The Story Behind the Photo
Last weekend in Bella Vita Yoga Teacher Training, I facilitated a discussion on self-care that led to a conversation around how easy it is to compare ourselves to others, particularly in the realm of social media. We scroll through photo after photo of our friends’ smiling faces, cute babies, extravagant meals, and vacation scenes that could just as well have been taken from the cover of a travel magazine. We compare our lives to others’ lives, and we come up short. It’s because we don’t know the whole story.
Know that for every image you see, there is a wider context. There is a bigger picture beyond what is shown.
Your friend who is smiling so brilliantly beside her mom and her sister and her best friend? She just admitted once and for all that her marriage is over. She’s trying so hard to put on a happy face. Maybe it will help.
Your friend whose baby actually looks like the Gerber baby? She was up for most of last night, trying her hardest to soothe the baby back to sleep. She is tired and wishes she had some help. The father has chosen not to be involved.
That extravagant meal that looks as if was prepared by a celebrity chef? Your friend cooks to distract himself. He just found out that his mom was admitted to the hospital, again.
That outrageously gorgeous vacation photo? Shortly after that photo was taken, your friend had a skiing accident that resulted in a dislocated shoulder and months of painful physical therapy.
All of the above are true stories, by the way.
In order to capture the whole picture, we must understand the wider context of the story Behind the Scenes of our peers’ highlights as they appear on social media. Here are a few images you may have viewed on my own social media, along with the rest of the story.
Highlight: A breathtaking Acro yoga pose executed with friends outside on a bright spring day, bodies elegantly poised as if frozen in time.
Behind the Scenes: Numerous falls and fails that result in giggling piles of bodies tangled up askew on the ground. Actually, I wish we took more photos of those moments: hilarious and irreverent and the reason we do Acro in the first place: to play and have a good time.
Highlight: My dogs sleeping soundly together in their little nest of adorableness. How cute.
Behind the Scenes: The dogs are resting after my cleaning up their third dog pee of the day. They must be really tired after having been yelled at.
Highlight: Arms and legs wrapped around each other, my lady friends and I capture a giggling selfie of our night out on the town.
Behind the Scenes: The panicky look on my face as my introvert nature kicks in about twenty minutes later. It’s suddenly time for me to be home in my pj’s, curled up under my softest blanket. How close is the nearest Uber?
Highlight: A sweet group photo taken after yoga class, a beloved student’s last class at the studio before moving across the country.
Behind the Scenes: My heart was broken, just that morning. When my tears could no longer be contained, they leaked out, right at the end of class, but I wiped my eyes and blew my nose and smiled for the camera anyway.
I am one of those people who is so relieved when I receive an actual honest answer, a non-sugar coated or dusted with sprinkles response, when I ask, “How are you today?” It is so refreshing to hear a response along the lines of, “Well…Today’s okay. Yesterday? Yesterday was tough.” Because at that moment, there is an opportunity to connect with each other as we are, beyond our masks and one-dimensional images, and lift the curtain to reveal what’s Behind the Scenes.
Know that I am honored each time I have the opportunity to hold space for your Behind the Scenes stories exactly as they are. And given the opportunity, anyone worth knowing your stories will be as well. Your work, OUR work, is to have to courage to share them, and to offer each other the permission to share.