Magpie Moment: Transparency

We are rarely shown the unvarnished truth.
Photo from Susannah Connaway’s course, Unravelling.

Listen, I have something to tell you: Everyone else is not doing better than you.

Everyone Else does not know what they are doing. Everyone Else does not bring in as much money as you think they do. Everyone Else does not move through life without making errors. Everyone Else does not have it all together.

In our internet world of over-sharing, it’s easy to think that the lives we see spelled out on Facebook are all sunshine and roses. Sure, a few people let us know about the agony of their root canal, or vent about how frustrating it is to have the sewer back up into their bathtub. But for the most part we hear loads of messages everyday about how everything is going so very well. And while it’s wonderful to celebrate with our friends, acquaintances and tweeple, it can also get our gremlins adding imaginary hashtags in our heads:

  • “I’m meet with Amazing Perons X,Y, and Z at a Fabulous Location today. Squee!” #drippingwithcoolfriends #notalonelikeyou
  • “Just got my 10,000th subscriber on my blog!” #sobig #nowmakingmillions
  • “The twins are wearing their matching outfits at the park  and playing with puppies.” #notinfertilelikeyou
  • “Week number two in Hawaii. Tanned and dinning on nothing but fresh fruit.” #notdealingwithforeclosure

All of this makes it seem like the lives of people you admire are an open book. But really they are just an open calendar –showing you the events of the day, but not the realities behind them. This makes you feel like you are seeing an unvarnished view of the lives of others — it imitates transparency. But in reality this view of each other’s lives is opaque.

Here are some of the things you may not know:

  • Photographers who show you charming pictures of their sunlit kitchen table are wrenched by behind-the-scene divorces.
  • Posts about awesome vacations fail to mention the complete toddler meltdowns at the airport.
  • Bloggers you admire are scraping by, not making millions. (Well, some are making millions, but fewer than you might think.)

This is not to say the Everyone Else is lying to you. It’s just a reminder: you are not seeing the whole picture.

You experience every aspect of your life — the good, the bad, the neutral. But you only see a slice of Everyone Else’s day to day. And that’s good. We all need some privacy, and there is such a thing as “family business.” But it’s all to easy to forget this reality, to shiver in the reflected glow of our luminaries, to judge our lives as cold when viewed in the burning light of others.

Here are some for-instances from the life of me, your magpie girl:

  • Overall, I lost money this year on my online business.
  • I have to apologize for snapping at my kids on a regular basis.
  • Yesterday, in spite of my gorgeous garden, I ate peanut butter puff cereal for dinner.
  • Vacations to sunny climes are prioritized spending in order to treat intense Seasonal Affect Disorder (depression.)

When you are reading the lives of others on line, remember — you are not seeing the whole picture. Twitter tells just 140 characters of the Whole Story. Facebook is not Transparent. Everyone Else is just like you — putting one foot in front of the other, ‘cuz there ain’t no where to go but together.

What about you Magpies? Do you feel like Everyone Else is doing better than you? What indicators to you have in your body/mind/spirit when your gremlins start telling you lies about the goodliness of your own “one wild, precious life?” How do you have a reality check in the midst of so much glowing?

My blessing for you today is this: May you celebrate the joys of others. May you support them in their sorrows. And may your own varied story always find a place to be told.

(Amen. May it be so.)

Much Warmth,

*your magpie girl


darrah parker September 26, 2011 at 9:20 am

YES! I think it takes constant practice to remind ourselves of this over and over and over again.

Christine (Blisschick) Reed September 26, 2011 at 9:35 am

I feel like I walk around in this world, whether online or IRL, pretty naked almost all of the time. I am not praising myself here…it is just an observation and there is good AND bad in this, ya know? I spend a lot of time feeling raw. Masks can serve a healthy purpose some times…or is that just what we say…

I am just musing here…you have me thinking. :)

tea_austen September 26, 2011 at 9:38 am

This is so true, and I struggle with it on my own site because people tell me what a glorious life I must have and I have to remind them that I have just as much dirty laundry/weeds in my garden/cluttered closets as they do—maybe more! I do write about the hard/scary/sad stuff, but it’s the sunshiny days that people clutch onto.

