When I had my first son in 2010, social media wasn't really a thing - at least, not to the capacity it is now. You would occasionally upload an entire album to Facebook from your digital camera, and that was that. There were no perfectly curated Instagrams, no articles on Facebook telling you a million different ways you need to be parenting, no constant updates on everyone’s everyday life, no Pinterest birthday parties.
I love Instagram and the little space I’ve created there, but I constantly find myself wondering what social media is doing to us - is it fake? Is it an expression of creativity? Is it building community? Does it matter?
I remember being just a couple weeks away from my due date with my fourth baby, my first girl. Naturally, decorating the nursery was so fun and exciting for me. I was making all my dreams come true with pink bohemian rugs and gold accents and floral touches. I happily shared progress pictures of my nursery on social media - and in between those pictures, real life happens. Sorting newborn clothes, toddlers going in and playing, finding storage for baby shower gifts…you know, the usual.
And I’ll never forget when someone came over and asked to see her nursery, and when I proudly waddled to show them the room, they said to me, “Wow, you make it look so much cleaner on Instagram.”
I’m sure they didn't mean to hurt me. Perhaps they were just relieved that I was a “normal person” with a messy house. I don't know. But I do know that my heart sunk. A wave of insecurity rolled over me. Why would anyone say that to a mama who is 9 months pregnant with 3 other kids?? Am I fake? I knew it, I’m not a good enough homemaker. I just need to stop inviting people over to my house, its too messy.
And there it is, friends. The lie that we believe, the lie that hurts us more than we know: don't let anyone in. Don’t let anyone see my mess.
And so social media has done this odd thing, where you can show everyone everything, but somehow still end up showing no-one anything real.
And all too often we blame social media: Social media is making us fake, social media is making us compare our real life to someone else’s high light reel.
But social media doesn't do anything. It simply exists, and more often than not it is a reflection of the person using it. Do you experience joy when you see other people’s bright, shiny pictures? Or do you feel discontent, envious, depressed, anxious…? Do you rejoice in seeing pictures of people’s messy houses?
While its nice to know we’re not alone and that other mamas have messy homes and dirty hair, we shouldn't need to see someone else’s mess, or see their imperfections, to feel okay with our own. If we don't have complete peace and acceptance within ourselves, then our joy will be easily robbed and destroyed but things as simple as social media.
We shouldn't need to meet a level of cleanliness, home decor, beach body, or anything else to feel good enough.
But yet here I was, at 9 months pregnant, doubting all of that. I was doubting whether I should let people. I was doubting my abilities as a homemaker. I was doubting the pictures and stories I share on social media.
But the verse that kept coming to me was
1 Thessalonians 5:18
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
It doesn't say most circumstances. It doesn't say give thanks, but also complain, but also want just one more thing, but also want to know that your situation is better than someone else’s. Give thanks - rejoice - be content - in ALL things, even when someone else “has it better”.
And so I looked at my life, at the pictures I share. I love talking about my emotional mess, but I personally don't like sharing pictures of it? Why not?
For me personally, its an act of zooming in.
As we go through each day, we could pick a million things out that are messy and difficult and frustrating. The toddlers made a mess, the bathroom needs to be cleaned, the laundry is piled all over the nursery, the dishes are stacked a mile high, Amazon didn't deliver my package on time, UPS rang the doorbell and woke the baby, my husband forgot to do the one thing I asked of him, my clothes don't fit right…
Or, I can zoom in on what matters.
In this picture, I see so much - I see my 6 month old baby girl, who was once so small on this changing table now so big. I see her smiling at me. I see a candid smile of mine in the mirror, a smile that reminds me how overjoyed I am to have this child, this daughter.
But look at what I cropped out - I cropped out the mess. Not because I want to pretend like things are perfect, but because we need to zoom in on what matters. I spent so much time in my life zooming in on the messes and it only brought me anxiety and irritability.
And so I stopped focusing on the mess; I stopped giving it attention, stopped complaining, stopped wishing I had someone else’s insta-life, and instead zoomed in on the things that really mattered.
What are you zooming in on? Are you deleting pictures of yourself with your kids because of the bags under your eyes? Are you not even taking pictures because of the piles of laundry? Are you so stuck stressing about everything negative, that the joy is being drained from your life?
We can go through motherhood - through life - with eyes that see every imperfection or negative thing, or we can go through life with eyes that zoom in, that give thanks in all circumstances.