Women Like Me
“In order to give great content, you need to live great content.”
Beth Kirby said this in a recent webinar about creating a gorgeous and relevant Instagram feed for business and community.
And my heart dropped into my socks.
Not literally, but you know.
All of a sudden I was ten years old. Twelve. Fourteen. Sixteen. Escaping into the woods with a journal and a pen or hiding in the closet with a baby sister on my hip and a novel I couldn't put down.
Living was painful most of the time, so I created a rich inner world that was nourished by dreams and books and stories scribbled out on blue-lined paper. On the outside was never-enoughness, drudgery, poverty, and a host of things to heal from, but on the inside I felt free and creative and wild with hope.
I thank God for deep inner washing of the soul and transcendent healing over the years, but hearing Beth say those words felt like a free-fall into a giant ice-bath. Time to wake up! Here's a nice jolt of truth splashed in your face! Because after the initial reality shock, here's what my system is reporting back: I still live in my head, and the world I've created is a rich inner one, and I literally have nothing substantial to share.
In successful influencer language: I'm not living great content.
I'm living my words, yeah. I'm living ethereal concepts and thoughts and theology. I'm living prayers. I'm living spiritual revelations and always more words.
But if I created an accurate Instagram-feed of everyday content it would not inspire anyone, and it certainly would not be beautiful. It would showcase the reality of learning to make peace with a small apartment. It would reveal that I sometimes run the dishwasher 3 times a day just to have space and utensils for made-from-scratch meals. It would reveal that I’m chopping garlic and slicing onions for those meals on a tiny board balanced on a burner on my stove, because that’s all the space I have. It would reveal that I have a bookcase and storage shelf that is as overwhelmed as I am and needs to be thoroughly organized, but I don't know where to put anything, so it all just ends up getting moved around. It would show that I do not have appropriate light for photography or videos, and that I usually stay in my pajamas because they are warm and comfy and what's the point of changing, anyway? I'm an introvert homebody. I work from home (and love it). When I get out, it's to go for a grocery run or the occasional work-from-a-coffee-shop afternoon.
It would show that as much as I want to be artistic and poetic in everything, life asks me to be more “practical” right now. And right or wrong, practical is the death-knell for the life I've created in my head, so it feels incongruent and dishonest. Isn't that a strange and complicated mess of things? This isn't who I really am, I say, as I look at my overflowing bookcase stuffed with who knows what. That's not me. That's just the way it is right now, but it's not really me.
The true me has a lush balcony or covered porch that looks like a cross between France and Morocco, with lavender plants in vintage pots and dreamy curtains billowing romantically in the breeze.
The right-now me has a balcony covered with spiderwebs and stuff that won't fit anywhere else.
The true me has a Joanna Gaines or Jersey Ice Cream Co. renovated house, while the right-now me has lived in the same apartment for over ten years without ever signing a full year's lease, hoping for a quick move out of the city into the home of our dreams.
The true me has open shelving stacked with Sarah Jerath handmade clay dishes, and the right-now me was rejected by a local clay artist for classes and eats off of chipped blue plates from World Market.
It's humbling to share this because it reveals the inner ugliness of restlessness and discontent. I should clarify; I've actually learned a lot and do feel quite content, thanks to some deep inner soulwork with the Lord and lots of prayers and tears to God. But this doesn't convert to a luscious Instagram feed. And it shows exactly why Instagram has been a consistent struggle for me.
So I feel left with a few options:
Keep doing what I've done: post randomly, when inspired, when I have words and pictures that work together, and fumble along until whenever...
Stop using Instagram and divert my energy elsewhere...
Stop caring about aesthetics and beauty, and post the unflattering realities (which assaults my sense of beauty and poetic truth)...
Post the unflattering realities and try to do so creatively, even if it's the same thing every single day...
Try to live great content. And this feels overwhelming. PS: who defines “great content?”
When the right-now me doesn't have the cash that the ideal me has, or the light, or the spaces, but just the faithful plodding on of everyday life, what can become “great content” for Instagram, but more importantly, for the women I want to connect with and make a difference for?
I don't want to serve the mighty algorithms of Instagram or Google. I actually loathe them. Is it possible to achieve my purpose without playing by their rules?
