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The 'gram and authenticity: mutually exclusive?

In case you don't know me personally, you may not know that I am a bit of a whirlwind slob. I always have been. I'm messy and disorganized and dusting sounds like the worst time ever. Like, ever. When I was in design school, one of my theory projects was my invention of 'Abstract Interiorism' where I took a picture of one of my disaster spaces in my house that was just covered in debris. My prof called it ‘interesting’. (Weirdly, I could find everything in seconds...I think my scattered brain works well with chaos. This is my theory, anyway). Up until I met my husband, I didn't even have a tv console or anything, because I was a junior designer just out of school, mid-aughts, and I was afraid to spend money. There were piles of dvds everywhere, and it really wasn't at all designerly (I also experimented with some bright, yet burnt orange walls, that I was mortified to learn that my mom described to my grandma as A&W orange). Part of the reason I took some time away from design is that I felt like a total fraud. I was on a reality design show a few years after school, and while I was chosen as a select few from thousands, the whole time I was filming (a hilarious post for another day), I just heard, “Fraud, fraud, fraud” whispering in my brain. It was mentally exhausting, and quite embarrassing when it aired. It kind of epitomized my lifelong struggle of wanting to both be noticed and invisible at the same time. Self-sabotage is also a reoccurring life habit I’m trying to unpack these days. In moments and opportunities where someone else may have flown, my own unique personality cocktail chose to hole up with a pint of ice cream and a blanket.

It was only as I stayed home with my kids, and HAD to furnish and organize our lives, that I discovered Kijiji, which turned out to be an affordable and fun outlet for my dormant design brain. With no one watching, and space to experiment, I started to feel more confident in my abilities and my own personal style.

Fast forward to meeting Laura and finally feeling like I had built up enough of a self- esteem exoskeleton that I could pursue doing what I love for a living. Velvet Sweatpants had to feel like us, and not apologise for all of our awesomeness and human imperfection in order for me to be on board. When I try to fake it until I make it, I panic, and inevitably shut down.

This need for authenticity (high on every personality test I’ve ever taken), made me really nervous, entering the world of Instagram. Personally, I have never been that shamed by the beautiful spaces on Instagram, because years ago, I had to come to terms with all of the photos of me with seventeen chins and twenty-nine stomach rolls. I remember being horrified at my appearance, first thinking, “I’m hideous! The camera doesn’t lie,” to realizing that the camera catches an instant in time, that no one ever notices in real life. And if they do, the instant passes and the overall impression of me is entirely removed from a moment of seventeen chins. Because of this, I always kept it in my head that the beautiful images we see on Instagram are moments in time, and don’t represent the sum. Where my issue with Instagram came in, was because I am so messy, it felt like a personal lie to present perfect spaces (if you look back at some of my images, you’ll see they actually aren’t perfect. I can’t get there even when I put all of my energy into it, and that’s authentic). I actually clean more now with three kids than I ever did when it was just me, but now life is filled with tiny un-doers who follow me as I tidy and make nests and forts, and snail trails out of pb and j. And I don’t love cleaning enough to care. You could enter my home at any given moment and find baskets of laundry that had been picked through that morning in search of clean clothes for school, books strewn everywhere, and the love/hate I have, (sorry, Laura), with throw cushions strewn about. Our Instagram shots are definitely not what my home looks like all the time. They are a result of children being ignored and screen-timing for a day or two. But in a typical day of wrestling, endless eating, laser tag, indoor jumping and running and existing…no. Just no.

Instagram seems to be trending to this idea of authenticity, where before it was all about the Instagram ‘look’. They’ve eliminated visible likes, to try and help with people’s mental health, but in all honesty, I really don’t see the perfectly staged photos going anywhere. I don’t really want them to go anywhere, as I find them so inspiring, and relatable. How can perfect interiors be relatable when I’ve just spent words and words telling you I’m a slob? Hear me out:

The other day, I was getting (one side) of my room ready for a photo. I was literally hauling armloads of clothes from the floor to the hamper, and removing items from bedside tables to dust UNDERNEATH, and vacuuming up the pelt of my Hermione mane that litters my carpet. I was texting with a friend, joking about the process, when I realized I was pumped. Like full of joy and motivated to clean PUMPED. It felt so good to take my space to its full potential, and feel proud and happy of what I was presenting. Design, and beautiful spaces on a dime are what truly make my heart sing, and it's the scary ‘perfect’ world of Instagram that is pushing me to show what I’m capable of! I imagined all of the other men and women at the helm of the accounts I follow and love, and imagined their joy, and felt completely at peace with presenting and enjoying Instagram perfection. Perfect Instagram shots may not be everyday life authentic, but they are encourage-my-soul authentic.

They are a moment, caught in time, of spaces dressed up for picture day, and knowing their best angles. They are my house ready for guests. And let’s face it: no one really wants to look at seventeen chins, or Abtract Interiorism (TM). They exist, and they’re perfectly fine, but no one is going to frame them for the wall.

Go forth! Go forth and enjoy the pretty moments in time with lots of joy, and without shame. And live the messy moments in the same way.

Did I just come up with a happiness formula?!

Photo by Paisley Photography * Sarah doesn't look awkward at all. (grips protective mug)

1 Comment

So much meat to this post!! ... and I'm not talking about the chins ;) I adore this blog!!!!

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