Q&A with an Oho : Clearing the Clutter

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A. Truth time. I’ve put off answering this question for a while.

In part because I’m not sure there’s one-stop-shop answer for everyone but also because I don’t know how to answer this question without seeming like a great big failure at life. But, just a couple days ago, I had a wonderfully open and honest conversation about this very thing with a friend and what I’m realizing is that this is a thing. A big thing. In our industry, in social media, in mom groups, in friend groups, in frenemy groups, in other industries, in life in general – this is a big, huge, monster of a topic that has everyone talking in circles. The pervasive “LOOK AT WHAT I BOUGHT/HAVE/AM DOING/HAVE DONE!!” infiltrates every part of our lives and, save for cutting social media out of our lives completely, it’s a one-sided conversation that can be next to impossible to turn off.

Here’s our catch-22. We surround ourselves, both in real life & in our online lives, with others who are going and doing and achieving the same things we want to be going and doing and achieving and, at one point, that provided inspiration and motivated us to go big and do big and achieve big but now we just wonder why all we feel is left behind. We are friends and follow people who have made a living doing something they love and those same people talk about and/or document their lives in a way that makes us feel inadequate. We see photos of beaches, shopping sprees and the sweet little chubby cheeks of a baby and just KNOW that their lives are filled with only pretty things. 24/7. We see links to photo features, interviews with major media outlets and too many exclamation points to count and feel jaded that our lives aren’t filled with as many “so humbled by this” entries. These people are witty, rich, beautiful and we are dumb, poor and in need of a life makeover.

Wait. WHAT?!

I think, intellectually, we can all agree that we know these are carefully curated perspectives on someone’s life and that we’ll rarely (never) be allowed to see the messy kitchen floor, coach seats in the back of the plane and sobbing-because-it-hurts-too-much moments that occur in life (in everyone’s life). But do we feel it in our hearts or do we just feel like we’ll never be good enough?

The general reality of of being human is that our victories never feel as big as they are or last as long as they should and our failures feel all-encompassing, insurmountable and like they will never, ever end. These people we follow, friend and like with their “perfect” lives feel this. Corporate CEOs feel this. Small-town mailroom employees feel this. It’s not a unique emotion but yet no one really talks about it because it feels weak.

Friends, I feel weak talking about it.

Listen. We have messy emotions as humans. We get our feelings hurt tremendously easily. We hate the feeling of not having it all together and assume that the grass is always, always greener on the other side. We never, ever want to feel passed-over or not included and God forbid our failures become public or it appears as if we aren’t “busy” enough to our industry peers. And the dangerous part of that is that we compare our secret-failings and exclusions with the curated viewpoint of someone else’s life. I am guilty of this and I know I’m not the only one based on the influx of “Stop Instagramming Your Perfect Life“-esque articles that catch like wildfire on my Facebook & Twitter feeds.

However, what I am reading in these articles are solutions that aren’t actually practical. Often it is suggested that a “ritual cleanse” is in order and that we should be ridding our lives of this toxicity by quitting our social media habits and getting out to live our life instead of being envious of the life we think someone else lives. And while there is some truth to that, for me, this is a solution that just doesn’t work on a broader scale. And I venture to say that if you are a business owner, this all-or-nothing mentality to social media doesn’t work for you either. My online presence is as much a part of my brand as the photos I post on this blog; one is not complete without the other. Besides, even if I weren’t a business owner, I’m not sure the best solution available is to make myself an island.

This thing, this monster we’ve created that associates feelings of sadness, anxiety and inadequacy with the use of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram isn’t actually the fault of these social outlets. At one point, the people & brands we chose to follow inspired us and made our lives seemingly better but something changed and I venture to guess that we are the ones who had the perspective shift. So, what are we supposed to do with the knowledge that we – the you, we and the me, we – are the problem?

I’m certainly not perfect on this topic and I’m most definitely not an expert but whenever life starts to get a little cluttered there are particular activities that bring me back to the reality that my life, business and wardrobe are all pretty great even if it’s not all pretty, 100% of the time.

