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IMG_2169My two daughters are beautiful (just ask their mother!)  Through no fault of their own, they are both pretty in that narrow way that many in our society define pretty.  Little old ladies frequently tell me that my husband looks like a movie star.  Like many women who spent their adolescence in Texas, I color my gray hair, wear fake nails and rarely leave my house without full makeup and hair done.  Several years ago, 2 different people at our old church confessed that we were secretly referred to as “Barbie and Ken” behind our backs, a fact that this would-be feminist found both horrifying and hilarious…don’t even get me started on the “behind our backs” part.  To put it in Southern vernacular, me and my family “clean up” real nice.  We are cleaned up in the photo above, so please enjoy. 🙂  Can you even stand the adorableness of our matching outfits?

The way we look is just one of the external ways that we are judged in our world.  With the advent of our social media culture, those of us who participate feed the skewed perceptions others have about us by what we post online.  We post our most attractive photos and share our most noteworthy accomplishments.  While I am quick to share my girls’ prom photos and college acceptances, the hard days slip by without mention.  While the highlight reel of our life is accessible to my 557 Facebook friends, only those closest to our family know that one of my kids cried practically every single day in middle school because middle school sucks and mean girls are mean.  When one of my girls was suffering from crippling anxiety and depression during high school, only our inner circle knew our fear, worry and triumphs as we sought help and eventually crawled our way back out of that dark hole.  In my online persona, I don’t parade the run ins with the law, the issues with money, or the mental health and addiction issues that are threaded like ribbons through our extended families.

(I’m sorry, excuse me for a moment, but I am still reeling from the discovery that I have 557 Facebook friends!  But I digress…)

Don’t get me wrong, I love the community and camaraderie of Facebook.  As long as we remember that much of what we see online is only a tiny sliver of reality, it is a wonderful place to share, connect and celebrate our lives together.  It is when we hold up our real, messy lives for comparison to that highlight reel of someone else’s online life that we may find ourselves in trouble.  It would not be appropriate to share many of our personal struggles on social media or with casual acquaintances. yet this cleaned up, online version of other people’s lives is the very thing that contributes to many of us feeling like we are the only ones that struggle. While it seems like everyone else’s kid is thriving, ours is struggling.  While it seems that everyone else has a perfect marriage, ours is really hard work.  While it seems that everyone else is going on fabulous vacations and being invited to interesting social events, we are trying to get the laundry done, the bills paid and keep the kids out of trouble.  Life just looks easier for everyone else and sometimes that doesn’t feel very fair.

In the past week, I have twice found myself in a conversation with a group of women about people who seem have it all together versus us “real” people who are just making it up as we go along.  In one of those conversations, I was shocked to find out that I was perceived by someone in the group as being one of those people who seems to have it all together!  While I quickly disabused her of that notion, it got me thinking about the importance of being real.  At what level do we share, with whom and in what context?

If, in the interest of looking like I have it all together, I only share myself and my life with my closer friends at the “online” level of honesty and vulnerability, than I am missing out on the opportunity for real life intimacy and friendship.  If I spend more time online than I do face to face with my dear ones, than I am apt to have an unrealistic perception of what is normal.  The people who I feel closest to in my life are the ones who love me even though they know the real me….my faults and my fears, my worries and my insecurities, my doubts and my struggles.  These are also more likely to be those with whom I regularly pray because of our shared belief that we don’t have all the answers and we don’t have to carry the burden alone.  Taking the risk of sharing our concerns with one another feels worth it when we know that those concerns are being lifted up and held close.

I don’t have any answers about all this today, but it has been on my mind a lot, especially as I consider what I share here on this blog.  In the interest of full disclosure and keeping it real, you should know that THIS is what is required to achieve my “naturally” blonde tresses and THIS is more representative of my children than the photo at the top.

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IMG_2809How do you navigate our natural tendency to compare our life to the lives of others?  How does social media contribute to that?  What does it mean to be a “real” friend?

UPDATE 10/8/15: Resurrecting this post today to join my friend’s over at #LiveFreeThursday. Today’s topic is “This is Me” and I thought this one fit perfectly. Welcome, new friends! 

Also, I now have 740 Facebook friends, OMG! Thanks For the Love Launch team 🙂