Several weeks ago a friend posted a picture on Instagram of her four children with their teacher who had helped every single one of them through the Gifted and Talented program in elementary school. I probably shouldn’t have replied how I did, “Lucky you. I only had one of six make it into the Gifted program. I guess my children are a lot dumber than yours.” She was rather shocked at my reply, claiming that I misunderstood her meaning. But let’s call a spade a spade and admit that she was bragging.

We live in a very strange culture of social media. Between blogs and Facebook and Instagram we have an interesting choice that most people have never had to worry about before now: how to present ourselves. The closest we really have come to this in the past was the annual Christmas card. But now we can give people a thoroughly sanitized, filtered and retouched version of the best parts of our world on a daily (hourly!) basis.

I do this. I am not about to put a picture of myself out there that is not super flattering. If I take a shot of my kids and the dirty kitchen is in the background, I repose everyone so the kitchen is nowhere to be seen. I completely fess up to trying to make my life look better than it really is. There. I said it.

I’ve been blogging for over five years, though, and in that time I’ve had to examine what I want my words and images to say. Even though I want everything I post to seem as nice as possible, I don’t want to make anyone feel bad about their own lives. In my mind there is always the struggle with wanting to post something because I’m proud of it (I can bake and do nails like nobody’s business) and not wanting to post something because nobody likes a braggart.

Nobody likes a braggart, right? One look at Pinterest or the Martha Stewart magazine and I’m not so sure. There is a class offered at every blog conference I’ve ever been to about being true to yourself. Is offering a retouched, pretty version of yourself not being true? Or is it simply smart editing? Should there be an unwritten rule that for every two perfect images you post, you need to offer something self-deprecating? At what point does announcing something good cross the line into obnoxiousness?

I admit that there are a few blogs I have had to stop reading because the lives of the women writing them seemed so perfect that I started feeling really horrible, hateful feelings towards them. A few of these women have actually been honest about some of the struggles they have had to endure and while it was nice to realize that their lives aren’t perfect, they sure seem about 99% more perfect than mine. Turns out I am prone to jealousy and do not handle it well.

What do we do? Own up to the braggy things we post? Slyly try to pretend that we aren’t bragging when we actually are? Not worry about bragging because if somebody’s jealous that’s their problem, not ours? Just not post anything because heaven forbid we offend someone?

I don’t know what the answer is. We could discuss it. Or I could simply post a lovely picture of my daughter wearing an heirloom silk dress standing in a field of bluebonnets and petting a pony.*

*I really did post a picture just like this on Instagram last week. I refrained from pointing out that I made the dress myself. I also did not point out that I had just yelled at my daughter for crying because there were fire ants biting her bare feet. I also did not point out that I had not taken a shower that day and she was the only decent-looking person in the family. See what I mean? Am I supposed to be announcing that? Or do I just post a nice picture and let people think what they may?

April 5, 2013


  1. Same

    April 4, 2013

    You hit the nail on the head! Why do so many women have the need to project perfection?! I to have stopped reading one blog in particular, in a recent post she made the comment of one of her biggest concerns was one of her children ending up over weight? Really that is your biggest concern in life? So shallow. Why can’t we all just be honest and there for each other.

  2. felicity

    April 4, 2013

    I worry about bragging sometimes too. I’ve been told that my blog made another friend feel bad. But I tend to blog the things that I want to remember and I really don’t need to remember that the kitchen was messy or that I yelled at the kids. I’m actually more “real” on facebook or instagram. But I get my dander up sometimes too and have to remember that other people’s triumphs are not meant to diminish mine or me. It can be hard though.

