Honest Pictures

Honest Pictures – Week Four – Mental Health & Motherhood

We made it! Week four of honest photos. I wanted to close this challenge out with mental health and motherhood. Before we get there I want to reiterate what I’ve been trying to show you all with this challenge. Here is the takeaway: SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT REAL LIFE.

Let’s go back to the ‘girl Greek island’ I Googled after I asked myself to close my eyes and imagine my dream vacation. I just posted the first picture I found, but the truth is I could have chosen from thousands.

“Our depictions of travel on social media have become an area in which homogeneity has started to be seriously discussed. The problem is all pictures have become identical: iconic tourist destination in the background, woman with the back to the camera wearing a cute dress, clutching at a straw hat. When you travel to any picturesque spot in the world today you encounter lines of young women trying to recreate the same images”

Katherine Ormerod, Why Social Media is Ruining Your Life

There are entire blogs dedicated to where the best photo ops are at tourist locations and if you go to them you will see a LINE of people waiting to get that same exact shot. So I want to remind you again. Here are some images of the same place all those above pictures were taken.

The barriers in question

Really quickly I want to tell you a story of when I was in Vatican City. I was wandering around this pillar statue that was in the middle of the area with all of these stone barriers surrounding it to stop assholes from ramming their cars into it. These really stunning young Swedish women were sitting on two of the barriers with one empty between them. They had their fashionable boots up on the empty barrier touching in the middle and they asked me to take their picture. I took several because I know what it’s like to want OPTIONS before you post. I gave their phone back, they thanked me and I got back in line to get into the Basilica. I passed the area again twenty minutes later (the line to get in is very long), and the two women are still there. This time I watch them ask a guy to take their picture. Have they been there this entire time? He takes their picture, they examine it for a moment before asking ANOTHER PERSON to take their photo. You guys. Is this how we spend our travel time now? Sitting on a cold stone barrier all day asking people to take photos of us in the same positions until we get one we think is post worthy? This can’t be our lives….

So here’s where your mental health comes into play. Weeks ago I asked you all to close your eyes and imagine your dream vacation. I bet most of you thought of photos you’ve seen online from OTHER PEOPLE in locations all over the world living their best life. The truth is you don’t know what was going on in that person’s life when they took that photo and had a caption that just said #bestlife or something else equally absurd. We’ve all done it. We’ve all posted inaccurate representations of our lives. I hope that the last three posts I’ve done have shown you that. What I want to challenge you all to do is when you start to feel that fear of missing out, the anxiety of not living as ‘exciting’ a life as what you see other people doing online, take a step away from the photo that is making you feel that way and imagine the real story behind that photo. If you imagine the girl looking at the ocean with a small Greek village island surrounding her, imagine seventeen other girls standing behind her waiting to take that same photo. Is that how you want to spend your time? Waiting to take a photo of your back so you can put it online and make people feel envious? Is that how we want to spend our time, money and life energy? I’m going to go with no.

The feelings you might have when you see photos like this can be extremely detrimental to your mental health. It can lead you to feel like you aren’t enough. Impostor syndrome starts to reel it’s ugly head. I challenge you to unfollow anyone that makes you feel inadequate. I used to follow a ton of celebrities on Instagram. Now the only verified accounts I follow are the Obama’s (duh) and The Happy Pear, because those boys bring me JOY. I used to scroll feeds of beautiful celebrities feeling less than, wishing I could have the life they do. Without those posts in my minds eye every day I feel so much happier. I follow people I know in real life. My feed isn’t so overwhelming now and in turn I find myself engaging more with people I actually care about and know. I challenge you do to the same. It will do wonders for your self image and mental health.

NOW ONTO BABIES! is a phrase I never thought I’d type.

I want to preface this with the fact that I am not a Mom. I don’t plan to be either, but I suppose you never really know. However, I have a lot of lovely wonderful friends who are mothers and some who are even about to become mothers! It’s VERY exciting for me to witness. I am so impressed sometimes when I see people I grew up with or people whose hair I used to hold back while they puked who are now actually raising small infants and doing a damn good job at it too. I wanted to talk about motherhood though because Ormerod’s book has an entire chapter on it and I think it can really help some women out there who are struggling because even I know, as a non-parent, how fucking hard it is to raise children and god damn people on social media who talk about it like it’s fucking sunshine and rainbows all the time 24/7. Mostly because it can make mothers who aren’t experiencing that to feel like complete shit.

I think we all need to do a better job of being up front and honest about raising kids. It’s okay to show beautiful family photos like this one (the two following excerpts from Ormerod’s book):

“You may see a photo of someone baking vegan treats with their kids, pristine homes in the background, handsome husbands just out of eye shot…these can make a mom who hasn’t showered in three days and eats take out noodles feel incomplete.”


