Tuesday, April 24, 2012

On accepting criticism and ignoring Facebook

The infamous Ikea Family Live Facebook photo.  You can see the original post (and what I am all worked up about) here.
Yesterday, something kind of cool happened.  Or, so I thought. 

Scrolling through my news feed on Facebook, I saw a picture that I thought looked a little familiar.  It was my living room, my couch, my gray walls, my art hanging on the wall.  Strange, I thought, I didn't post that.  And, then I looked at the name above the picture: Ikea Family Live.  I freaked! I called Peter into the office immediately, screeching and screaming that they had chosen my picture to put on their wall yesterday (yeah, I really am a nerd)...

until I saw the comments.  Most of them were fine, neutral and even positive.  But a few of them were critical, negative, harsh or downright mean.  In a moment, my excitement turned to disappointment, self-deprecation and a really strong case of the blues.  I moped into bed, almost with tears in my eyes, and begged for all the hugs I could get. 

And, to tell you the truth, I didn't wake up this morning feeling much better.  It has been bothering me all day.  Every hour or so, it pops into my head and I think, "what an idiot."  Every time I have looked in my living room today--the room that I have never found perfect, but have always at least enjoyed and found cozy--all I have thought is that those mean people on Facebook were right: I do need more color in here and it "isn't cohesive". 


I have always been extremely sensitive to criticism.  I remember once getting a stern "stop it girls" from my second grade teacher and almost bursting into tears right there--just because she told my best friend and me to be quiet.  But this?  This is just pathetic. 

What kind of world do we live in where a snarky comment from someone I don't even know (and who is clearly not that sensitive or nice) makes me doubt myself, put myself down and feel dissatisfied with a space that should bring me comfort and security?  Is this the monster that Facebook is creating? Is this the monster that I am letting Facebook create?  (Because, let's face it, I am going to have to be a little tougher if I am going to survive the Internet and the 21st century.)

Since when do we, as human beings, judge ourselves and assess our worth based on what people say about us (or our decorating skills) on a stupid website?  I know that I am not the only one who does it and I know that I am not the only one who has ever felt bad about myself because of it.  I also know that there are thousands of people out there who deal with much more mean and hurtful digital content than a stupid comment about my living room not being cohesive.  I am not going to pretend that it's easy or that we should all toughen up, because I know that it is harder than it sounds.  What I am going to say is that I think it is a really sad comment on what our society has become that these things weigh so heavily on our minds. 

We are constantly comparing ourselves, all day everyday.  We decide how successful we are based on how many times this friend has gone from being "in a relationship" to "single" in the past year and how many amazing grad schools that one-time acquaintance got into for the fall.  We decided if we should be married by how many of our "friends" have been brides.  We determine whether our life is exciting by how pictures we have of us doing exciting things. 

It's time to stop. 

But, it requires all of us to stop.  It requires us to stop listening to the negative things others have to say and to stop worrying about the negative things others might possibly think.  It requires us to stop taking pictures just because we think they will make us look cool on Facebook and to stop worrying about every little detail about us that our profile conveys.  It requires us to stop trying to build a digital life that impresses and to actually start living the only life that we have here on this earth.  I requires us to forget about the freaking Internet for a while and  just get on with living. 

On the Camino in 2008.  This is possibly the best I have ever felt about myself, but not necessarily for the reasons you think.  I felt good about myself because I was away from the internet and was doing something just for me.  I didn't wear any makeup or attempt to be anything I wasn't.  I just didn't care and it was freeing!
 Just be yourself.  It's enough.  People won't always be kind or praising when they talk to you, on the internet or in real life, but what does it matter?  You have people that love you, people who think you are pretty awesome and people who are willing to give you real, thoughtful and pertinent constructive criticism, when the right time comes.  Isn't that all that counts?  It should be.


I think this is more a letter to myself than anything else.  I need to get over this.  I need to get over Facebook.  But, I wanted to write it here mainly because I think this obsession with our image affects us all on a daily basis. It is something that I really think we all need to change, for one's own sake and for the sake of our fellow human beings.  Can humanity really ever thrive if we are primarily concerned only with how things look to others?  Can we be happy individuals with that as a concern?

We all deserve to be happy.  And we are all worth way more than whatever we think about ourselves when we read about that one chick from college who just got engaged or that other girl from high school who just got home from the "MOST AMAZING HAWAII TRIP EVER &hearts".  We are awesome, regardless of what Facebook seems to imply.  I don't know who gave that freaking website all the power, but it is totally time we took it back.

Let's hold each other to this and encourage each other in the pursuit of all the things that make us happy.  Let's remind each other that what Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media site says doesn't matter. 

What matters is that you are happy and that regardless of what you read on your news feed tonight, you can look in the mirror and be proud of the things you have done and the things you will do. 

I am working on this and I hope you are, too.  I have to say, I wasn't sure I wanted to post about this at first.  I thought it (including the mean comments of the people on Facebook) too embarrassing to share at first.  But, I decided that it would be impossible to get over it if I was too embarrassed to even talk about it. 

It's time for me to go to bed and wake up with a fresh outlook on tomorrow.  Let me know if you have faced this or if you've been here yourself.  If you haven't, what are your tricks for being tough and ignoring comparisons? 


Jessica Moskwa said...

i saw that this morning. do what ever makes you happy and you have always loved decorating and redecorating no matter what. you have your own style and have always been proud of it!! love you and your cozy living room.


Lauren said...

Jamie you are so brave for posting this. I completely understand and agree with what you say. It is so easy to be burdened by what others think of us but we cannot let anyone, especially strangers, hold us down and have us doubt ourselves. The important thing is that you are beautiful, talented, creative and smart and have family and friends who love you and you get to share a life with them and they are the ones that matter, not the mean people on facebook.

Dani said...

This is such a great post, James! Your insight and depth portrayed here really reflect the wonderful person you are. It's so easy for people (who clearly have AWFUL taste) to make snarky comments indirectly, and so brave for you to post the picture of your beautiful, perfectly balanced, interesting, cohesive and cozy living room, and talk about it as you did here. Also, did you notice the awful grammar/spelling of those haters? Despicable!

Keep your head up! I LOVE YOU!!!

James said...

Thanks guys! You are the best and so sweet. I'm so thankful for your kind words!