  3. Cheltz

    April 4, 2013

    I think it’s cruel that you didn’t post the picture of your daughter here for us to see … now we just have to wonder. These are all questions that I’ve thought about, and I don’t know the answer. What I do know is that starting my own blog has helped me to know how short of perfect other blogs are. Who knows what’s behind the camera or just cropped out, for example? I also don’t think that people should hide anything they’ve worked hard at or are rightfully proud of to protect others’ feelings. Also, FB is much harder for me to read then a blog. Unless I’ve had five friends have babies or find out that their husband is cancer free, I come away with a bad feeling. I don’t think it’s jealousy (but I could be wrong) I think it’s more exhaustion from watching too many people trying too hard. Well, that’s just my perception :).

  4. robin marie

    April 4, 2013

    I am right there with you. I get jealous and I compare and I stopped reading several blogs. I started blogging 6 years ago before the blog explosion and my purpose was and is very different. I try to be very honest in what I write with a few exceptions of topics I will not write about in a public space. However I get so irritated when people seem to have a professional photographer around or especially with my friends who I know are really struggling and yet you’d think life was perfect on their blog.

  5. robin marie

    April 4, 2013

    One last thing – I do feel a lot of guilt often in sharing things that are good. I grew up in a family that never owned a house. So a few years ago when we purchased a home I was so filled with guilt I felt like I had to justify and explain why/how we bought a house rather than enjoy it.

  6. Blue

    April 4, 2013

    All our communication, whether digital, photographical, spoken, written or otherwise, tells a story. And in the telling of our stories, we are constantly making choices about what to include.

    We tell the parts that will convey the feeling we want the recipient to experience, and leave out other parts, because we simply can’t tell everything. We can’t show everything. We can’t be completely open books.

    The trick is finding a balance, and remembering that others are trying to do the same thing. I choose to be inspired by beautiful nails and insightful tidbits of wisdom and great recipes and gorgeous children and messy playrooms and sweaty post-workout photos and heart-bare honesty in all the people I read/see/hear about, whether in real life or online. I never assume perfect lives of anyone because there is no such thing…not even for a season…I just try to rejoice in their joy, and mourn with their sorrows. Life simply contains no room for jealousy or comparison. So post away, I love it all!

  7. Elissa

    April 4, 2013

    I grew up in a family were I was never praised but constantly shown everything were I feel short. My parents don’t realise this and how it still affects me – I struggle big time with perfectionism. So I do the opposite with my children. I praise them constantly in private and public. Only yesterday I published a BLOG about all the awards one child had won at school recently – should I have kept quiet? No she worked very hard to get those grades and she deserves praise for them. Did I BLOG about the fact that many years ago we were taking her to counselling to deal with her depression – no – because that is private and an issue she will decide if and when she makes public. When people are telling the good stories we need to rejoice with them and realise they have struggles just like we do. And just like us they are dealing with them in private.

  8. RaNae

    April 4, 2013

    I’ve been reading “Bonds that Make Us Free” by C. Terry Warner. It is about healing relationships and realizing the faults we see in others are a reflection of our own need for repentance. We are hurt by their actions not because they have wronged us, but because our hearts are not right before God in some aspect.

    In my family, some children were in the gifted program and some were not. It was a sore spot for my older brother that he worked much harder at school without receiving the recognition that fell in my lap. However, I never considered my school success an accomplishment – because I didn’t have to work for it. What I admire most about him is his natural sensitivity to people. In the big scheme of things, whose gifts are “better”?

    Saying I am good at school is a statement of fact, just like staying I have blue eyes. The fact that I put no time or effort into crafty cute projects does not take away any value from those who enjoy doing them. We are the ones who try ranking our God-given talents into those of lesser or greater value. When we start caring more about what God thinks about us what than others think about us, I believe we will also stop judging each other.

  9. Margaret

    April 4, 2013

    I recently watched the TED talk by Brene Brown on vulnerability–it is changing my life. She says that people who are happiest with themselves and their relationships with others are people who are completely authentic. They believe that what makes them imperfect, makes them beautiful. I’m not a blogger or photographer, but I am learning in other ways not to edit myself for others–I think people can tell when it’s fake anyway. My goal now is to be authentic–it can be a little scary, but it’s so freeing and worth it.