So you feel like shit when this happens because they make it look so easy! Why isn’t it easy for me! Well here’s another bit that I suggest thinking about when you see something like this and it makes you feel less than:

“You can take a perfect motherhood pic and then get right back to the sofa with your sweatpants with baby sick in your hair and no one would know. There is zero point in using those perfect images you see to judge yourself on what you’re doing. ”

The truth is, and I say this with the limited extent of my lens as a non-mom: Motherhood can be a very vulnerable time. As women, we could all do with telling each other our honest experiences, particularly when it comes to our bodies. Enough of the shame.

And don’t even get me going on ‘body bounce back’ shit. Okay, I’m gonna get going on it anyway. Women’s bodies are kind of fucking incredible. We literally GROW HUMAN CHILDREN in our bodies. FOR MONTHS. Our bodies change drastically in this time. Not to mention all the crazy shit that can happen to them after the actual act of giving birth. This disgusting pressure we put on mothers to have the exact same bodies as they had pre-birth is one of the worst things we do to a mother’s mental health. You have just been through something truly incredible and your body will need time to heal and repair itself. Sometimes it doesn’t always go back to what it was 100%.

Celebrities in particular have staff dedicated full time to get them back into shape within weeks of giving birth, with nutritionists, personal trainers, the luxury of not having to go back to work right away 9-5, not to mention NANNIES. I don’t know any mother in real life that has those kinds of resources at their disposal. Most of them just seem to be trying to support their new families as soon as possible after their baby comes into the world (via their vagina. Did I mention women’s bodies are kind of amazing and also insane).

Puke.
Fuck you Maria Kang. An average person’s ‘excuse’ could be a number of things. You make it seem like laziness is the only reason we shouldn’t all have six packs eight months after giving birth. Seriously, Google ‘diastutie recti’ you can’t even lift heavy objects for months after this shit happens to you never mind, 10 lb dumbbells. Come now.

Not every woman’s pregnancy is the same. Our experiences during and after this time are really going to be unique to our own bodies. We need to listen to our bodies and not let photos other people may take while on similar journeys make us feel bad about where we are at in our own journey.

Okay, whew. We made it and I’m only left feeling slightly angry after typing all that. Just one more ‘GO MOMS’ for all you amazing women out there procreating and shaping our next generation. If you want to do a good job, then you already are. If you’re worried about if you’re doing it right then you’re doing it right. Just like with schooling, careers, and every other facet of human lives NO ONE REALLY KNOWS WHAT THEY ARE DOING. We are all just doing the best we can. We are all this dog:

Remember this dog. Print this dog. Put it on your fridge. Put it at your desk. Put it on your child’s forehead. Life lessons.

Remember if photos of other people are making you feel like shit….unfollow them. They aren’t doing it on purpose (I hope!), but that doesn’t matter. You gotta do you first. Don’t let these images of a moment in someone else’s life, ruin YOUR life. Remember that that’s all it is: a moment! We don’t know what was actually going on before, during or after that photo was taken!

That wraps up honest photos month! I hope you all enjoyed it. Let me know what you thought in the comments or anywhere else online. I’m pretty much ‘hollishillis’ on every platform. If you have ideas of what I should do next let me know! I have February mapped out for my monthly challenge and it’s a doozy you guys. I’m actually having real anxiety of how I will manage it. Here’s a hint: news.

Push-up Update: I’m back at it! The first week I did knee push ups and fucked up my shoulder, then I was out two weeks, but I’m back and doing wall push-ups now. I’m trying not to feel weak and sad about this. My journey is not everyone else’s journey. I have to take care of my body and go slow and as much as I want to just get back down and do the knee ones again I’m going to do the wall ones for another week and then try to move to the knees ones again. I did 40 total this week and I was a little sore, but nothing was damaged so I’m feeling good. I still think I will be able to do 100 real push ups consecutively by the end of the year. Slow and steady wins the whatever. See you all for February’s challenge next week!

Honest Pictures

Honest Pictures – Week Two – Honest Social Media

LiveJournal: 2004-2006

MySpace: 2005-2007

Facebook: 2007-Present

Instagram: 2013-Present

That is the lifespan of my social media accounts. These were and are the big four where I can remember portraying myself for the first time in a way that wasn’t always 100% honest. These four platforms of Live Journal, MySpace, Facebook and Instagram are the ones where I put enough of myself into them that I can still go back and see what kind of person I was pretending to be when I was on them. Livejournal wasn’t for pictures. It was for airing your teenage thoughts in an extremely vague way and hoping someone would comment and ask you if you were alright or say that they thought you were funny. It’s the first social platform I can remember being solidly addicted to. Here is a sample of 15 year old me being sad on it.

This was the least embarrassing entry I found. I cringed so hard today reading all these that I think I broke a blood vessel. I was the weirdest teenager. Also, remember when texts cost money and weren’t unlimited?

