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I’m Not Who You See on Instagram

Written By Hilary Charlet, USA

One square photo. One little box under our fingertip that we scroll through daily. That’s all it takes for us to form an opinion about someone or something.

These little squares are composed under the right light, edited with the best photo-enhancing tools and filters, and posted with witty and well-crafted captions. They tell us who’s up to what, who’s hanging out with whom, and who’s gone to the latest café in town. We look at them when we’re bored, when we’re stuck in traffic, and when we’re hanging out with our friends.

We see these and it sparks something inside of us. On some days, it’s envy, because we wish we were doing this or going there, just like our friends. Other days, it’s inadequacy, because we don’t seem as accomplished as others.

But we forget that while these photos are real instances, they do not fully reflect reality. Rather, they’re more like a highlight reel. I’d daresay that many of us *#doitforthegram more often than we’d like to admit.

So I can say it, as I’m sure many of you can: I’m not who you see on Instagram.

I think through my captions. I insert and delete words. I try to pick just the right photo to go along with what I want to say. I take time to decide what to say and how to say it.

Although my goal for my Instagram account is to inspire, encourage, and love people, I can’t say that I am happy and enthusiastic all the time. According to my Instagram feed, I may look like I have it somewhat together. I have great friends to go with on weekend adventures, new places to hike in and explore, and a great brother and sister-in-law whom I spend a lot of my time with laughing and third-wheeling on their dates. And I can strike a yoga bridge pose on a paddleboard without effort!

But if you really knew me, you’d know the truth is somewhat different. Sure, my feed is full of actual events and portrays how I strive to live daily. But it does not reflect my every waking moment.

I have my struggles and doubts. My cheerful persona online doesn’t mean there aren’t days when I grow impatient waiting and want to settle down because I can’t figure out what God wants me to do or where He wants me to be. I have my stressful days as well as days when I’m super pumped and expectant, knowing that God is working behind the scenes in my life. There are times when I question whether what I have to say is even making a difference, and times when I get to witness how what I’ve said has encouraged someone else.

Social media has a way of making it seem like everyone has their stuff together and their life is flawless. Don’t get caught in believing those lies and start comparing your lives to those of others. Just because we don’t see the bad days and struggles of these people doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

Next time you find yourself wishing your life were like so-and-so’s, remember that you are where God meant you to be. You are loved. You don’t need makeup and filters to make yourself look more appealing so someone will like you more.

Instead, embrace your natural beauty and quirkiness. Laugh at yourself. Ask people questions, be curious in a world that is more focused on communicating behind a screen. Be yourself unapologetically in a world that tries to dictate who you should be. Love the unlovable, forgive the unforgivable, take a chance and know that God has your back, and most importantly, be the person God has called you to be—fully and without fear.

The number of double taps and followers we get do not define who we are or how much we are worth. We’re so much more than a tiny square photo.

So, no, I’m not who you see on Instagram. I’m so much more, as you are. I laugh, I cry, I freak out, I get excited, I stress out about silly things. I think I have it all figured out, then I stumble, laugh, and keep chugging along when I realize God has other plans for my life.

What you see on Instagram is part of who I am, but behind every photo, behind every social media account, there’s an author with a valuable life and an incredible story. There are emotions, passions, hopes and dreams, and all that we are cannot be minimized to fit into a social media platform, for we are so much more than that.

 

 *#doitforthegram is used to refer to someone does something unique with the sole intention of taking a photo to post on Instagram.

The Day I Stopped Comparing

Written By Hilary Charlet, USA

Who remembers dial-up Internet, a limit on the amount of texts you could send per month, and the handy-dandy flip phone? What about the Gameboy, LeapPad, and board games?

Now it’s the Xbox, Wi-Fi, and live streams for everything. Our generation has seen so many technological advancements, and we’re still young. It’s pretty scary to think about how much technology will continue to change everything, and not always for the better.

And then there’s social media: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter. My niece has a bunch of other apps too that I’ve never even heard of.

It takes literally seconds to post a status or photo. But it can impact someone else for much longer. How often do we think before we post something? Is it something that will encourage others, or tear someone down? Is it posted out of spite and bitterness, or love and hope, to bring others joy?

Every day, I see engagements, weddings, pregnancy announcements, babies, happy couples, new jobs, vacations and more. I love being able to stay connected with people I’ve met throughout my journey, especially since many of them live all over the US. It makes it easy to keep up to date with their lives.

This is the good side of it. Now, let’s talk about the bad.

 

Down the online rabbit hole

We’ve become harsh with our comments, envious of the lives of others, stuck in a rut of comparing our behind-the-scenes lives to someone else’s highlight reel.