  10. Lindsay

    April 4, 2013

    I look at your opening example, and I have to wonder, what is the difference between “bragging” and being proud? Is there a difference? Is it being proud of your accomplishments that’s bad, or is it the posting of it on social media? I, too, am prone to jealousy and spitefulness, and I sometimes have to quickly close browser tabs so I don’t make snarky comments. Had I been your friend, I would have been mortified by your post on her photo. If she didn’t realize it before, now she knows that, while she may be proud of her children, others will hold their children up to hers and be annoyed by the comparison.

    I guess there is no easy answer. I’ve considered making my blog private so that it truly is a “journal” and I don’t have to worry about offending people, but part of the joy in blogging is sharing, and I’m not ready to let that go. I have quit reading blogs that make me feel like crap, though. I think that’s healthy.

  11. Felicity

    April 4, 2013

    This is something I think about all the time, as I’m not someone who publicly shares personal struggles or too many unpleasant moments of life with 4 kids. I find it interesting that as women, we can’t put into perspective, that what we see on people’s blogs are a snapshot of life. Like you said, it is a zoomed in picture of life that just hapens to cut out the messy kitchen. But doesn’t everyone know that? Everyone has struggles. Everyone has heartache. Everyone has moments everyday (many times) that could be shared that show just how ‘real’ life is. Are some blogs too overtop with ‘my life is perfect’. Absolutely. But what about someone like me, that likes to keep my blog positive, filled with happy pictures, and I do happen to be a photographer? Do I have to post pictures of my kids fighting and share the personal stuggles I or my older children have just to keep it real? My oldest son is only 11 but he reads my blog and I think he learns alot from what he reads from my words. Especially about perspective. Imagine how he would feel If I was sharing stories about him publicly that put him down or shared my frustrations at certain behaviours? I think our children deserve more respect than that. In real life, I don’t share a lot about struggles with others. Not because I want to portray a perfect life, it’s just not who I am. So my blog is actually true to who I am, but I do worry that it comes accross like there are no struggles, because I don’t choose to share them. Like I said, I think about this a lot :)! I apreciate and agree with Blue’s comments above!

  12. Katie

    April 4, 2013

    You raise some excellent points here. This topic has been on my mind recently. Over and over I’ve been trying to figure out what balance looks like, inhabiting a place where I can utilize the benefits of social media without getting sucked in. When I think about the issue of how social media tempts me to have unrealistic expectations of myself, what comes to mind is that pride isn’t a sin because I am actually trying to be good at something, it’s a sin because I am trying to be *better* than someone else–the evil is in comparing myself to something other than what the Lord’s will is for me.

    I loved this post, so much so that I just wrote a poem about it( Thanks for the inspiration and the food for thought!

  13. Becky

    April 4, 2013

    Shouldn’t we rejoice with those who rejoice? I’m glad to see accomplishments listed on my friends’ pages. I can only think of one who sounds as though she is bragging. Everyone else is just honestly sharing their good news. I don’t have a family to brag about so I don’t know what my Instagram or Facebook equivalent post would be but I would be very sad if I thought my friends didn’t want to share in the excitement of good things that happen in my life.

  14. KShaw

    April 4, 2013

    I am sad for you that you made a snarky comment to yuor friend, who was sharing the achievment of her children, and the amazing teacher that helped them get there. I wouldn’t have seen it as bragging, since there had to have been a great deal of sacrifice on the parts of her, the children and the teacher. Why is it wrong of her to celebrate? And to be bummed that only one of your kids made it into the gifted program is sad too. Great job to that kid, and as for the rest of them, I bet they have talents and focus in other areas. I am sure you are a great mom, who saw this picture at a raw moment. Do you really feel negativily towards your friend? I doubt it. You love her,and her children, or you wouldn’t have her in your life. I am not trying to make you feel bad, or make you angry. But sometimes we say things we really don’t mean. Was this one of those times?