Unfortunately (or fortunately?) MySpace took off in such a different direction than it was in in the early 2000s that you can’t go back and see your posts or your friends. Profiles have changed and the platform looks nothing like it once did. If you still have an account you were too lazy to delete, it’s impossible to go back and see what you’ve posted, which is probably a good thing. I remember being a bit of wannabe ‘scene kid’ when I was in high school. I was really into going to local shows, dyeing my hair bright shades of red, wearing belts sideways, and taking many many selfies with my giant digital camera hoping that I could pull off a great MySpace bathroom pic.

This is the closest I ever got in photo form to feeling like I was belonging of being super fucking cool *CRINGE*

It was the first time I remember feeling like I could never look a certain way. Remember those scene hair cuts the girls had? Short, weird layers, highlights, parted on the side. I wanted to have one so badly, but my hair was just too thick to pull it off. Now I love my thick hair, but I remember just thinking it was the worst thing to not look like everyone else I was seeing online. I also was poor. I couldn’t go buy band t-shirts, collar shirts to stick under them, multiple studded belts, etc. My parents would also kill me if I got snake bite piercings, which fortunately I only wanted really badly for a week or two. This is all extremely embarrassing now that I type it up, but it’s the truth and it’s important to tell it because this was the first time in my life that I played the COMPARISON GAME.

Depressed

Then came Facebook. Instagram luckily didn’t exist in 2008-2009 when I first moved to Seattle to go to school. I can only imagine how my mental state would have deteriorated even further from it if it was around. I did however post on Facebook a few times about how awesome I was doing, how Seattle GOT me and how I was living this great life at college. I felt like I had to lie and let people think I was doing really well there. I saw everyone else living their best lives online and I thought, why is my life not like that? Not even thinking that maybe those people weren’t doing as good as they said they were.

Truthfully, I hadn’t really made any friends, I lived in a single dorm, ate alone and walked to class alone. I had a few friends that were living in the area and saw them sometimes, but mostly I was alone and my boyfriend at the time (now husband) lived six hours away. My parents had just gotten a divorce, I moved to a city I didn’t know anyone in, I was dealing with a some problems that were all about to come to a head, and I was depressed. I didn’t even realize it at the time, but it took me a year after I graduated and moved back home to finally understand how bad it was.

Starvin’ like marvin’

Facebook was JUST taking off and no one really understood how it worked yet, or what you were supposed to do with it. I didn’t really post on any social network sites during this time, but I have a few pictures I took of myself during this time and was close to developing an eating disorder. This is one of the few pics I have at the time. I wasn’t unhealthy thin yet, I don’t have any pictures of that time, but I was eating hardly anything and I continued to from October 2008-June 2009. Luckily I moved back home after I graduated and my eating habits returned to semi-normal although it wouldn’t be until 2012 that I really felt I had a normal relationship with food again. I still look back at my time in Seattle as a really lovely time, but sometimes it scares me to think about the person I was becoming.

Essentially all this so far has just been to show you how social media shaped me from my very first account until now. How we put the version of ourselves out there that we want other people to see. To show you that what you see isn’t always the truth.

Then came INSTAGRAM. I resisted getting an account for SO LONG, but finally took the leap in 2013. I do really enjoy Instagram. I’m not knocking it, but I think it’s important to be honest about our lives when we share photos and also to help people realize that what you’re seeing is a curated, chosen snapshot of someone’s day: not the real life they are living.

I think the best way to show you the truth is sharing some photos I posted during the first two years that I moved from Spokane to Portland. The in between time from my undergrad degree in Seattle to my life in Portland was filled with a great part time job in Spokane with the best coworkers who turned into the best friends, lots of drinking (I just turned 21) and getting a masters degree because I didn’t want to grow up and school seemed easier. Also Spokane had ZERO jobs at the time and I eventually turned 23 and really needed to get my shit together. So I started applying to jobs in Seattle and Portland and I got one in Portland immediately so I put in my two weeks, packed up my car, prepared to do a long distance relationship (again) and peaced out of Spokane. I was nervous, but excited. I wasn’t sure I was doing the right thing, but I knew I was never going to find the job I wanted in Spokane. Also, from the moment I moved there in 2002 I’d been trying to escape.

Peace out Spokane. Bigger and better pastures is what this picture says. What this picture doesn’t tell you is that I spent two hours crying before I took it, not wanting to leave my boyfriend (again) and unsure if I was making a good decision.

