Since my sister introduced me to Pinterest about two years ago I have gone through spurts of using it like an addict, then avoiding it like the plague. (Thanks Jessie.)
In theory it is a perfect tool for keeping my desktop from becoming a dumping ground of screenshots of things I’d like to purchase (when I win the lottery I don’t play) or blog links for recipes I will try (if I ever get less scared of working unsupervised in the kitchen).
But in reality, instead of neatly corralling my own inspiration, I’m far too often guilty of using it almost exclusively to stalk the things filling other people’s electronic “inspiration boards.”
In reality, I gorge on ideas how to make my home pretty, while overlooking practical things like keeping it clean.
I watch, like a hawk, to see what other people are deeming trendy, stylish, helpful, important, from fashion fixes to pallet furniture, and food facials to family advice.
And as a result I OD on the inspiration, instead of doing anything useful with it. I pin and pin and pin, 'til I'm exhausted and disapointed that I've wasted yet another evening, without trying any one of those "genius," even "life-changing" tips I pinned.
It’s gotten so bad – at points – that my husband has threatened to schedule a “Pintervention.”
And I couldn’t blame him if he tried, OCD as I’ve been about making it through the latest “Popular” posts.
But his concern, and my disappointment, haven't stopped me from logging on and loading up on ideas, ideas of what I think my life should look like.
Even when I realize I’m seeing the same three pins over and over, or perplexed at how obsessed people are with Olivia Polermo (wasn’t she just a backup star on The Hills?)… I have a hard time pulling away from the draw that is Pinterest.
The time-suck alone should be cause for alarm.
But there's an even bigger problem that lurks beneath the 8,000 pins and 20,000 likes I've accumulated. A problem bigger than the time I've lost, and the overwhelmed feeling I get when I overdo it, combined.
It's the lie I buy into when I fail to realize what Pinterest really is.
It's not a peek into other people's lives. It's not an honest look at anyone else's existence.
It's a goal sheet, a shopping list, a bulletin board at best.
And, at its worse, it's a smoke screen hiding real life behind expertly lit photographs.
Pictures that tell half truths, the best parts, of other people's stories.
While highlighting the negatives in your own existence.
Seeming to pinpoint all the places your life should be, and could be, so much better.
When I log on to Pinterest I’m not actually seeing people’s practical small kitchen storage solutions. I’m seeing a stylized shoot put on by a woman with unlimited resources, like diva Martha Stewart.
I’m not actually learning how to affordably update my fall wardrobe. I’m being bombarded with “Must Have” buys, many that bloggers are endorsing (in spite of astronomical pricetags) because those items have been C/Oed to them.
And I love Martha's tips. And I think it's great - incredible - when bloggers are able to earn a living - or fabulous shoes! - doing what they love.
But for readers (like myself) it becomes dangerously easy to confuse a highlight reel of other people's fashion choices, home decor, and dinner offerings... for what life needs to look like in order to be good.
What's a girl without Coach shipping her free sunglasses supposed to do?
It's not like the idea behind Pinterest is new. Or that this dilemma - of wanting what other people have, but really just wanting your own life to look prettier, neater, easier! - has only existed as long as the internet.
HARDLY! I'm sure there were cave women discussing who wore the tiger skin best.
But I do think the more accessible, the more pervasive "inspiration" becomes, the harder it becomes to be present - and content - with where we are and what we have.
The more time we spend overloading our brains with ways to make our lives "better,"
the less time we spend enjoying, and being grateful, for how good they already are.
Please don't get me wrong. I really like Pinterest, and I know some people use it incredibly well (the way it was intended I'm sure).
I LOVE getting ideas, like how to maximize under-the-bed storage. It’s why I have a four-foot tall stack of home magazines I just can’t seem to let go.
I LOVE finding ways to rework my favorite shirts, and dresses, into fun new outfit combinations.
I LOVE learning how to turn crayons and a hair dryer into unique art to fill my home, or how to transform dishwashing soap into an awesome, affordable Christmas present.
But the percentage of time I spend actually doing those things, compared to how much time I spend envying the lives I think other people lead – based on carefully curated pins – is sad. And really quite scary.
Because even though I know way better, I too often buy into the lie, that what I see on Pinterest is real life for everyone but messy, frazzled me.
And then I start worrying that my life is not as good as I once thought, because I don't own a Cost Co-sized tub of coconut oil, or because I have to improvise and use a fruit basket as a drying rack after baking one of the 90 bread loaf recipes I pinned.
With Pinterest, but really anytime I choose to start the nasty comparison cycle, the best of what others are presenting becomes the standard to which I compare my whole life.
And I become obsessed with finding fancier ways of storing extra toilet paper, instead of doing practical things, like washing my clothes (with store bought detergent) or putting away my off-trend dishes.