  15. Kay

    April 4, 2013

    I’m afraid my take-away from this is that we can celebrate any of our happy moments publically lest we make someone feel bad that we’re not sharing our unhappy moments just as openly.

  16. Strollerblader

    April 4, 2013

    Well said, Blue and Felicity!

    I guess I have been blessed to not be a comparer. I did not realize that so many women struggle with it, nor that I didn’t, for a long time. I am able to see other’s lives and accomplishments and just take away the things they do that I would like to do better, and leave the rest. I’m perfectly OK with not doing big theme parties or having fantastic clothing-coordinated photos. But, I can see someone who does something and think, “Hey, I could probably do that, too. Except, I’d change this part…” I am thankful for this blessing in my life.

    I love to read people’s blogs and get a glimpse into their lives, but I do know that it is an edited look. From my own experience, many of my struggles are not actually mine, but the result of other’s in my family, so it’s not like I can publicly talk about them; I assume that that is the case for most people. I think it really only takes one big trial in life to realize that *if* someone’s not going through a big trial right now, they recently have or there’s one just around the corner for them. Everyone’s got a story behind their smiling faces as they sit in the pews each Sunday. They aren’t being fake; they’re just ‘enduring to the end’ like the rest of us.

  17. E

    April 4, 2013

    Posting a picture of your children with their teacher is “bragging”? Huh?

  18. Melanie

    April 4, 2013

    I think a lot of us struggle with these issues, both as we produce and consume social media.

    Reading about the perfect-seeming lives that some bloggers portray actually inspires me to make the most of every day, to get out and do things rather than just sitting at home refreshing my Facebook newsfeed. I certainly wonder how these young families have the budget to eat out all.the.time and am convinced that they have professional photographers following them around constantly, but many of these blogs have actually been positive influences. I do, however, have one friend that writes about her life in such a saccharine tone that I can barely bring myself to read her blog. I’m not sure what the difference is.

    I think something else that’s important to remember is that it’s really hard to know how other people receive your blog/instagram feed/etc. It’s hard for me to see my blog as others may see it (especially those who read but don’t know me in real life), because I have the full backstory of my life. Sure, it’s possible to try and take an objective look at what you share and publish online, but it’s impossible to know how your message with be received by those who (like you and all of us, for that matter) come bringing their own issues, insecurities, and experiences.

  19. Cristie Carter

    April 4, 2013

    So many thoughtful good comments here…

    it just doesn’t seem like bragging to me. I rejoice in all of those happy situations. Happy for something positive to read or see. I guess I’m just lucky that way. ccc

  20. MB

    April 4, 2013

    RaNae and Margaret have some good points.

    I have a niece who consistently posts photos of her children’s accomplishments. I think she does it because it’s part of her way of celebrating and she really doesn’t care much about what other people think of that. Since I love her, I don’t let it bother me (though it does strike me as odd).

    I don’t post photos of my children’s accomplishments nor of my own nor do I write about them in my blog. My personal guidelines are these:

    If I’m grateful for what was done, I thank God and the person who did it.

    If I’m pleased with what was done, I tell the person who did it.

    If I’m proud of what was done, I change my attitude to that of being pleased and grateful and act as indicated above.

    If I learn something insightful because of what was done I write about what I learned so I can remember it later when I need it.

    If I want to show-off what has been done I realize that I’m needing others’ approval in order feel good about what was done and I repent.

    If someone posts about accomplishments in their family I’m happy for them. (Though I do still think that posting about it is odd.)

  21. Michelle

    April 4, 2013

    I think ultimately there are so many different reasons people blog, post, do photos, etc. that I’m not sure it’s reasonable to make decisions about what/how to post based on what others *might* think. You may appease one group but disappoint another.

    I think we all ought to do our best and trust that God knows our hearts. And if He nudges us to refine what we do for our own hearts’ sake, then great.

    I see social media as a bit of a spiritual gym opportunity. We get some good out of going but sometimes it can hurt and we need to practice what works and get guidance so we don’t hurt ourselves or compare too much as we are trying to become stronger and better and healthier.

