and it has opened up a new space, and new world, a new community to be a part of.  It is two-a-day time, and they’ll hook back up this evening to hit the trail together.

She has a three day weekend ahead, and a backpacking adventure on her mind…