Having divulged in a Sex And The City binge over the last few weeks, I have found myself asking the age old question: seriously though, HOW was Carrie Bradshaw able to afford an apartment in Manhattan, to eat out for breakfast, lunch and dinner, sustain a smoking habit AND buy a new pair of $400 shoes every week off the back of one weekly column?
As an -often- struggling freelancer myself, the notion of a new pack of socks is often enough to send me into financial disarray and, since the co-op is distinctly more reasonable than any restaurant in my beautify city, my kitchen is by far and away the most loved room in my house.
Why, I found myself asking, can’t I be more like Carrie Bradshaw?
Effortlessly muscular despite the fact that woman didn’t seem to own a pair of trainers, slender even though every other bloody scene she’s in a restaurant ordering a rice pudding, succesful even though she can’t work her emails, invitations coming out of her ears despite the fact SHE DIDN’T OWN A MOBILE PHONE.
Without my trainers I wouldn’t have a muscle to call my own, rice pudding every night and none of my clothes would fit, an inability to use emails would cause my work to dry up in an instant and with no mobile phone most my friends would be all too quick to give up on me.
I found myself well and truly lodged in a comparison game, with a totally fictional character.
That’s easy enough to get over. As the sixtieth rewatch of season six came to an end, so too did my irrational fixation with living her life. She isn’t real. It’s a nice idea, but by far and away the least realistic thing to grace my screen since Guardians of the Galaxy Two.
The thing that’s harder to get away from is the comparison game we find ourselves playing online. Player one has entered the game. Meet your competitor of the day: insta-fabulous-real-life-Carrie-Bradshaws with her perfect hair, freshly made pizzas, burgers, donuts and brand-new-Gucci belt.
As I made my way up to bed last night, a bit pissed with a smudge of lipstick on my nose and an angry red chin from where I’d drunkenly tried to squeeze a spot (bad Em), I tripped over a stray boot at the top of the stairs and felt my shoulders fall as I looked around my bedroom.
No art on the walls, a little army of empty coffee cups on my bedside table, that day’s pants on the floor, three disregarded outfits in a heap by my wardrobe with a muddy dog looking much too comfortable atop my White Company sheets.
My blogging pals don’t have to put up with this shit, I thought. Carrie Bradshaw doesn’t deal with this shit.
No, whilst I wake up to a birds nest on my head with chipped toenails and hairy legs, I make my way into the kitchen to find that every single teaspoon we’ve ever owned has gone missing and that Bua has vomited on the carpet, I smoke my morning cigarette, a habit that Carrie had made look so cool but one that I secretly hate myself for, and log onto Instagram to see a hoard of other players ready for the day, up and at it, warriors: dressed to kill, hair with more bounce than a trampoline and yet another ‘exciting email in their inbox.’
Vix Meldrew (aka my fave blogger ever) wrote about the acute pain in the arse that is seeing someone else has received an exciting email the other day and it’s fabulously accurate.
It’s impossible, particularly when you work online or give a shit about Instagram and the virtual reality that is other people’s lives, not to find yourself fall into the trap of comparing every element of your life to someone else’s from time to time.
I wrote the other day about the pressure to be a girl boss and the world’s obsession with Instagram and the subsequent anxiety over likes and followers plays a big part in that. If you’re not overtly worried that the whole world is having more fun than you, you can be sure that at some point you’ll be guilted into believing that the world is at least working harder than you.
Or I am at least.
When I finally tare myself away from the glittering streets of New York and all the effortless beauties that reside in it (think not just of Carrie Bradshaw but of Serena Van Der Woodson and her glamorous comrades), I’m met with the very real facts of life. One friend is in St Anton drinking jaeger bombs and dicking around on skis, another is at the airport on the way to Las Vegas drinking beer at 8 in the morning and that’s before I see on Zoella’s Instagram stories that she’s at a roller-disco whilst I’m sitting in my grubby dressing gown trying to work out how the fuck I pay my national insurance.
Of course the rules of social media dictate that I don’t see how cold my friend half way up a mountain is, that my pal drinking a pint for breakfast will probably feel like a pile of shit on the flight or that for Zoella, when your life revolves around making content you’ve got to partake in ridiculous pass times even if you fucking hate them because the world can’t wait to see what you did next.
The dangerous realities of social media are not a new complaint. We know, for a fact, that what we see online isn’t real.
But good GOD it’s hard to remember that all the time… isn’t it?
Light, bright photos. Cappuccinos in bed. Hotel stays. White sheets. New boots. A campaign with Asos. The perfect winged eyeliner. Curled hair. Unchipped finger nails. White teeth. Tidy houses.
Why. Can’t. This. Be. My. Life?
But rather than allow this feeling of nit being enough to cripple me, I seek out inspiration in every nook and cranny I come across. Outfit ideas, lipstick shades, blog content, work-drive – I’m constantly trying to find the lesson to learn or motivation to do better.
If we all start in more-or-less the same place, surely it’s easy enough to appreciate that if we apply ourselves, we too can have what that girl has.
Or does that make it worse? That way of thinking?
No one starts off with an Instagram following of 100k, they had to work for it. No one was born knowing that blue eyeshadow doesn’t work for them, that’s something they needed to learn. No one can run a marathon on the first attempt, they’ve got to train and practise and sweat and bleed.
In theory, we are all just as capable as anyone else. And there in lies my problem, I suspect.
Because that leaves me with only one person to blame when I’m not good at shit: myself.
The reason I don’t have an exciting business opportunity land in my inbox every morning is because I have not ensured that I am worthy of the opportunity. The reason I can’t run a marathon is because I have opted for an hour more in bed rather than pounding the pavements. The reason I can’t afford the new Gucci handbag (or any Gucci handbag for that matter) is because I haven’t worked hard enough. Earned enough. Done enough.
My house isn’t #housegoals because I’ve chosen to sit on the sofa rather than reupholster it. My toenails are disgusting because every time I look at them I notice how far away they are and how I can’t be expected to reach down that far. The reason we have no clean teaspoons ever is because I’m too bloody lazy to wash them up after I’ve used them.
And that’s a bastard of a realisation. One that in theory should inspire me to work harder and be better, but one that ultimately leaves me sitting like a lemon and wondering the fucking point is.
The only thing holding me back is me. The only person playing this game, really, is me.
A blessing and a curse.
A good thing though, in the long run.
Because when you remove other people from the equation, the situation becomes marginally more manageable.
Rather than comparing my mediocre day with the day of a basic-stranger on Instagram who spent the afternoon at the Google Headquarters receiving another free phone (a phone that I really want by the way), I’ve taken to comparing each day to the one I had before it.
Have I done better today than I did yesterday?
Can I do better tomorrow than I did today?
Competition is healthy, as long as it’s channeled in the right way.
So rather than comparing my blog to that of a girl who seems to have a PHD in coding, I will compare it to where it was a year ago (bright pink and a pile of shit by the way). Rather than comparing my abysmal running efforts to that of a girl who just did a half marathon in sub two hours, I will compare it to my own running ability thee months ago, when I couldn’t even leave the house.
Maybe I’ll never get out of the comparison game, but that doesn’t mean I can’t stack the odds in my favour.