  22. Julie

    April 5, 2013

    I think the real problem comes when we compare. When comparing, there is a winner and a loser. The winner feels great because their children are gifted and so on. The loser feels badly because their children are in regular classes. And so it goes that one ranks themselves being winners and losers by comparison. Unfortunately, the apparent winner is still the loser because they are full of pride. So, I suggest to all (including myself) to stop comparing yourself or your situation to others. There are many extremely talented photographers and bloggers with beautiful, amazing children. I love to read about them. Keep it up!!

  23. whitneyingram

    April 5, 2013

    I never buy the facade and I don’t have time for the people that are trying to sell it to me. Having said that, it is possible to go through crap and still be happy.

  24. Stephanie

    April 5, 2013

    I’m not naturally a comparing person. Oh sure, I do it occasionally, but for the most part I don’t feel the need to measure myself against others- particularly when it comes to social media personas.

    To me, facebook is getting old and stale. It’s like a self-promotion page of stuff I don’t give a rip about. I’m not there much anymore. I do like instagram simply because it lacks the advertising insanity I see everywhere else. And, as for blogs, I like them. I’ve always like them. I will be forthright and say I’m much more drawn to blogs that are more “real” and less braggy, but overall, I like to follow blogs more than anything other social media outlet.

    And Jennie, like you, I’ve been blogging for five years now, and I have seen things change and evolve in the blog world that I don’t always enjoy. But, I still choose to read the ones I follow and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

  25. Heathermommy

    April 5, 2013

    I think we have a problem in our culture as perceiving things as bragging. Sure bragging does exist. But can’t we talk about the good things in our lives without being accused of bragging? Isn’t “being real” sharing both the good and the bad? Surely not anyone’s life is all bad.

  26. all8garden

    April 5, 2013

    I have stopped reading some blogs because of how frou frou they were.

    For myself, I try to look for all of the good going on in our lives, which has been good right now because of the terrible whirlwind we’ve entered. I don’t shy away from the reality of it but I try to find the silver lining, the blessings that Father shows through all of the lovely people that choose to be his hands. I hope that no one finds offense in my gratitude. I’ve blogged for 7 years (Ack, who knew it had been that long.) I would say that blogging evolves over time for each person. At first I wanted people to pop on over but it doesn’t matter so much any more, it has become more of a journal, as it should be, for me.

  27. Harlene

    April 6, 2013

    While driving my kids home from school, my son asked, “What’s GT mean?” My daughter answered, “Gifted and Talented, we aren’t either.”

  28. M2theh

    April 6, 2013

    If I take a pic of my daughter and it shows the messy kitchen behind her, I post it. I don’t try to sanitize or glamorize the way we live.

    And I did make a snarky comment on FB, on a former SILs post about how she’s down to her pre pregnancy pants a week after having a baby. I wasn’t the only one. I don’t think that she realized I really did mean what I said. Her last string of posts have been out and out bragging and the kind that no one wants to hear. If you only pushed for two minutes if labor, keep it to yourself. Don’t put it on Facebook.

  29. Kellie aka Selwyn

    April 6, 2013

    If I only blogged the pretty and wonderful, I’d have maybe three sentences!

    I try to be positive (and am stubbornly independent) so try not to show too much of the mud. I’m also practicing imperfection, so have given myself permission to show life as it is, dirty counters and all. Though it’s still a struggle sometimes.

  30. Miss Charming

    April 6, 2013

    I personally enjoy reading design blogs that are pretty and well designed. (And I’m assuming that there are dirty dishes or other less than perfect vignettes just outside of the photo frame. If I wanted to look at mess and chaos, my own home would more than enough oblige.)

    I could do without the bragging, though. There are certain people who brag all the time– it’s in their nature. They have a need to broadcast and praise every little accomplishment in their life and a snarky comment won’t change that. Others may occasionally brag over something they’re quite excited about. (I say, go for it.) Their good fortune may inspire others.

