The interior life is a real life. — James Baldwin
I was scrolling through my Tumblr posts recently and realized I posted two quotes that offered the same advice by two different writers.
The most recent quote was from the commencement address Mary Karr gave at Syracuse two weeks ago. In it she warned the graduates:
Don’t compare you twisted up insides to others’ blow dried outsides
In April, I posted an excerpt from an article written by Anne Lamott in which she shares all that she knows and part of what she knows is what Karr knows:
Everyone is screwed up, broken, clingy, and scared, even the people who seem to have it more or less together. They are much more like you than you would believe. So try not to compare your insides to their outsides.
She also holds the controversial position that “chocolate with 70% cacao is not actually a food. It’s best use is as bait in snake traps.” I understand why she may feel that way but she’s wrong. But that’s neither here nor there.
I unknowingly shared this advice more than once because I need to be reminded of it often.
People who live inside of themselves, who feel at home with their thoughts, memories, and feelings, whose interior life is life are probably most likely to not only have twisted up insides but to compare those insides to others’ blow dried outsides.
Time spent on social media only makes it worse. Being “blow dried” is encouraged, liked, popular, NORMAL. I also present a blow dried version of myself online while knowing it’s not exactly a lie but it’s also not true. And, I know everyone’s doing the same thing, so why do I, do we, make unfair comparisons? We all know the game we’re all playing. Why do we forget? Maybe we forget so we can remember who we really are over and over again.
You know what the problem is? Lack of context. It’s so hard to remember everyone (including me) is showing only the smallest sliver of who they are online or off. It’s hard to remember, without seeming cynical, that even that sliver is highly polished/idealized. It’s hard to remember while endlessly scrolling that perfect selfie is probably one of 200 taken. That cleverly worded tweet probably wasn’t as spontaneous as it appears. That well written article had many drafts and was heavily edited.
Everyone is like Joan Crawford, doing the 2015 social media equivalent of posing for family pictures with fake, tight smiles for some Hollywood magazine while behind the scenes screaming at our daughter about wire hangers.* No one shares their wire hanger stories.
I can’t suggest a way for us to either be ourselves all the time or to learn to stop comparing who we really are with everyone’s mask. All I’ve learned to do is hate myself less each time I do.
All any of us can do is remind one another. This post is that reminder.
*Watch Mommie Dearest. It’s bizarre fun.