Look at this…here I am at the age of 50…running through the finish line at Disney’s Animal Kingdom for the fall cast/family 5k. I am happy…I look awesome…I look fit…in shape…I look like one of those crazy Disney lunatics with my ears that match the theme of the race perfectly.
What you do not know is that the picture was partly fabricated. I was thrilled to be invited to participate by my 22 year old daughter. And we are, especially when together, crazy Disney lunatics. But the running…all fake. The happy about running…oh my gosh…so fake. Those who know me well already know that I do not run due to back problems from pounding on my back.
I ran across the finish line for the picture – and actually for this blog post which I was already crafting. There is no denying it is a great picture – and when I uploaded it as my profile pic on Facebook I did admit that right away. But during that 5k I ran only those last 20 steps – for the picture.
Here is where the idea for the picture and the blog post started. In March of 2019 I attended Social Media Marketing World, one of the largest social media marketing conferences in the world, where, to my shock, a few speakers talked about the links to anxiety and depression to social media. They even went deeper to explain that while for some there is connection, for most, especially our vulnerable teens, it can be a horror show. They sit on social media and see utter fabulousness. Sorority inductions (they omit those they were rejected from), the bikini shots of those born with perfections (I’ll see you after birthing), the perfect prom dates, updos and dresses…the vacations abroad and to beach houses. And those that do not have or do not look a certain way – well, it impacts them. I was shocked, and actually impressed, that at a conference dedicated to social media speakers were talking about the down-sides.
Very few ever shares or talks about the unflattering – the zits, the heartache, the instability or sadness over loss. We don’t post when our kids get rejected from a college or owning last place during a sporting event. And, as parents we tend to hide, mostly forever when our children create significant chaos. For instance, these last few months you didn’t hear me chatting about my daughter’s arrest (for one ounce of vodka in her shoe at a concert). If you know my children you are either thinking “which one?” or “oh my gosh.” I didn’t post a picture of her citation, appearance in court…the fear I had…the tears…the cursing at the heavens to John that clearly he should not have left because I am incapable of raising kids who know right from wrong. I couldn’t post a public thank you to my friend the attorney who came to our rescue with a leveling presence to my “neurotic parenting” (his very accurate words) and statement to his team that the client would much rather be dealing with her father but he is unfortunately, no longer available. Ya know what, the story is worthy of another blog post so I’ll stop for the time being (yes, she’s given me permission to share). I will end this by sharing that as I have told the story soooo many other families – and guess what? They aren’t sharing either.
So anyway…back to the task at hand – how do we prepare our children (and survive ourselves) to handle the perfection of what is shared on social media? How do we help our kids (and ourselves) process the feelings of jealousy when someone’s fabulous life is marching across our screen as we sit with the proverbial pint of ice cream binge watching The Crown? (I know, astonishing the incredibly lazy things people do in their free time…).
- Sit in your own excellence and authenticity. Sure, the lives of others appear rather glamorous on Facebook but that’s not me at this moment where I sit.
- Think to yourself, especially if you know me, that the picture could be slightly fake – “Jen is running? IMPOSSIBLE!”
- Realize that no one is fantastic at everything. It is literally impossible. There are so many things things that I do not do well and I don’t discuss them on social media – you don’t see me take a picture of the toaster oven exclaiming “look, I burnt the taco shells again!” Oh yeah, true story. I have maybe two outfits that I can put together when I do big speaking gigs (oh, you thought the standard look was part of my brand? Heck no).
- Commit to make changes. If you want to be the perfectly fit person running a 5k then start running. Build relationships with others who want to do fun things. Go visit your adult child. Start online dating. Go on a mission to Marshall’s to dress for success. Give your girl friends a call if you want to go out. Volunteer.
- Realize that underneath the surface of fabulous there is always a problem – no one is perfect. There is always a relationship being mourned, a bill to be paid, a fear of something happening. You never want to sit in someone else’s seat. So that family has a beach house, a palace, a new car or swimming pool? Maybe the parents are never home, refuse to pay college tuition, the kid is continually abused in some way, …you just don’t know. Be thankful for where you are.
- Show gratitude and happiness for your friend. Let’s assume for a moment that this picture accurately depicted me coming over the finish line? You could just sit there and be happy for another individual. Our kids have a hard time with this. Heck, I have a hard time with this. I WANT to be on the vacation. But I have learned to bypass those initial feelings and move into a “that is great for them” and then turn my attention back to the ice cream and Netflix.
Could you imagine if we were somehow able to pass that down to our children?
Imagine if our kids could somehow process their initial jealousy through a lens of “I’m happy for them,” “but this is my life here,” or “I’ll have to work to get that for myself?” Imagine if we could as adults. Imagine if also we could look at a picture and say, “wow, Jen was in Florida with Allie