The ironic thing is that Pinterest itself will tell you, and I’ve told you before, as I've told myself many times…
I think deep down we all know it, that no one wins in the comparison game.
But it doesn't stop us from playing, or from getting carpal tunnel syndrome from pinning. So what will put an end to the madness? What will finally stop the vicious cycle?
Last week a bit of a revelation happened for me when I realized that the reason I often feel sad when I’m logging off of Pinterest isn't because I’m sad to say goodbye to an “App” (one that too often monopolizes my life).
It’s because after perusing so much "inspiration," I’m no longer satisfied by the wonderful things in my life. I’m too distracted by all the things I feel l need to be truly happy, like all those other people must be.
No wonder the days I avoid it altogether I’m often happier and more content with where I am, whether it's eating at a much-loved downtown restaurant, or enjoying a cheap frozen pizza on an ugly couch with my very cute husband.
Even knowing it, though, it's hard not to open that app. The pull is strong, with that one. Pinterest, you don't know what you do to me.
As a sometimes recovering, sometimes full-blown, neurotic perfectionist, I know all too well how hard it can be to kick a bad habit. And I think it is particularly tough when the product itself isn't inherantly bad, as is the case with my love-it-hate-it Pinterest.
But that's why in this case I feel the solution isn't to go cold turkey, or accept my addiction.
Instead I'm trying really hard to rethink how I use it. And I'm training myself to use it as a tool once again, instead of a distraction, or a vice.
If I’m honest with myself - and you - the reason I haven’t written more lately isn’t because I haven’t had things to share, or the time to do it.
It’s because I have been embarrassed that my blog isn’t expertly designed, or supported by sponsors like Ruche and J.Crew.
I've loaded up on inspiration from other bloggers, and ended up feeling inadequate, unworthy.
I've worried that because my voice isn’t succinct, or hysterical, I must not have anything of worth to say.
I've worried that because I lead a very simple, small life, my story might not matter.
So I haven't said much. I've given in to the fears. The fears created by comparing. Fears that do nothing but keep me from being my best, boldest self.
And it saddens me so, that I've wasted so much time. Comparing. Cowering. Critizing myself.
Not because the world can't live without another blog, but because I need what I have tried to create in this space.
I need a chance to sort through feelings, and celebrate small victories.
I need to make my voice heard, the best way I know how, which right now is through this blog, this imperfect, maybe design-dated, but very personal, and very special to me, blog.
You may or may not care to know that I’m writing this post from a quaint little coffee shop, that happens to be located in the nearest grocery store, and isn't actually quanit at all.
I thought being here would make me feel more creative, more inspired, than doing it from that ugly couch I mentioned before.
But honestly, the elevator music they’re playing sucks. And I have a horrible view of the Mohawk-ed barista actin’ a fool behind the counter.
This isn’t at all what I’d hoped for, when I left the house today.
But I’m so glad to be here, with a pretty good latte and the time I needed to do this. Because, I needed to do this. For myself mostly, but maybe for you too.
I needed to say enough with the comparison. It’s time to get real.
And I think it's fitting I'm doing so in the greener grass I thought this coffee shop would be, only to realize all I really want is to be home. All I really want is to be back in my home, a place I belong, and frankly, a place I don't have to ask a stranger to watch my laptop in order to go pee.
Honestly, friends - and people who may have stumbled here from a technorati link (I still don't know what those are) - I’m a 29-year-old woman who gets most of my clothes when I have the Kohl’s cash to cover them, or when Target goes red-sticker clearance.
My favorite meal of late is a turkey bacon sandwich. It’s not fancy, or complicated. But it is delicious, and it’s not a Double Cheeseburger (which for me is progress).
I work for wonderful people at a job that sometimes drives me crazy.
And I still haven’t figured out what I want to be when I grow up.
But today I feel great knowing, finally, that I don’t want to be the bloggers I read everyday, though I admire them so.
I just want to be me. Cheesy as that sounds.
I just want to be who I am, who I really am.
I am a woman that hates drying dishes, and my hair.
A daughter to parents that I don’t call often enough (Hi!).
A sister that reaches out mostly to talk about Lifetime movies.
And a friend that buys wonderful birthday gifts then forgets to mail them (text me Wyndi).
A wife that isn’t a ton of help in the kitchen, but likes laughing through the learning.
And a writer still finding my voice, after years and years of trying.
Basically, my name is Jennifer. I’m a Pinterest-aholic. It’s been about two hours since my last pin. And I’ve never been happier.
This is another in a series of post inspired by the Love Yourself Linkup founded by Anne the Adventurer. I'm so grateful for the challenge to dig a little deeper, and accept myself - and my life - more wholeheartedly.
Thanks ladies for inspiring me with your words and your bravery. But thanks even more for the push to join in on the movement, instead of watching from the sidelines.