Have you noticed that more and more often we're inundated with a newsfeed of shiny, happy photos on social media? Even though we know they don't always tell the full story, it's all too easy to compare ourselves unfavourably with what we see online and feel dissatisfied with our lives.
I spent Christmas in the US with Mr H , as we're in the process of relocating there. I posted a number of photos of myself enjoying the festivities and as I look back at them, I realise they don't give a complete picture of my break. As a coach and author who helps women to be more authentic, I pride myself on being real, but here I was only sharing half my story.
Even in my own Facebook group, a space I created to let the masks drop, both for myself and for the members, I realise that I tend to post 'positive' content, which is fine and uplifting, but it doesn't give the full picture.
The truth is that none of us are upbeat and sparkly all the time. We're human. And being human means that sometimes we're irritated and sad and disappointed and frustrated. But we don't often show the messy stuff, particularly on social media.
So, to redress the balance, in this article I've chosen to let my mask drop and share the full story behind some of my shiny, happy Christmas photos.
I posted this photo on Facebook just as Mr H and I returned from a run and I felt great when it was taken.
But within 30 minutes, we were having a huge argument. It was only a couple of days into us being in the same house over Christmas (after 8 weeks of living in different countries) and we hadn't settled back into each other's company yet.
So we ended up in a ridiculous argument (over cucumbers of all things. Don't ask!) resulting in Mr H heading out for lunch on his own, whilst I was licking my wounds at home and questioning our whole relationship. All of this happening as numerous comments and likes appeared on the sparkly photo I'd posted just a while earlier.
I posted this photo on Instagram and Facebook to share my excitement about starting to write my new book, the follow-up to Heal Your Inner Good Girl. I took myself off to a local coffee shop, wrote a few pages and took the obligatory photo for social media announcing the fact that I had started my next book, feeling very pleased with myself.
The next day I wrote a couple more pages. And since then? Nothing.
I completely lost momentum, had no idea what to write and felt completely stuck. Did I share this on social media? Did I heck!
Instead I chose to leave the impression that I was beavering away creatively on my new work.
I posted this photo after spending Christmas Day with friends. As we're moving to a new country, Mr H and I are being more sociable than usual. In the UK we have our familiar friends, but with the move to the US we want to create a new network around us.
This meant socialising pretty much every day over the Christmas break, which was wonderful. And exhausting.
I need plenty of me-time. I'm naturally introverted and my energy quickly becomes depleted when I'm spending time with other people. Usually I manage this fairly well, but by the time we got to Christmas Day in the States, I was exhausted. I was incredibly grateful that our friends had invited us for dinner and I was also very relieved when it was time to go home and I could look forward to couple of days of solitude, curled up on my sofa.
Also I'd been missing my family massively in the few days before this. At the grand age of 45, this was the first year I'd been apart from my family over Christmas, so there was an underlying longing in this picture. None of which I chose to share in my Facebook update.
So, there you are, the full story behind my three photos and you can see how I chose to share the highlights and shave the sharp edges off my festive experiences.
Does it matter? Well, when we only share the 'good' stuff, we send a message to ourselves and out into the world that the other, messier emotions are unacceptable in some way. And we start to share, and see, a more and more limited range of experiences.
I for one don't want that to happen. And so my hope is that by letting my mask slip in some small way, I've encouraged you to do the same.