Ditching the Highlight Reel

Where it all Begins … with Poop. 

I didn’t know. No one had told me. I thought something was wrong.

WHY didn’t anyone tell me that this was a thing? Why don’t new moms talk about things like this? And why in this world of over-sharing on social media, had no one mentioned it? I seriously thought something was terribly wrong with my rear end. WHY didn’t anyone tell me that poop happens during childbirth? The nurse tried to tell me everyone does it but, at that point, I figured she was just humouring me, trying to soothe my shame of having just defecated in front of a room full of people.

I went to the childbirth class. Okay, yes, I skipped the eight-week session because who has time. But we went to our one day slackers’ class, heard the stories, watched the videos, played with the plastic baby. Never did the instructor mention back labour or table poop.

Let’s just get it all out on the table. With natural childbirth, there is a very good chance you will poop in front of every one. Every. One. And it’s totally normal. And almost everyone does it. But here’s the thing – NO ONE really talks about this.

And no one tells you that, if you are lucky enough to be blessed with the excruciating hell that is “back labour,” it will feel like the baby is literally coming out of your butt. I was 30 hours into a 31 hour labour with our first born, not sure if I was actually pushing or not, because the epidural had frozen everything but my bottom, and I couldn’t take it anymore. I actually stopped everything. I yelled, “Wait a minute!” much to the shock and fright of the nurse and doctor. They looked up from between my legs in fear, not sure what was wrong. I very firmly said, “Would somebody please do something about my ASS?”

If only someone would have mentioned this, shared the down-and-dirty facts, told me their own experience, I might not have been terrified that I was about to experience a colossal blowout.

Fast forward a few years … Our kids start to get a bit older, to develop their own personalities and their own opinions on when and how they should do things like get ready in the morning, or whether or not it’s appropriate to punch their little sister. I thought I was the only mom out there who yelled. The only one with a messy house. The only mom who felt like she was not holding it together. The only one who felt like she was failing.

If only we freely and openly shared these feelings, even within the safety of mom circles, we might not feel like there’s something wrong, or that we don’t measure up.

The Perils of Not-so-Social Media

Life gets busy and with kids’ activities, work, and trying to manage a home. Sometimes those in-person, face-to-face get-togethers get farther and farther apart. So how do you stay in touch? You go to social media. You scroll the feed, past photos and status updates. Not truly making a connection, but more-so taking an inventory of what your friends are doing. This is possibly the worst thing you could do. Because what do people share on social media? The highlight reel. For the most part we are over-sharing the surface stuff, and under-sharing the truth.

The highlight reel isn’t REAL. It’s a fraction of our day and, in some cases, it has taken multiple picture attempts to achieve what actually gets posted. When we don’t share what’s real, we’re not doing ourselves or anyone else any favours. We’re perpetuating the cycle. It can tank our confidence, which makes us feel worse, so then other peoples’ highlights bring us even further down.

I conducted a poll in my local mom group on Facebook, and this is what I found:
• 83% of respondents do not share their struggles on social media
• 88% compare themselves to others on social media
• 80% say that if affects how they feel about themselves
• 83% feel worse about themselves as a result

Barely anyone is sharing the hard stuff. If they are, they’re likely glossing things over and not fully admitting how they are feeling in the moment. And if you are likely to compare yourself to others, yet all you see is the highlights and the shiny perfect stuff, then OF COURSE you will feel like crap. If no one is being open and sharing the real truths of how hard life can sometimes be, then how can we ever know that when we feel crappy, it’s perfectly normal?

Pulling Back the Curtain

I post on my Facebook page daily. I share my workouts, my meals, stuff about our life. But it’s the posts I make where I “pull back the curtain,” where I get raw and real and admit something that not many people admit publicly, that hit home for people. Those are the posts where I get comments and messages of solidarity, thanking me for keeping it real and sharing the truth. For letting them know they’re not alone.

WHY are we all so afraid to share the truth? The perpetuation of only showing the good stuff, until it gets so bad that you either disappear off social media or you blow up and post some plea for help, is making things WORSE.

Ultimately, we are not doing ourselves any favours by presenting to be more together than we are. The “fake it till you make it” concept is acceptable at work because it can be necessary for career development, but what about in life? If we are always faking it and feeling like we don’t fully have it nailed or that we don’t measure up to some unattainable ideal, then how will we EVER feel okay? If we can’t get real about the shit in our daily lives – our fears, our worries, our struggles, even our medical conditions – then we will never know that our friends and neighbours have had the same or similar experiences and that we are NORMAL.

