Several months ago, I found myself forlorn and lonesome on a Saturday night. I initially distracted myself by watching Sex in the City, imitating a Bollywood dance video on youtube.com and folding laundry. No bueno. I still felt desolate. Hence, I turned to Facebook for connection (you know this is not going to turn out well right?). Post One: “Thank you to my amazing boyfriend for cooking dinner tonight!” Post Two: “We’re engaged!” Post Three: “I love my amazing husband and sweet apple blossom!” Don’t get me wrong, yay for my friend with a fabulous husband and adorable baby. However, my inner perfectionist spoke up with a vengeance. “Amelia, look at you. You’re home alone on a Saturday night and you have no husband or sweet apple blossom. Everyone else is doing something fabulous tonight and you’re sitting here crying. Pathetic.” (I told you she was mean!)
Why is it that we commonly choose to post our “perfect” moments on Facebook? In her phenomenal work on self-compassion, Dr. Kristin Neff highlights that our culture places too much focus on self-esteem, “how much we are different, how much we stand out from others.” Facebook creates a perfect outlet for us to stand out from and look better than others. If I put up posts of my perfect life for others to see, then I must be doing well. However, Dr. Neff highlights significant costs of trying to boost one’s self-evaluation in this manner. If we fall below perfect, then we feel awful about ourselves. We also run the risk for narcissism. BTW- in the book The Narcissism Epidemic Living in the Age of Entitlement Twenge and Keith highlight this generation is more entitled and narcissistic than ever. Scary. (Note to self. One can lower one’ s risk of narcissism by avoiding social media.)
Given, not surprisingly, my self-esteem plummeted after looking at Facebook, I decided to call my sweet sister (SS).
SS: Hey! How are you?
Me: (Sniffle, sniffle, snotty nose blow) not good.
SS: What’s wrong?
Me: I am home on a Saturday night, and I feel like a loser.
SS: Most people our age are home on a Saturday night. I’m home.
Me: But you and the entire rest of the world are home with a significant other.
SS: Honey, you went through an incredibly painful divorce. Be gentle with yourself.
Me: (Big, pulsating snotty-nose blow) I know . . . (sniffle, sniffle) but I just want a date . . . to know someone thinks I am attractive . . .maybe buy me flowers.
SS: Are you expecting some good-looking guy to show up at your door and say, “hey are you missing this glass shoe?”
Me: Exactly! I would tell him, “Hey, I’ve been looking everywhere for that shoe. It fell into the wrong hands for awhile and got some scratches. I am so appreciative of you returning it. These glass slippers look super cute with my favorite cocktail dress.”
SS: You are amazing and beautiful but life just does not work that way.
Me: I (sniff, sniff) know.
SS: I think it would help you to stay away from Facebook for awhile.
Me: You’re right. Thank you for being such an amazing sister. I love you.
SS: I love you too. You won’t feel this way forever.
I attempted to distract myself from self-critical thoughts by cleaning the bath tub. No luck. I called my friend Steve.
Steve: Hey Amelia! What’s up?
Me: Me, a dateless wonder, home on a Saturday night.
Steve: Amelia, most people our age are home on Saturday night.
Me: That does not make me feel better. I also made the mistake of looking at Facebook during a very low and vulnerable moment.
Steve: Oooh Amelia, nothing good comes of that. What happened to your chocolate cupcakes?
Me: Out of cupcakes. Evidently all my Facebook friends have perfect lives, perfect partners, perfect children and perfect hair. Where could I post, “I feel lonely on a Saturday night and would like some companionship” or a picture of me in my 14-year-old Old Navy flag tee shirt and heart print pajama bottoms?
Steve: You really have a 14-year-old Old Navy shirt?
Me: It’s comfortable. . . That’s not the point! You’re supposed to be empathic. Aren’t you a psychologist?
Steve: We would all feel better if everyone was just f*@#!ing honest on Facebook . . .
Me: That’s it. We need F’ingHonest.com. We could eradicate shame and normalize imperfection! We could increase self-compassion
After this conversation, I reached out to friends and asked for f’ing honest posts. I received the following:
“I am running late for work again. I know my boss won’t care, but I feel guilty.”
“I feel like an imposter in academia.”
“My children drove me crazy today.”
“My husband and I got into a horrible fight.”
“I feel awful because my daughter is afraid to put her head under water while all the other children in her swim class are darting around like fish.”
“I am afraid of returning to the dating scene after my divorce for fear of rejection.”
Shame radiated from these posts; however, fear of being “less than” is universal. Shame and vulnerability researcher Brené Brown emphasizes sharing our shame stories reduces shame. Hence, in this spirit, I added a new page to Splendidly Imperfect Adventures – The Shame Eraser. This page is a safe space for myself and readers to be f’ing honest and to challenge shame. I encourage you to visit this page and say, “take that perfection and shame”!