A friend of mine recently asked for some vegan blog recommendations, and after I sent them to her, she sent me a message telling me that they had great recipes but made her feel so bad about herself that she wasn't sure she could read them. From her perusal of the blogs, she saw that these people were preparing and eating healthy food all the time, exercising every day (sometimes twice!), having babies, renovating their houses, and finding the time to cheerfully blog about all of it. What was she doing? Working? Trying to make a healthy meal a few times a week?
I heard her one hundred percent.
I love blogs. I read dozens of them every day, but they can very easily become just another way for us to compare ourselves to other people. And in the blog world, we usually come up short.
Here's why. Take yourself back to middle school or high school, those days of comparisons run amuck. I'm guessing there was some girl or some guy who was on your they-always-have-it-together radar. You wanted to be them and you hated them a little bit at the same time. The way their hair always looked perfect or they always had the most fashionable clothes or they always knew the right answers or had a gaggle of friends around them - they seemed to have no worries, no flaws. In comparison, your hair was flat, your clothes were stupid, you hadn't even finished the reading, and you weren't sure who to sit with in the lunch room.
The comparison game rarely turns out well, but the benefit of comparing yourself to a person that you know in real life is that no one actually has it all together. And in real life, eventually you see that. You see their skirt tucked into their underwear. You find them crying in the bathroom. You see them falter on a question in class. You overhear their friends spreading nasty rumors about them. You realize, if only for a moment, that the perfect person is actually just a regular, flawed human being. Just like you.
So the trouble with playing the comparison game with blogs is that we bloggers control everything that we present to the world. We can choose not to upload the pictures where our hair looks stupid or where there's laundry all over the couch. We don't have to blog about the three days in a row when we ate take-out because all we wanted to do was sit on the couch and watch television. We rarely get caught in a moment that we didn't plan. We have the ability to carefully orchestrate everything you know about us.
I know this, and I still get caught up in comparing myself to other bloggers. I still look at people and determine that the sheer fact that they're blogging as much as they are (while working and having babies and making dinner!) is a sign that they've got their shit together and I don't.
Recently I came across some wise words over on Soulemama's frequently asked questions page. I won't re-type her words here, but to paraphrase, she was asked how she does it all. And she responded in one of the most honest ways that I've seen in the blogosphere that she does not do it all, that she makes choices and that things fall through the cracks. And she reminded all of her readers that her blog does not show her whole life but that she has intentionally created it as a place of joy and peace.
As I travel around the web to other people's blogs, I try to remember her words when I start to beat myself up with the comparison game. A blog never shows a whole life. It's an intentional creation of its author.
One of the things that I really enjoy about blogging is being able to share my struggles. I've done it here and here and here and here. I figure that most people who read this know that I'm kind of always on the verge of falling apart. But even I, the wild over-sharer that I am, limit what struggles I put up here - there are things I choose not to talk about, and there are things that I wouldn't even know how to talk about if I wanted to.
Of course, we know this isn't limited just to blogs - it happens on facebook and twitter and instagram. We're all gluttons for the comparison game. But if you start in on it when you're zipping around the web today, try to remember that the game is unfair right from the start if you're trying to compare your insides - all the messy, complex, sometimes angsty bits floating around in our brains - to someone else's outsides - the proofread and edited version.
And I'll try to remember too.