Whatever you are experiencing, and whatever you are comparing to others and feeling bad about, is normal and I GUARANTEE you someone out there is feeling it too. It’s easy to forget that everyone struggles with financial pressure, no matter how successful. It’s easy to forget that every parent feels like a failure at some point and likely has moments where they think their kid is an asshole. That it’s normal to feel like you could have done better in a situation, or to regret something you said. To feel nervous about a new situation and worry about fitting in. To feel like you could be taking better care of your health.

We need to be REAL. We need to share, in a meaningful way. We need to CONNECT. We tell ourselves these BS stories about how we aren’t good enough or aren’t okay, but if we just knew that almost EVERYONE feels that way, wouldn’t that help to take the pressure off?

5 Things You Can Do to Keep it Real

1. Set Realistic Expectations

Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest are full of perfection and unattainable goals. Remind yourself that what you see could be inspiration for you, but what you’re seeing is not necessarily reality and should not be what you measure yourself against. A perfect example can be found by Googling Pinterest Fails. Attempting to recreate a professional pastry chef’s delectable dessert when you have zero training will ultimately lead to failure, if not hilarious results.

Comparison can happen in person too. Getting together with friends is awesome and completely necessary, as we’ll talk about in a minute. But if you’ve been measuring yourself on social media for a while now, the same tendencies will happen in real life, even with your besties. Remind yourself that this is your friend and relax, she loves you for you.

2. Find your tribe and go deep

There is a proverb that says “it takes a village to raise a child.” But it also takes a village to raise a mom. I think half the point of that village is sharing the FULL experience with you. You need the people around you to share, to be open, to tell you  they feel that way too. You’re not the only one.

Find those people who support you, who lift you up and and will cheer you on. Not smoke-blowers who will say what you want to hear, but the people who will be real with you. Who will share openly about how they are feeling and make it safe for you to do the same. Who will love you hard.

Make a commitment to them that you will bring your whole self. The good, the bad, the ugly. And encourage them to do it too.

3. Take stock of how you’re actually doing

In the earlier poll, I also asked, “What percentage of the time do you feel that you have your life together?” The results went from maniacal laughter to very introspective comments on the difference between how they feel and what is actually true – but the majority fell around the 60% mark. There was also a comment about how they FEEL versus how they PRESENT to the world. And whether it’s self-inflicted expectations or a “keeping up with the Joneses” comparison mentality.

Sixty per cent of WHAT, exactly? What is “together,” anyway? What is that definition? It will be different for everyone, but likely it’s a mix of relationships, parenting, career, finances, home maintenance, and household management … and the ratios are different for every individual and likely on every single day of the week. 

Take a moment to consider, forgetting any ideal you think you may have, what “together” actually means to you. In the categories of parenting, relationships, home maintenance, work and health, what feels right for you? Set THAT as your benchmark, not someone else’s definition.

4. Be your own best cheerleader

Take a moment to list out what’s awesome in your life right now. What you’re doing well. Where you feel pretty good about things. Even if it feels small, add it to the list. “I made lunches for my kids every day this week,” “I worked out twice this week,” or “I took the time for a relaxing bath.” Take the small wins where you find them. This might be a harder exercise for some than others, but reflect on the good stuff. We so often find it easier to dwell on the negative. Take this time to focus on the positive.

5. Make a plan

When you take stock of your definition of “together” and of how you’re actually doing, is there any area of your life that feels less together than the others? Is there something you can do in that area to rebalance the equation? You can even go so far as to do a weekly status report in each of the areas. Sunday evenings, think about how things went in the categories that are important to you. Not a measure of success or failure, but just a check-in to see where you might want to put your focus for the coming week. Maybe you need more time with your partner or need to practice more patience with your kids (for me, always) … maybe it’s that you skipped your workouts all week or you didn’t eat enough veggies. Whatever it is, notice it, try not to judge it, and let that be how you set your intentions for the week to come.

Whether or not we have “it” together, we are all in this together. We are a village, and we owe it to each other to be present and honest. Open, forthcoming on the shitty details, and supportive when things get rough. It’s our job to pay it forward, to share what we’ve learned with those going through experiences after us. When we pay it forward and keep it real, we shore up our own walls and the walls of our village. With that strength and solidarity, we will have enough energy and compassion to face whatever form of poop comes our way.

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