Along with the usual ‘how do you eat so much?’ and the (less nicely worded) ‘why aren’t you obese’ type comments, one message which I seem to get a lot is ‘your life is amazing’ or ‘you’re so lucky – you do so many fun things.’ Now I’m not denying that for the most part I do feel incredibly lucky – I’m constantly spoilt with good food and I’m surrounded by wonderful friends and an amazing family. But like everyone else, social media is just a tiny fraction of my life. I don’t just eat the food that I post, I eat plenty of far more boring-looking meals, but generally no one wants to see soggy oven chips, a horrendously ugly stew or a cake that sadly burnt round the edges and sunk in the middle! I don’t always eat wonderful meals at amazing restaurants – I’ve had plenty a disappointing dish and many of my meals result in serious food envy as I realise my friends have ordered far better than me! I rarely post selfies as I hate the way I look in photos, but when I do I pick the best of an (admittedly an all-round poor) selection of photos I’ve taken. The most crazy messages to me are the ones where people seem to idolise my way of living. I’m not saying this to be arrogant – far from it – I’m honestly completely and utterly baffled that anyone would want to be me! Yes I have many things to be grateful for but there’s plenty that I struggle with, just like everyone else– I have down days, I struggle massively with self-confidence and there are plenty of times when I feel pessimistic about myself and uncertain about my future. More worrying though I guess, is that no matter how negative I’m feeling I never wish to be someone else. Yes of course there are elements of other people or other people’s lives that I think are wonderful, but at the end of the day (sorry – cheesy!) we’re all different, we’re all unique and I want to be the best version of myself, not anyone else! We’re all so desperate to change – to conform to some strange idea of ‘perfection’ that social media has led us to believe is achievable. In the same way that I can eat silly amounts and not gain weight, I have friends who eat so little and yet struggle to lose weight – yes of course extreme measures can perhaps achieve short-term results, but I truly believe everyone has a ‘natural’ weight which they’re meant to be, and to me trying to change it (unless you have some life-changing reason) is just setting yourself up for misery and/or failure (and are you really going to live on low carbs, low fats, some hideous green juice or whatever the latest fad is for the rest of your life!?)
Many of you may know from my social media that I’m going through an incredibly tough time at the moment. Without going into unnecessary detail my husband, and partner of over 9 years had been having a secret affair for months (if not years), with me blissfully unaware and as in love as the day we got married. The pain and betrayal that I felt, and continue to feel, is beyond comprehension – what felt like the best part of my life disappeared without the tiniest hint of remorse, regret or respect, with little longer than an hour between him telling me and walking out forever. Since then I’ve surprised myself with how well I’ve dealt with it, most of which I feel I owe to my incredible friends and family who have provided a support network far greater than I could have ever imagined. That’s not to say I haven’t struggled though. While I’m generally occupied and distracted during the day, there are evenings when I feel so lost and so lonely. There have been plenty of times when I’ve been surrounded by so many people and yet have felt entirely alone. At first I was scared to sleep – frightened of those few blissful moments of happiness before the horrendous reality would come flooding back. Times when I’d reach for my phone to message him, before remembering that he was no longer that person who I shared every silly thought and happy memory with. More recently I’ve been having vivid nightmares where he’ll frequently appear, sometimes with her, and I’ll wake up in floods of tears, too shaken up to go back to sleep.
I didn’t write this post for sympathy, though I have been truly blown away by the love and support I’ve received and for that I am truly grateful. I wrote this in the hope that my experience can help anyone who’s struggling – whether it be in the aftermath of a terrible life experience, or just someone who’s struggling with confidence having lost sight of what’s realistic in the highlight reel that is social media. Ultimately social media is a highlight reel, but that’s always the way it’s going to be – I follow people to find the best food, just like I’m sure many others search for the most beautiful holiday spots, the most stunning scenery or the latest fashion. Yes there are many people now posting more ‘real’ unedited or unfiltered images, but at the end of the day, people post their favourite images because they want to be proud of the content they created, and for me personally it’s the best and most exciting food-finds that I want to share with my followers! Yes I’m always open and honest about how I’m feeling, and I’m more than happy to share my struggles and insecurities, but when deciding which image to post, an incredible cake is going to beat a bowl of oats which overflowed all over my microwave and my favourite pizza from Franco Manca is always going to beat the sorry looking supermarket one that I managed to simultaneously burn and undercook in my haste to cook it at too-high a temperature.
I’ve spoken in the past about how I’m just as guilty as the next person when it comes to comparing myself to others, both in social media and in real life. I’ll admit that I rarely check my Instagram feed nowadays – purely because I struggle to find the time (I barely get enough sleep!) – but when I do, I remember how easy it is to lose all sense of perspective and reality and to fall into the trap of self-depreciation which can be such a rapid downwards spiral. Seeing beautiful photos of couples together has always made me feel so overwhelmed with happiness and it still does – it’s so incredible to see others as happy and in love as I was – but I’m not afraid to admit that now I also feel a pang of sadness for myself, that I’ve lost what I always felt was the best part of me.
Yes I’m lucky in so many ways, but I also have utter crap to deal with just like everyone else. Ironically (as the saying sadly goes), it’s taken something horrendous to make me realise how lucky I truly am, but despite going through this horrible time I do appreciate the fact that I have so much in my life to be grateful for, as I’m sure anyone who’s going through something similar (or any terrible time for that matter), does too – you just have to take a step back and realise it. Life’s not all happiness and positivity, but I’ve learnt to appreciate the good times, and remember the good times through the bad. We’ve had a simple canvas up in our flat with the quote ‘Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass.. it’s about learning to dance in the rain’ for as long as I can remember and I love it – I know the next few months and years are going to be tough, but rather than wishing them away I’m trying each day to make the best of what I have. A few days after I felt like my life had completely fallen apart, I bought a tiny little notebook and since then I’ve started keeping a happiness journal. It may sound like a simple, or even silly concept, but I write three things I have to be grateful for each day. Some days it’s easy – I’ve eaten incredible food, seen friends, been spoilt with endless cakes and treats and everything feels amazing. Other days it’s simply “I made it through today” and “I’ve got a warm house and a lovely comfy bed to come home to.”
It’s so easy to see all of the people who are going through better times, yet so easy to forget all the people who are worse off – and no matter how terrible things seem, there is always someone in a worse position. I’m sorry that I can’t reply individually to all of the messages I’ve received, but I promise I’ve read and appreciate them all, and I hope that in an attempt to even start to return the favour, this post can help someone, somewhere, even if just the tiniest bit.