Instagram And The Comparison Trap

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Hi Beauties,

I’ve had this post drafted for months but have waited to post it because I really want the message to come across in the right way. I’m going a little off topic today to share some thoughts on social media…

I’ve written posts in the past about the comparison trap on social media (like this guest post on Carrots ‘n’ Cake) and it’s something I’ve certainly felt passionate about at times. And still do.

I wrote that post 2 years ago…when very few people were talking about the social media facade. When we hadn’t yet realized how much image-editing was taking place through social media. Thankfully, now, it’s pretty well understood that most of us post the beautiful, glossy photos of our life on social media and leave the rest un-documented.

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After reading “I’ve Got Your Lifestyle Blog Right Here” by Kristen Howerton on Rage Against The Minivan, I started thinking more and more about this fine line that we walk in our online lives.

First, it should be noted that I loved and appreciated Kristen’s post. It was funny and poignant and I agree wholeheartedly with her message. She deserves a big “AMEN.”

But reading it just brought up more ideas on a separate topic that I’ve been chewing on for the past few months.

I’m starting to notice a new trend emerging. A trend of of competing for who can be the most “real.” But rather than “real” some are taking it to the other extreme.

For some, the pendulum is swinging to the other side.

Exaggerating their “realness” and shaming those who seem like they have it all together.

While I’m in full-support of ‘keeping it real’, sadly I’ve noticed negativity towards those who post beautiful, inspiring photos or those who are appear “too perfect” or “too happy” on social media.

The pendulum swing has made me second-guess sharing certain images or posts that may appear “too pulled-together” or “too pretty.”

For example, when Kristen shared photos of her messy house, it made me second-guess the photo I was going to post of a tidy table with fresh flowers…I felt bad for showing a neat home without any clutter.

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But then I thought about it…

And the truth is my workspace IS tidy. It is clutter-free 75% of the time. I can’t stand clutter and my productivity/creativity depends on a clean, organized space. It is part of who I am. I’m not extreme about this, but through years of self-reflection I’ve come to accept that my environment greatly affects my well-being. And I honor that.

Now, perfectly pulled together hair? Not a chance. Pin-worthy make up? Never in my life. A beautiful, homemade cake? Not happening. A flourishing garden? Let’s not get crazy.

And when it comes to mommy blogs – the “bad mommy” trend is on the rise.

In our valiant efforts to put an end to the pressure to be a perfect mother, another extreme has emerged. One that is equally shaming to those who are actually passionate about breastfeeding, staying at home, crafting, keeping a clean house, teaching their children multiple languages, (insert whatever a “perfect mommy” looks like to you).

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Yes, motherhood is HARD and ugly at times. But there’s no need to compete for “who has it worse.” I share my trials and commiserate with my close friends. I share funny photos every once in a while that depict the not-so glamorous side of being a mother. But I refuse to go negative just for the sake of appearing “real”.

Here’s an example from real life that made me ponder this thought deeper:

A group of us were planning a playdate over at a friend’s house. This particular friend happens to be creative, organized, crafty and an excellent hostess. This is who she is.  She wanted to host a holiday-themed playdate with color-schemed snacks and treats. Adorable right?

Someone made the comment that she should just keep it simple for the playdate so that it didn’t make the rest of us feel bad.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

There are two sides to this equation.

On one hand, social media has spurred competition between who can have the most pulled-together, instagram/pinterest-worthy life.

But on the other hand, what’s wrong with highlighting beauty, using your gifts and expressing yourself in a positive light?

My hostess friend IS the Pinterest type. She is gifted and talented and gets JOY out of planning beautiful events. It’s who she is.

And just because we’re not that way doesn’t mean we should bring her down just to make ourselves feel better.

Since social media is a big part of my business and life, I often feel like I’m walking a fine line. I want to inspire others (that’s my job) but I don’t want to appear too perfect or pulled together because we all know that’s a facade.

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If you know me, you know I’m all about keeping it real. I really do try to portray an honest and accurate glimpse into my life. But there’s NO denying that I choose to highlight the good, happy, beautiful, healthy things more than the ugly, dirty, tired parts of my life.

But I think that’s okay.

I am a professional in the health and fitness industry. It is my goal to inspire you. It is my purpose to show you the beauty in a healthy, vibrant, active life. It is my heart to insert more positivity into day-to-day life.

As long as we’re all in agreement that we share our highlight reels because those are the moments that inspire us to share, there’s no need to compare.

For me, social media helps me focus on the beautiful, positive things in life and I like that.

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I post beautiful things because they make me pause and say, wow, ‘that’s photo-worthy’. When I’ve burnt my frozen sweet-potato fries for the 88th time, it just doesn’t strike me to grab my phone and appreciate the moment.