I recently read an insightful book called This is Marketing by Seth Godin. In it, he talks about the phenomenon of “people like us do things like this.”
It’s basically why we do anything: because people like me do things like this.
It’s found in the stories I tell myself:
Women like me don’t use plastic mixing bowls. I use stainless steel or hammered copper.
Women like me don’t shop at Walmart. I go to Whole Foods, or better, the local farmer’s market.
Women like me don’t get their clothes from Ross but from vintage thrift stores, Johnny Was, Free People and Anthropologie.
Women like me drink from sleek Italian glass, not plastic bottles.
Women like me see a tiny copper colander on the shelf at Home Goods and think, Oh! This will be perfect for washing raspberries! Women like me like unique and unexpected things like tiny copper colanders made for washing raspberries.
Women like me don’t go to Starbucks, but to the sweet little local coffeehouse on the corner with the trees.
Women like me aren’t fat.
Women like me?
What the what?
Am I really this prideful and arrogant? Is this the real me?
The truth is, I do shop at Walmart when I need to. I do use more plastic than I’d like. I do go to Starbucks when I want to do some work outside my home, because there’s nowhere to sit and plug up at the little coffeehouse.
Why does it feel shameful to say this? Like, I’m sitting here actually feeling shame. But the answer is clear:
Because it offends the story I’ve created in my head.
The story of the “true me,” not the “right now” me.
But how can the story of the “true me” be real? It’s a portrait that fleshed herself out over years of dream lists and Law-of-Attraction delusions, who dangles at the end of a very long stick, like a carrot I’m chasing that’s as evanescent as “someday.”
Where did this story come from? What is it reacting to? What does it reject? What is the life in my head rejecting that is true in the life in my body?
And the answer is as relevant now as it was when I was fourteen: pain.
Life is painful still. It is raw and messy and tender.
The pain may be different now: the pain of being overweight. Of not having the cash for the incredible course / coach / traveling / home / fill in the blank that I want or need. The pain of loneliness. Of infertility. Of betrayal. Of being seen. The pain of shopping at an overwhelming, uninspiring store with lights that give me a headache, poor quality merchandise, long lines at checkout and the occasional rude employee.
(Folks who also have pain.)
Pain, pain, pain. And here is more painful truth: because my outside-life doesn’t match the inside-life I’ve got a death-grip on, I’ve refused to actually live in my life because it doesn’t align with what feels true. I’ve basically created a safe and gorgeous dream life that protects me from the pain of embodied life.
I’ve basically created a safe and gorgeous dream life that protects me from the pain of embodied life.
What I’ve done is ridiculous and gross and snobby and awful and I hate it. This story I’ve created, the one of my ideals, is all grossness beneath a pearly veneer of “this is who I am.”
So now I get the pleasure of deconstruction and truth. Being in my life as the woman I am…who is also growing and becoming the woman I am meant to be. Yes, I have a vision of her. Yes, her life looks different than mine. But it’s congruent and honest. It’s a stretch goal. It’s a spiritual, emotional, living growth plan.
This is my love life. My in-my-body life.
Here is where I learn how to humbly and simply make the best choices I can with the resources I have; resources being energy, time, inspiration, money, and more.
I get to be grateful for every little, sacred thing.
I get to uproot the delusions and lies and pride that come along with being a “woman like me” and plant my feet on the rock that is higher than I. I get to trust. I get to change things in my life that need to be changed, like using less plastic and shopping more intentionally. But not to feed an ideal in my head. Rather, because I have values and beliefs to live by.
This is what I’m working on and I’m praying for transformation. Not so I can have a gorgeous Insta feed like Beth, who is an amazing photographer and world traveler who grew her Insta organically to almost 800k, although that would be wonderful, if it was aligned with my purpose and my soul. Transformation, not for the status and success, but because I want to be grounded in a humble, generous and gracious love life that responds with heartfelt thanksgiving to God.
What stories are you telling yourself?
Are they true?
How can you make your ideal become real? And if it’s impossible, how can you heal your perception of ideal?
How can you create a new vision that is based on who you truly are and who you are becoming?