I like the advice, given often in the 12-step world: Don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides. And the internet makes it even harder.

Maddie September 26, 2011 at 10:26 am

Great post.. I sent it out for a retweet to share it with those I value… Such a good subject worth more refelction that is sure. ..


Ellie Di September 26, 2011 at 10:53 am

I woke up with Nebulous Angst about my big thing after having a week’s vacation to celebrate all the hard work I’ve done to make it come to life. And I’m starting to suspect that part of the angst is comparisons projecting themselves onto worries about my “image” (whatever that is). This got to me today. In a good way.

Rachelle September 26, 2011 at 11:16 am

Oh Ellie! Good on you for all that hard work. Now plese tell yourself true things. (On endless repeat!)

If it helps at all, it’s really common to have Nebulous Angst when you get through a big chunk of a project, or when you release a project. It’s similar to post-partum blues. I have a little primer about the ups and downs of the creative cycle here:

Thank you for creating from your passion!


Andrea Lewicki September 26, 2011 at 12:07 pm

After I read your post I remembered a scene from the movie High Fidelity (seriously recommended, and not just because of John Cusack). There’s a scene where his character is talking about fantasy vs reality in terms of panties. Reality is everyday granny panties. Fantasy is sexy lacy things. We imagine the “better than me” people as wearing sexy lacy things all the time when in reality, they rock the granny panties as much as everyone else.

Rachel September 26, 2011 at 12:30 pm

YES YES YES!!! And that is exactly why I wrote this post!

Because I want people to know that although I have my little business, and my mornings off and even turned a little bit of a profit last year I want them to know I suffer awful anxiety and panic attacks and have done for years + am still having treatment for it. Because I want to be as honest as I can.

Thank you for this x

Kel September 26, 2011 at 2:02 pm

much truth here
deep down we all know it
sometimes I think people want to believe the ‘shiny happy’ side of life they see shimmering out of their screens, rather than the truth everybody deals with

yogalicious September 26, 2011 at 2:41 pm

Thank you for your candid post. Just what I needed to hear today. One more fabulous vacation snap today was going to make me snap too. And not in a good way.

You are fantabulous in your imperfection!

linda c. thomas September 27, 2011 at 7:21 am

Just read your post. Thank you for reminding me that I am exactly where I am suppose to be.



Jennifer Elizabeth September 27, 2011 at 8:23 am

i love this post! i first read it yesterday morning while commuting to work. while i was coming home from work i read a post, on the exact same subject, with a perspective 180 degrees from yours. after reading both arguments one for more transparency one for less, your view definitely resonates strongly with me.

as i said in the comment i left on the other post, before any of us are business owners & entrepreneurs we are human first. human’s struggle, not everyday flows along the river of peaceful, serene beauty. sometimes that river roars, causing panic and un-foreseen turmoil. you know what, i can relate to the turmoil just as i can relate to the peace.

as a matter of fact. i choose to support small business mainly because of the human element behind them. something that is grossly missing from their corporate counterparts.

thanks for this! and if anyone is interested in reading the other perspective that post is here:

Rachelle September 27, 2011 at 8:47 am

Thank you everyone. It’s so nice when our learning curve swoops this way and that together!

Much Warmth,


Cindy September 27, 2011 at 9:43 am

Thank you, Rachelle,

I find it especially easy to become overwhelmed with my perceptions of other’s reality when I allow myself to be come overtired and overworked! We had an epiphany a few years ago when walking through a real estate open house, that what makes us want to move (or have the home in the magazine, etc.) is that all the clutter has been swept aside! Harder to do in the midst of living, both with the real clutter of working parents and kids at home, and with the psychic clutter of schedules, work pressures, hormones, etc.

Grace September 28, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Thank you for this post and the blessing! I often wonder about the people behind the blog. I appreciate your honesty in revealing some of your gremlins. I’m sure my blog comes off as being happy and joyous but the truth is I have time to spend in the garden (although my veggie garden was pretty poor this year and so I focused on wild flowers) and in nature this summer because I’m just not getting that much work! So we are struggling a bit right now.

