Five Strategies for Surviving and Thriving in a Social Media World
If you’ve ever fallen down the Pinterest rabbit hole and emerged dazed and humbled by the endless stream of cake decorating/kids’ party planning/crafting/DIY decorating divas/apparent Super Moms bent on setting—and constantly raising—an impossibly high bar on modern domesticity and parenting, this article is for you.
Building a high-pressure ridge, one pin and post at a time
Once upon a time (not very long ago), the pressure to be domestically perfect in every way oozed quietly from the pages of a handful of magazines, the odd TV show, quaint (paternalistic) home appliance ads, and the occasional run-in with an enthusiastic, over-achieving DIYer among acquaintances.
In 2016, that pressure is far more pervasive. In fact, you’re probably friends with the source of it (and dozens like her) on Facebook. Or you follow her on Pinterest.
Social media is very much the proverbial double-edged sword. For the better: it’s never been easier to stay in touch and reconnect with long-lost friends and far away family. For the worse: we’re all at least a little guilty of putting an editorial spin on what we share.
Odds are, you post your good side and the life-stuff you’re proud of a lot more often than the less-shiny parts of your life. Cool beans—as long as you consciously remember: everyone else is doing the same thing, too. Unfortunately, it’s frighteningly easy to forget that bit. And forgetting that bit can lead to feelings of inadequacy, performance anxiety, and a boat load of should that can leave you feeling less-than.
That’s why I’m sharing five strategies to help you indulge in the inspiration of Pinterest without the pressure, and emerge with your self-worth intact.
1. No one can actually do it all.Some just do a passable job of making it look like they can.
Unless you’ve got the disposable income to hire an army of minions (more power to you if you do!), adding something big—like, say, a Pinterest-worthy party for your kid—to your already full life is going to mean letting something else go.For me, when I’m in the throes of a creativity bender, all bets are off on laundry. Or cleaning the bathroom. Or any dinner fancier than sandwiches and apple slices. Or basically anything other than the essential services of parenting and work.If I show up having sewn a winning Halloween costume for myself (and two more for my son and husband), that’s a sign you should definitely not eat off my kitchen floor. (Not kidding. Don’t.) And I’m totally okay with admitting that.
Do what matters to you.
After nearly killing myself trying to make my son’s second birthday party magical, I had an epiphany: no one cares if you cut the fruit and veggies yourself. Certainly, the kids don’t. And any adult who’ll take issue with pre-cut carrots can feed them to their high horse and ride it right on out of your life—nobody has energy to waste worrying about Mrs. Judgy McJudgypants’s opinion.
Go ahead: buy the fruit and veggie trays from Costco, and spend your time on one special element you get some level of enjoyment or personal fulfillment from doing. Like making a 3D penguin cake until the wee hours before the party. Or whatever else seems like a fun idea at the time for you (your mileage may vary).
2. Just because everyone else on Pinterest/Facebook is doing it…
…Doesn’t mean you have to do it, too. Social media can make it seem like the latest it thing is actually a long-held tradition. For example, my son was born in 2010. When I was pregnant, there was no such thing as a gender reveal party/cake/book/stunt/surprise balloon release. Now, if you use Pinterest/Facebook as a benchmark for life, you’d think it was a tradition as old as the first ultrasound machine.
Do what matters to you.
You are not less-than for not participating in every hip DIY trend you see all over social media. It’s your life—you get to choose what traditions and trends to take on and call your own. Dying to bake that gender reveal cake you saw on Pinterest? Go nuts. Wonder what the fuss is about? Opt out.Whatever trend or tradition you choose, please don’t do it because you feel obligated, or because you worry you’re missing out on some top-secret, in-crowd fun that isn’t immediately apparent to you. Do it because it matters to you.
3. Do you—and all the you-things you can handle.
Follow your bliss may sound like a line from a yoga studio cat poster, but it’s a nugget of wisdom worth considering when your me-time is at a premium.If you accept my first point—that no one can actually do it all—as true, and you live as full a life as most people who tend to put caring for others at the top of their list, you have to be selective. Or not sleep until you’re dead to fit it in (not an approach I’d recommend, though I confess I’ve tried it to my detriment. More than once).
Do what matters to you.
Starting with the things you’re most interested, curious, or passionate about is as good a way as any I’ve found to narrow the list of tempting DIY projects to invest your precious time in.Love crafts, baking, and cake decorating? Great! Go to town on the themed hand-made party favors, decorations, and made-from-scratch cake for your kid’s next birthday. Because the joy and personal fulfillment of doing it makes the time, effort (and months of pinning ideas and inspiration!) worth it to you, and no other reason.Don’t have any interest in fondant, gel color, or the latest innovation in piping tips? Fear your attempts at DIY decorations may be candidates for the next viral Pinterest Fails post? Buy the cake. Order the decorations from Etsy or your local party store. And spend your time on something that truly excites you.
Got a favorite holiday that makes every other holiday pale in comparison for you? Crown yourself Queen of Halloween Town with a full-on festival of costumes and decorations, then enjoy sedate, scaled back versions of the holidays you’re less enthused about.
No guilt required.
4. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.
And they may not really think what you believe they do, anyway.Those who truly love you—your real friends, your closest family—would sooner see you happy than frazzled.Your kids love you. They won’t notice (or remember) if you made or bought the cake. They will notice if you’re running around like a headless chicken in search of perfection so much that you’re not really present to celebrate with them. So if you’re killing yourself to impress the parents of the kids your kid invited to their birthday party, step back and take a breath.
Do what matters to you.
What matters most is how you feel, how you experience the milestones and events that make up your life. Make memories that matter to you and yours. And let the rest go.Judgy McJudgypants’s opinion doesn’t hold any real power over you. (And she probably didn’t notice what you slaved over in the first place).
…Which leads me to my last point:
You’re an expert at putting others ahead of yourself, so what I’m about to ask you to do should be a small, simple change to your routine:
Sisters, help each other out.
How? Be honest about how you did that amazing thing you proudly posted on Facebook. When you do what matters to you and share it with the world, take a moment to be real, warts and all.Back to the no-one-can-actually-do-it-all point at the top of this list: when I post my pictures of a Pinterest-worthy project, I also go out of my way to remind people that I’ve got a mountainous backlog of laundry, a sink full of dishes, and a large sleep debt to catch up on because of it.Why? Because I believe it’s better to be fabulous and flawed than fabulous and false. Because in doing what matters to me, I choose not to contribute to perpetuating the illusion that some people really can do it all. Because I’m a real human—not a magical, mythical, time-turner-carrying, creativity unicorn—and I can’t.
And admitting I can’t do it all is my humble way of empowering you to do what matters to you and make your own fabulousness fit into your own (very full, and very real) life.What you do—or don’t do—does not define you, your self-worth, or your worth as a Mom. How you do it—and who you are (for yourself and your loved ones) as you do it—does.
That means you get to choose what will make you creatively and personally fulfilled. You get to choose to take on the stress that leads to joy. And you get to choose to leave the stress-for-stress’s-sake behind.
Pinterest be damned or Pinterest be praised—it’s entirely up to you.