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Go for a walk. Give the dog a good belly-scratching. Organize a desk drawer. Call your mom. Go buy a bouquet of flowers and put it in a pretty vase. Do something that inspires you. Kiss your significant other. Make out with them if you are feeling frisky. Read your Bible. Cook a batch of cookies. Surprise a friend with a balloon and said cookies. Go visit an art museum. Weed your garden. Grab a blanket and a book and go sit by a lake. Take a yoga class. Private dance party to Robin Thicke’s new song.

DO THE THINGS THAT CREATE JOY IN YOUR LIFE. It’s not the best solution in every case but 95% of the time, just turning off my phone and turning up the volume on life is exactly what I needed.

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Could it be as easy as choosing to be happy for someone instead of envious?

Another truth time? June of this year was a rough month for me. If I wasn’t shooting a wedding, I was traveling. If I wasn’t traveling, I was editing. If I wasn’t editing, I was party planning. If I wasn’t doing any of those things, my pulse had likely stopped. Life felt cluttered and out of control in general. And then I got sick. A nasty, summer cold just days before a 3-week long non-stop, continuous, go-go-go-ing that included travel, weddings, events, out of town guests and enough meetings to last a lifetime. In the middle of cold medicine & used tissues, a friend (whom I love) posted a mid-week Instagram photo of coffee & the current issue of Vogue in bed and I nearly lost it. From my toes to the top of my head, I just felt so totally overwhelmed with envy that I literally had to stop, breathe and remind myself that I truly did like this person.

Now I can share a laugh with said Instagrammer over my extreme reaction to her non-offensive coffee & magazine but at the time, it felt like a representation of everything I was missing out on. Here I was, living my dreams to the max but felt so completely shaken to the core by the fact that I felt like I couldn’t revel in something as simple as a morning ritual. Let me repeat that. I was living my dream but yet that wasn’t enough for me. 

I realize that sometimes life gets that way and we want the exact opposite of what we have. But sometimes it is as simple as choosing to be happy. Happy for someone else’s successes. Happy for someone else’s mid-week oasis. Happy for someone else’s ability to soak in & share moments we don’t have, simply because we love them as a person and call them friend.

And one last thing because I think it needs to be said.

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  Someone else’s greatness does not equal MY weakness.

Whenever I start to get caught up in what others are doing and what I’m doing or not doing in comparison, I forget that the time and energy I am expending brooding or feeling inadequate is time that I could be investing back into my life, my business and my loves. Every moment that I am spending feeling insignificant is a moment wasted. Life is too short to spend it being envious of someone else’s equally imperfect life. So please, my friends, go live your perfectly imperfect life and Facebook/Tweet/Instagram the crap out of it so I can give you an internet fist bump.

Also. To the person who opened up and sent me this email oh-so-long ago. You are MORE than good enough to succeed in this business but you have to believe that first. So believe it. Because you are.

(8) Comments

  1. so proud to call you my friend. xxx

  2. jen

    just what I needed to read! Thanks for sharing!!

  3. Kelly B.

    Smiling. Heart feels happy. Inspired. Encouraged. This is how I feel after reading this AMAZING post!! You are the best, my love. And I LOVED our chat on Tuesday.

  4. Christina

    Incredibly insightful post, Melissa! I couldn’t agree more. Our industry is full of social media lives that are seemingly perfect. Let’s choose happiness over envy! Thanks for the thought-provoking blog post!

  5. Very timely for me today. Thanks so much for sharing! I feel encouraged :-)

  6. kirsten

    amen. x’s 5.

  7. Brittany Rams

    So insightful to use the word curate to describe social media. So true! But I had never thought of it that way. Case in point, most of my current photos are from days when my hair and makeup were professionally done. Those 365 days of no photos are bad hair days, so busy I ran out of shampoo and getting up at 6am on weekends to do homework in a robe!

  8. AMEN! amen. amen. amen. amen. amen. amen. amen!!!!!!!!
    thank you for posting this.