I was going to stay with my Aunt and Uncle in Portland until I could save enough to move out. Jesse was planning on following me once he found a job and all we had to do was save money and wait. It would be EASY. And if it wasn’t easy (and it wasn’t) I sure as shit wasn’t going to tell anyone about it. I started my new job the next day and realized quickly that I had fallen into a terrible, terrible call center scam. Oh, stupid me. Stupid me. Still, it wasn’t a bad company and if you could crush it hard enough at sales you could move up to actually do search engine marketing for them (the job I thought I was getting). It just took some dedication and time. Unfortunately for me, I’m really bad at sales. Really bad. Mostly because I don’t believe in them. I’m really against selling someone something they don’t need or really want. So for the next two months I got up at 4am, drove to work pep talking myself and crying, got on the phones, didn’t make sales, and felt like complete and utter shit.

Honesty for once, but I tried to turn it into a joke. I was drinking half a bottle of something every day.

One great thing about Portland is we have the BEST food. THE BEST FOOD. I didn’t know anyone and I was sad so I spent a lot of time after work eating. And when that didn’t make me feel better I spent a lot of time after work drinking. I made this all sound VERY cool of me but I was putting on weight and getting majorly depressed. Even more depressed than my time in Seattle and this time I knew how to recognize it. All I wanted to do was sleep. On the weekends I’d wake up, pretend to be normal for a few hours and then go in my room to pretend to job search and just fall asleep again for six more hours. I was spending every moment I wasn’t at my awful job sleeping, drinking, or eating. I missed Jesse. I missed my old job (actually almost tried to get it back and admit defeat). I missed having friends. I missed not having panic attacks at the thought of going to work.

Mercifully the job fired me at the 3 month mark (just before I would have been eligible for health insurance, nice job America). **Side note: I was able to get insurance for a year and a half after this for free through the affordable care act and I am so grateful. It allowed me access to birth control, dental care I desperately needed and antibiotics when I had an infection during this time)** I was confused, scared, but also a bit happy because I didn’t think I could handle it much longer. I kept it to myself for a few days intending to tell Jesse on Monday. Instead he called me first and told me he found a job in Portland. Well….here we go. We decided to make the move official and he came to live with me in my tiny room at my Aunt and Uncles where I put on a brave face and job hunted while he went to work every day. We were both pretty miserable and it was definitely a low for us. I blamed myself for moving us here and our unhappiness, but we honestly couldn’t go back. There were no jobs where we were and Jesse liked his. That was a silver lining. I would job hunt like crazy, go on interviews daily, but anytime I wasn’t doing that, I was back to sleeping and eating and pretending to be happy when I was awake (luckily I kicked the drinking). So what were my posts like during this weird limbo period? Oh they were the exact opposite of my real feelings. A bunch of pics of me eating Portland food and living my best life in the big city. Ooo the ocean! Ooo bridges! Ooo cheese factories!

Sometimes the truth soaked through and I let people see a bit of what I was feeling (see below), but I never really just came out and said it. I AM DEPRESSED. I REGRET MOVING HERE. I SPEND ALL DAY IN THE DARK SLEEPING OR WATCHING TV WISHING I COULD TAKE BACK THE LAST THREE MONTHS.

I’m grateful we moved here though. I really love Portland (it’s been six years!) and I’m so happy we came here for several reasons. One of them being that I got to know my niece really well, who was just a newborn when I first came. She’s been such a joy in my life and I’m so grateful I got the opportunity to watch her grow up.

I’m going to stop here in late 2013 and pick up next week right here as I talk though the photos I was posting after this time in my life. Mostly because it’s really career and job focused and I wanted to talk about social media and photos we post in relation to money and careers. I’ll be sharing what I posted during the few shit jobs that followed this period all the way up until now. Sometimes I was honest…sometimes I wasn’t.

I want to wrap up honest photos on week four with some truths about motherhood and pregnancy. I am not a mother and I have not been pregnant, but the book I’m reading on Social Media had a really wonderful chapter on this that spoke to me as a woman and I wanted to share. Also, I know a lot of you reading this are pregnant or have kids and I think what I read was really important and I want to share it with you all.

Let me know in the comments about your social media untruths. Was there a time you made a big life decision and made it look MUCH cooler than it actually was? Until next week.

PUSH UP UPDATE: I didn’t want to share this with you all because I was embarrassed, but in the realm of honesty I have found myself in this month….I had to stop push ups this week because I hurt myself. This isn’t as embarrassing as showing you that clip from my LiveJournal, but still I’m not very pleased with myself. Sad to say I probably should have started with wall push ups instead of knee push ups. I’m recovering now from a pinched nerve in my shoulder and an aggravation of my mild carpal tunnel (yay office life) in my wrists because of the work I’ve done so far. I didn’t want to stop making progress (because I really was), but I also was warned from a friend to take my push ups easy because if you push your body too hard when it’s not ready you could end up doing some real lasting damage. So I listened to them and to my body and stopped. I’m hoping to pick back up with wall push ups next week once I feel I’ve fully recovered. I’m committed to doing 100 real push ups in a row without stopping by the end of the year. I just have to take a bit of a detour. Any advice if you’re an exercise person IS welcome.