We see people our age getting married and wonder if we’ll ever meet our significant other. We see others going on vacations and take for granted the time that we have with our family and friends on a little weekend road trip, because it isn’t an island resort, so how could we have a fun time?

We become so focused on what others are doing that we forget to be present and appreciative and thankful for the blessings right in front of us. We forget that we’re blessed beyond measure, even if it isn’t in the same ways that our family and friends are.

If you’re reading this right now, you’re alive. We aren’t ever promised tomorrow, so isn’t the gift of another day something we should not take for granted?

If I’m honest, I used to struggle with comparing myself to others. I’ve never really known what I’ve wanted to do with my life. Until I started blogging and writing, I really had no idea, and now that’s all I really want to do, even if people think it’s silly. I was envious of those who’ve known since childhood what they were going to do when they “grew up”.

 

Looking for a purpose

It was two weeks before my college graduation and I still hadn’t found a job, unlike many of my friends. There I was, a little nervous but expectant, because God had been stirring in my heart that He had something planned for me. It was something I would never have expected, and something that’s challenged me but allowed me to grow my faith and trust in Him daily.

You see, I’ve worked six different gigs since graduation. These opportunities have taken me all over the place, on planes and subways and BMWs and Ubers and more. It took me way out of my comfort zone, but led me somewhere new.

The first took me away from home for four months out to the east coast, with a team I’d never met until I arrived for training. We put on events in over 50 different locations, all of which brought fresh faces and new places. After that, I worked other contract positions for the same company, all of which began with me not knowing anyone beforehand. I could choose between two things when I began: be afraid and timid at the idea of being uncomfortable in not knowing anyone or anything about the location I was in, or embracing where God had led me and make the most of it. While everyone else is coming up to their two-year job anniversary, here I am. And I couldn’t be more glad.

If He led me somewhere, then He needed me to be there. If He put a group of people in my life, I needed them, or I would somehow be a part of their story that they needed. I learned everything I could, experiencing every moment as it came, and loving in any way possible.

I didn’t want to waste my time wondering why God wasn’t showing up in certain areas of my life while He was busy showing up big in other areas. Instead, I had to choose to show up where He wanted me, and to be joyful, patient, and expectant in the other areas.

For the first time, I stopped comparing myself, my journey, where I was at and where I was going and every other aspect of who I was with others. Instead, I put my focus on God’s plan for me and being completely present wherever I was.

 

My plan vs God’s plan

But it didn’t mean I stopped having desires and expectations. While in Michigan for a few months last year, I started dating a guy from there whom I was pretty convinced I was going to marry.

God must have laughed at that. He knew that I’d have my heart broken more than once (yes, by the same person) and that it would challenge me to the core. He knew that I’d be stuck comparing myself to someone else for way longer than I care to admit. But He also knew that through that trial, I’d learn to lean on Him more than I ever have.

While I was praying for our relationship to grow, God knew I instead needed my relationship with Him to grow. He knew what was going on behind-the-scenes, while I was clueless. He knew the man I had picked out for myself to marry had instead picked someone else to pursue, sometimes simultaneously, other times after our “break-ups”.

When the truth wound its way out one night, I didn’t know how to feel or what to do. It hurt, a lot. There stirred in me my self-doubt, wondering why I wasn’t good enough to be someone’s first choice, what I did wrong, how I could have been a better girlfriend—the list goes on.

It’s funny how we think we know what we want, when it’s sometimes totally different from what we need. I had wanted a Godly relationship more than anything, but what God showed me is that a relationship with Him was what I needed then and what I need right now—to take my focus off another person, and instead focus on getting my heart and soul back to where it needs to be, back in the center of His embrace. Back to knowing that I am God’s first choice— always and every day.

The day I stopped comparing my life to those around me, I felt the chains break. I felt joyful, hopeful, excited, and free.

 

Your place in God’s plan

Where God has you right now, whether you’re in the valley or on the mountaintop, He is there with you. He wants you to be free of all of the lies and labels society tries to put on you. He doesn’t want you to be addicted to the virtual world when there’s so many in the world right in front of you that need your light and love.

If you’re in a season of waiting, wait expectantly. He has a plan for you, and it’s so good. 

If you’re feeling undeserving and not good enough, stop.

Know with your whole heart that you’re loved, you’re more than good enough and He’s going to use you in ways that you can’t even imagine.

Don’t let social media sucker you into believing that your life is less valuable than another. Don’t let the words and actions of others cause you to question who you are or whose you are. Don’t spend your time wishing your life was like someone else’s.

Marvel at God’s goodness to grant you another day because you’re here for a reason, and that reason isn’t to dwell on what you do not have.

The day you stop comparing is the day you will be free: free to be the one God created you to be. Embrace it and be the hope, the love, the flame that could ignite a fire in the souls of every life you touch.