She wakes up at 5 a.m., meditates, journals and practices yoga, or runs five miles or takes a strength-training class.
She makes herself a wholesome, nutritious breakfast every morning, and does the same for her family.
She always looks effortlessly chic.
She takes the kids to school, and they inevitably arrive on time, like they always do, dressed in playful yet put-together outfits.
She’s an ambitious entrepreneur or a star employee, who’s gotten even more productive after having children.
She isn’t tied to her phone, yet she’s always available to her clients.
She doesn’t get sucked into social media. She doesn’t waste time. She doesn’t get easily distracted, and has excellent boundaries: When she’s at work, she’s working. When she’s at home, she’s with her family. She’s skilled at saying no kindly.
Her house is both clean and comfortable, like a Pottery Barn catalog. It doesn’t matter when you stop by, she doesn’t need to apologize for the mess. Even the toys strewn around the playroom look artful.
Most nights she whips up a delicious, nutrient-rich meal in less than 30 minutes.
She finishes all the tasks on her to-do list. Daily.
She takes her kids on all kinds of interesting, adventures, play-filled trips. She also travels often with her husband and enjoys occasional getaways with her girlfriends.
She and her husband have a date night every week.
She takes her kids to various enriching, fun classes. She makes Pinterest-worthy projects with them on a regular basis. They also play in their own organic garden, which produces sweet, juicy tomatoes.
She has clear skin and, if she wanted to, could wear her skinny jeans from high school—if she still had them. After decluttering her entire home, her closet is carefully curated to include only the clothes she absolutely loves and regularly wears.
She never misses a birthday or anniversary or other important dates.
She has various hobbies and volunteers for wonderful organizations in her spare time. She also reads every night, and since January has already read 100 books.
She doesn’t have a slew of unfinished projects that are staring her in the face. Her finances, too, are always in order.
She is emotionally available to her spouse, her kids, her friends and to herself.
She doesn’t experience burnout. In fact, she’s always energized and enthusiastic, and never seems tired. She just makes life look so easy, and fun, and simple to manage.
You compare yourself to this woman. Constantly. Maybe your version is slightly different. But whatever the specifics, you’ve painted a picture of the perfect person, and you measure yourself against her. Naturally, you always come up short. Because she doesn’t exist. Because she isn’t real.
She is a figment of your imagination, a social media creation, a marketing tool. Maybe she does exist—she’s the blogger you follow on Facebook or Instagram—and you’ve taken bits and pieces from her images and captions, and written the rest of the story.
You’ve taken her selection and filled in the gaps yourself. It’s what we do when we start falling in love with someone: We take a few of their wonderful traits, and magnify them. We give them other wonderful traits, and write all kinds of stories about them. We forget they are flawed. All we see, through our rose-colored glasses, is perfection.
When we inevitably come up short during our comparison making, we berate ourselves. Instead of embracing who we are, and savoring the sweet moments we have created, our attention shifts to an endless cycle of insults and sadness and frustration.
Maybe you don’t even realize that you’ve created an image of perfection that you use to set impossible standards and expectations for yourself. But either way, the image is there, playing in the background, and dictating your actions. Do you really want to make Pinterest-worthy Easter baskets for your child’s entire class? Maybe. But maybe not. Do you even like to run? Do you even like to meditate? Do you prefer to wake up early or to sleep in?
I think it’s important to regularly pause, and reflect on whether the actions we’re taking and the tasks we’re performing are actually things we want to be doing.
Why are you doing them?
Explore your intentions. Because the things you’re working tirelessly on might not even align with your values. They might not even matter on a heart or soul level. They might simply fit some image of the perfect mom or wife or worker or person that you created or learned about, and you don’t even remember when or where.