At the end of the day, it comes down to being authentic.

I am a health-nut with a goal to inspire positivity. And I’m not going to apologize for that.

And at the same time there are a whole host of unimpressive things in my life that don’t get shown through social media and there are a lot of things I don’t do well or don’t do at all (remember my list of things I don’t do?).

It’s up to us, as the consumers of social media to remember that.

Technology is not bad. Social media is not bad. It’s how we use and relate to them that will dictate the effect they have on our life.

To inspire means to breathe in.

To compare means to measure against.

Social media can be a beautiful form of inspiration if we remain true to ourselves and let go of what we think others should be doing on their personal accounts.

There is a healthy balance to be found.

Things to keep in mind when following bloggers on social media:

  • blogging may be their job, therefore, their images are carefully selected to fit the image of their brand.
  • remember that you’re seeing the good, the pretty and the highlights of every day life rather than the whole picture.
  • having a firm understanding of your values, your identity and your uniqueness will help you to appreciate others rather than to compare.
  • don’t compare your weaknesses to someone else’s strengths.
  • do you and let others do them.
  • unfollow accounts that regularly make you feel shame, guilty or uninspired.

When you see something that gives you pangs of jealousy, give that person a compliment. Tell them their cake is beautiful, tell them that their vacation looks amazing or that their family is adorable.

Diffuse the feelings of comparison by acknowledging that the good in their life can exist without diminishing the good in yours. 

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Ultimately, if there’s one thing I want you to hear in this post let it be this…

Whatever your gifts are, don’t hesitate to share them for fear of making others feel bad.

Let your light shine.

Let others shine theirs.

We need your positivity.

We need your inspiration.

We need YOU.

It’s about being true to who we are and allowing others do the same.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.  – Marianne Williamson

As a blogger it’s important for me to start this conversation and examine the role that social media plays in The Balanced Life’s message.

So I’d love to hear your thoughts.

How do you walk this fine line and what do you think about bloggers sharing perfectly polished images online?



PS – you may also enjoy Thinspiration on Pinterest.

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23 thoughts on “Instagram And The Comparison Trap”

  1. Oh Robin…thank you for your thoughtfulness and careful articulation on this sensitive topic. I agree wholeheartedly with your thoughts and perspective. When I see something online that pangs my gut, it’s usually because it’s tapped on an insecurity. I’m beginning to use that as a cue to remind myself of my true identity. It forces me to settle deeper into the exact person God created and is shaping me to be. Viewing myself through that lens changes everything. Thanks for offering us your truest self each day. It’s why I keep coming back!

  2. Love this! Thank you for sharing & reminding us God’s perfect for us is not someone else’s & vice versa! Comparison compare our known weaknesses in ourselves to others perceived strengths! And we can’t win that battle! 😉

  3. Robin, this is both convicting AND encouraging. How poignant you are!! Bless you for sharing this and for highlighting the pendulum swing that is happening in a LOT of ways in our culture right now. Praying for us, as a society, to slow the swing from the two extremes, finding ourselves happily resting in the middle–and not just for social media. xo

  4. Great post Robin. The two things that stood out most to me: not comparing my weaknesses to another person’s strengths, and unfollowing people who bring out guilt, shame, or jealousy in me. So simple but so true!

  5. I love you so much. You are so smart and insightful and your voice is such an inspiration. I agree with you on every point!! Everything you said, all of your quotes. Way to go, Robin! Thank you for taking the time to think about this and write this! xoxoxo

  6. As an instructor I write positive statements and mantras on the mirrors during class. Today’s was, “In this world where you can be anything you want, chose to be YOURSELF.” I thought that was ironic given your topic today. You did a wonderful job putting it all into perspective.

  7. Oh yes. All the happy feelings!! First of all, I enjoyed that link to Rage Against the Minivan’s post. I didn’t know anything about her site but I like her comments comparing the way we used to only read magazines to the way we now engage with online media. Robin, your post (in addition to pretty much everything Brene Brown has ever put out there) is probably the healthiest and most productive thing that I’ve read online. I’m a big fan of Brene mainly because she repeatedly talks about the importance of owning who we are – successes, failures, warts and all – and doing so without apology. And she’s got the research, science, and life experience to back it up. Social media is a strange, wonderful, inspiring, frustrating place. Just like real life. The thing with social media is, every facet of human nature (positive and negative) is magnified times a billion. Our reactions to online content are usually the same as our reactions to people and situations in our physical lives, except the anonymity of the keyboard allows us to be bolder and, just as you said, project the image we choose – regardless of whether it is authentic or not. Your comments about the backlash and pendulum swings on mommy blogs are really interesting. Reminds me of the bumper stickers for different race lengths (13.1, 26.2, etc.) and now we’ve got “0.0” One extreme to the other. I feel bad for your friend who wanted to create a fun playdate for everyone but got shamed by someone who probably felt insecure about her own lack of party planning skills. I hope your creative playdate friend is confident enough in herself to not let that snarky comment bring her down.

