A friend of mine who is a photographer and blogger told me that a commenter recently mentioned that while she loves my friend’s blog, she doesn’t like to visit it too often, because my friend’s life “seems so lovely,” and it made the commenter “feel bad about her own life.” My friend, understandably, felt rather guilty, since it is never her intent to make anyone feel awful. She just shares what she enjoys about her life.
This entire situation saddens me. But what’s even worse, it doesn’t surprise me in the least.
This commenter’s discomfort, obviously, is based on a comparison she made between her own life and my friend’s — a comparison, incidentally, that is not based in any logic whatsover. When I wrote my book, The Beauty of Different, one of the people I interviewed said something that seemed so profound at the time, yet so simply obvious. She said:
“I don’t compare myself to other people, because I finally figured out that when I do, all I’m really doing is comparing my insides to their outsides. Comparing myself to anyone is just such a waste of time.”
I love this, and it’s so true. Furthermore, I also believe:
1. No blogger’s life is perfect. Not one. Every single person, whether she shares her life online or doesn’t, deals with hardship, pain, challenges and difficulty. Just because a blogger doesn’t share her hardship or pain doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. And don’t believe otherwise.
2. This fact notwithstanding, a blogger may choose not to share something painful about his story, his past, or his current situation, for many reasons: he’d rather not relive it on his blog, he feels too vulnerable when he shares something personal, or most likely, it’s not really anyone’s business but his own. Bloggers’ choosing to refrain from publishing something doesn’t make them deceitful or inauthentic, it merely makes them private. And despite what the media might lead you believe, there is nothing flawed with choosing to keep some events and emotions private.
3. Similarly, while I think bloggers should definitely be honest in the posts they do write; there is no requirement to divulge what posts they don’t write.
4. While I can’t speak for all bloggers, I do know that when I share something beautiful in my life, whether here or on my personal blog, I am doing it as an act of gratitude. I suspect this is true of many people who share good things, and particularly true of photobloggers (photographing something beautiful is often accompanied by a feeling of gratitude). In my mind, gratitude is not about boastfulness, it is about mindfulness — it’s about taking time to stop and notice what is good in life, to help cope with what is difficult. If a gratitude practice is honest, there isn’t any ego involved at all — it is all about self-care.
And finally, and most importantly:
5. We all have something to be grateful for, every single day. Every one of us. I do not mean to suggest that some of us aren’t going through real, undeniable pain — obviously – but I do think that even with this pain, there is something redeemable in our days for which we can feel gratitude. It could be that we have friends and family helping us through, but it also might be as mundane as a roof over our head, or warm water to splash on our faces at night, or even the fact that an internet connection is permitting you to read these words right now. As you sit, thinking about what you can be grateful for in your life, even if whatever comes to mind seems trivial or meaningless, it’s not. It counts, dammit.
I believe gratitude is essential to living a joyful life.
And so today, this Gratitude Friday, I’ll challenge you to share something — just one little thing — that you’re grateful for this week. Leave an anonymous comment, if you want to, but still, leave a comment. Go through photographs you’ve taken recently with your cell phone, or think about the most recent good meal you’ve had, or the last time you laughed with a friend, or smiled at a child, or someone simply held the door open for you when you were walking into a building. There’s something to be grateful for, I promise.
Here, I’ll go first:
I’m grateful for cupcakes. I had one this week, just a splurge, and it was awesome.
Now you: what are you grateful for? Leave it in the comments. I guarantee just saying it “out loud” will make you feel good.
And I promise I’ll feel nothing but joy for you, too.
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