  31. Dovie

    April 7, 2013

    You should all be FB friends with me, then you would all feel way better about all the stuff, especially in the domestic realm. That’s my job keeping it real, it’s my calling or something. That said I do think sometimes you should exercise discretion for various reasons. Sometimes I don’t use the best judgement and have to take something down as quickly as I put it up. When I take a picture if there is a way to frame it or crop it so not every chaotic detail of my life is involved I’ll do it, or I can make my recently gained forty pounds not look quite like forty pounds I’m all for that. I am careful about what I post because I wouldn’t want my happiness in a moment to cause someone else real pain, though there is no way to totally avoid the possibility. As far as viewing others sometimes I find myself with a twinge of jealousy but you have no idea what might make me feel that way and there is no way I’m telling, so please let’s all just try and be thoughtful and do our best on both ends. I love social media, it has really blessed my life and given me insights and opportunities to tangibly bless others and though some folks I only or mainly know through it, I count them as true friends and I do enjoy rejoicing with them in their joys and blessings. I’m equally bound to mourn with them when they mourn and most especially I love laughing at their jokes.

    On the topic of the four GT kids photo, having some of those of my own and having some of my sibling’s children fall into that same category, there are some unique challenges that can come with that type of very smart quirky brain. I’ve lived and witnessed some heartbreaking things with institutions, peers, and even teachers that don’t “get” them. Sometimes it borders on abusive behavior. The relief and the gratitude for an instructor and friends and institutions that “get” them can’t be understated. I’m sure any parent with any child that struggles and finds someone or something that makes a difference in a critical time can understand that. So if I’d found someone like that I’d take a picture too. Oh wait I have and I might even post it on FB.

    I’m serious about being your FB friend. There aren’t that many Dovies in the world, search and look for a cat with laser eyes, my current profile picture. You’ll feel way better about yourself, and I’m totally okay with that.

  32. annegb

    April 8, 2013

    If I had four kids in a gifted program, I’d take out a neon sign in Times Square.

  33. annegb

    April 8, 2013

    Even if I only had one……

  34. my two cents

    April 8, 2013

    I think the braggers are just as bad as the ‘keeping it real’ group for the sheer fact that those ‘keeping it real’ presume that those who don’t share the crazy schedule of the day or the pile of dishes must not have crazy days and piles of dishes.

    I agree with those who have asked, can’t we all just celebrate each others joys together? And can’t we all wallow with arms around each other on the ‘real’ days? At the end of it all, someone’s reaction to either side of the spectrum is not about the person who posted their facebook status. It’s about your reaction to it, your heart. Your reaction should tell you more about yourself than it does about the friend’s post.

  35. Naismith

    April 9, 2013

    I agree with Dovie, I never thought of having gifted kids as something to brag about.

    Indeed, at one of my kid’s elementary school, they had a “Unicorn Club” that included all the kids in special programs: ESL, learning impaired, gifted. They had parties together, and went on field trips together. It was kind of cool to see a deaf child pushing another student’s wheelchair. And sometimes there was tutoring between some of them.

  36. Maralise

    April 11, 2013

    Oh annegb, my thoughts exactly.

  37. Lisa

    April 13, 2013

    I have been thinking about this article all week long. Here’s my personal take on one possible aspect of this braggy world. 🙂
    Love these thought-provoking articles!

  38. Sarah

    April 20, 2013

    Honestly, I have a hard time with the opposite end of the spectrum — the complainers and over-sharers. People who use facebook as a platform to complain about “cliques” (who are on their friends list and she might even be talking about me for all I know) or how ill/tired/annoyed with life they are make me stabby. I can’t handle the negativity.

    I haven’t come across much bragging on FB, and if I find a blog that makes me roll my eyes or feel “less than” I click away.

    As far as the picture of kids in G&T goes, the comment made was kind of saddening. If I was that mom and saw those words by a friend, I would be horrified and wonder if she was really my friend at all. :/

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