Susan September 28, 2011 at 10:32 pm

very much enjoyed reading this. especially liked the clever fake posts and #addresses. i too love peanutbutter puff cereal and see the harm in comparisons with 140 characters of the Whole Story. thank you.

Tara Eastman September 29, 2011 at 10:20 pm

I love the honesty in this post. Seeing the whole picture does make a difference – I keep forgetting about the reality of granny panties. Deep down I’m really thankful for the comfy spanks.

Tanja September 30, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Oh, this was JUST what I needed to read today, thank you. Earlier, Amy from the Joy Junkie asked us on Facebook “What lie have you been telling yourself”?

And I realised that mine was “Nobody’s going to want to read what YOU write, Tanja!” Because of course, I’m just a newbie, and everything I want to say has already been said (or is being said RIGHT NOW THIS VERY MOMENT) so much better, in a so much cooler way, by people who are way more advanced and smarter and together than *I* am.

And intellectually I know the first part is a lie, because hey, it’s a big world out there, and there’s room for a little repetition when it comes to the important stuff. But your post helped me get crystal clear on the fact that all those more advanced, smarter, more together people are still human too. And they had to start somewhere too. That doesn’t make them any less awesome – so why should it make *me* any less either?

Thank you for that!

Amy September 30, 2011 at 5:32 pm

This is exactly what I needed to hear today. Thank you.

This is my first time to you site and I think I might stay awhile.
I followed a link from G+ and landed smack dab where I needed to be.

Twyla October 2, 2011 at 5:52 am

heck yes everyone else has an up on me, doing better than me, etc.
nice post

Lisa October 2, 2011 at 8:28 am

Thank you for this post. I am new to this site, and love the honesty. I know that most people dont see the “other” side of me or people in general. And when u post something, some people get it, some blow it out of proportion, some jumpe the gun on an idea, and some just are ablivous to thier own sarcasm. It was nice to hear your words! lol I want to spread your words for others to become knowledgable. There is always a dark side, a place where someone isn’t doing better than you, and all is not coming up roses, just becasue we’re having a good or bad day day. lol :) I am pretty raw myself. I post my dialey statuses whether I am having a good day or bad. Sometimes, I need to shout to the world I am alive, and sometimes, I need a hug…. because that is me in the moment. Thanks!

Haley October 5, 2011 at 10:52 am

Oh my, this post is epic. How very true and needed (especially for myself right now)!
Thankyou so much for your brutal and heart-opening honesty =)

Kai October 13, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Love this post! I struggle with this on a daily basis. But it really hit home when someone perceived me as doing better than most and I realized it’s all false perception.
I lost three loved ones in the span of ten months.
I make daily sacrifices in terms of luxuries so I can work on my passion full time.
I fall into bed exhausted most days after working, working, working.
I work from home but it is also ridiculously isolating.
This post has inspired me to be more transparent in what I share online because I think that is a gift you are giving people. To see the reality of life so they stop striving for that ideal society has created and is virtually impossible to attain.

Sarah November 2, 2011 at 7:25 am

I needed to hear this today. I read it when you first posted it and I saw the link again today in your email. My gremlins are still saying, yeah everyone has rough spots but you’re a real failure. I’ll try to ignore them though. Thanks Rachelle.

Angela Ekvall May 7, 2012 at 11:15 am

Loved this post… it’s a perfect reminder. I have my whole picture to look at and need to remember about Everyone Else. None of us are perfect, we all have our probelms and flaws… it’s those differences that make us unique, special and give us value to those that love us, including ourselves.

anna k. November 6, 2012 at 1:09 pm

That’s exactly why I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook…great post! So glad I was given a heads up about your page through Liz @Be Present, Be Here. GOOD STUFF.

Rachelle November 8, 2012 at 5:56 pm

Thank you Anna. I’m so glad we’ve been linked up through Liz. (“Linked up through Liz is fun to say. Try it three times fast!) :-)

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