    I try to walk the fine line of comparison and inspiration by limiting my screen time (still a struggle) and remembering that the majority of content I read online is produced by complete strangers. You make a great point that is valid for all parts of our lives — good things happening to other people don’t dilute or invalidate good things in my life. We are all different people, created to be so, and therefore someone else’s definition of “good” or “pretty” or “accomplished” has to be different than mine. Live and let live. I do “me” and on most days, that’s all I can handle. I am trying to accept the efforts I make every day and not judge myself, especially against something posted by someone I don’t know at all. When I feel jealously or comparison creeping up inside of me, in reaction to something online or off, I try really hard to stop and take a perspective check. Why am I feeling this way? What is going on with me that is causing me to react this way? Thanks for putting this post out there and I am definitely bookmarking it for future reading and thought. I really respect your space here on the interwebs. 🙂

  8. Robin, YES! This was so good. Realized I am guilty on both sides– just last week I went to a playdate where the host served homemade bruschetta, and mushroom & cheese dipping sauce and WINE and organic juice boxes for the babied- I made a comment about how “my playdates” of pb&j cut into triangles and apple wedges will just never live up to this. (gah!) Am learning that instead of comparing what I can/cannot do the better road to take is to celebrate her gifts, her creativity and time.

  9. Christan Perona

    Well said, Robin. You are a brave woman for touching this topic, and I admire you. You know, I think we view social media, interactions with people, the world, really, through the lens of our own brokenness. We get easily offended because of wounds or baggage that have NOTHING to do with the person we’re comparing ourselves to. So, I might be cynical of someone portraying their life as continually photo-worthy or I might be judgmental of the moms exaggerating their realness because it seems like the cool thing to do. And maybe the way I was raised, or hard relationships I’ve had in the past, or circumstances beyond my control — these all cloud my ability to sometimes see a person’s true intent. We judge (either side) because we’re insecure. I LOVE your line “Diffuse the feelings of comparison by acknowledging that the good in their life can exist without diminishing the good in yours.” If we could do this and seek to be women who choose to see the good in people rather than assuming the worst — wow, can you imagine what could happen?! THANK YOU.

  10. Thank you so much for this post. It helped to clarify for me a lot of what I was feeling when I went back to full-time-outside-of-the-home employment after 7 years home with kids. I couldn’t bear to look at Facebook or read the blogs that used to be my favorites. All I saw were pictures of moms at home with their kids doing amazing things and it nearly brought me to tears at work each day (not a good thing!) I ended up mostly opting out of social media for the last two years and finding new blogs to read. I felt really bad about it, but now I realize it was necessary for me. Better than hurtful comments. Thank you for the new way of thinking about these feelings and a new response to work on (compliments instead of silence and holding on to feelings of sadness).

  11. My dear friend, Laura, wrote a great blog post on motherhood and the trend to sharing everything that’s “real” when all it really does it come across as super negative. I’ll admit that I resonated a ton with her post because, as a momma-to-be it’s been scary to read all the horrible things that people share in the name of being real. There is a balance to be had, of course, because I don’t want to hear that motherhood, or any aspect of life, is all sunshine and rainbows, but it’s nice to see the good moments, too.

  12. Pingback: WELL, HELLO MONDAY… | Burpees for Breakfast

  13. Great reflections and gives your readers pause for thought. I agree with your wholeheartedly about the need for women to empower each other rather than compete with one another. Hopefully your post will help a few more women consider how to support their fellow mothers, runners, wives, sisters, daughters, etc., etc. rather than compare and either feel better or worse about themselves depending on the direction of the comparison.

  14. Well stated! Women need to appreciate and support each other instead of comparing and competing. It starts early on. We need to raise our daughters in this light!

  15. Great post Robin! This is the first time I’ve come across your blog while doing a bit of research for a podcast I’m hosting. I would love to interview you for it, if you’d be interested. Would love to talk about your thoughts on this post and other pieces of the fitness industry. Please let me know if you’d be interested! 🙂
    -Kylie Burnside

    1. Hi Kylie! Sounds interesting! I’d love to chat and hear more about your podcast. 🙂 Feel free to send me an email through my contact page.

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