I consider myself a pretty content woman. I have things I want, but I'm decently good at waiting for them to come my way in good time. It's always been incredibly important to me to value the right things in life, and I know that perfection in my home, in my body, or in my parenting just isn't something I'm interested in pursuing.
Yes, I want the quality to be there, but perfection can go hop out a window.
But I slowly started noticing everyone else's work. Spacious, shiny bathrooms with brand new tile work. Luxurious living rooms with enough gorgeous, textured pillows to drown in. Coffee cups perched, nestled, sipped at perfectly EVERYWHERE. People exploring the most incredible cities in the world...cafes, bookstores, natural pools, historic dwellings out of an Austen novel. Color-coordinated feeds. Gorgeous, well made, delicious shoes. Red flags started flying in my head.
DANGER, DANGER, BRITTANY. DISCONTENTMENT AND UNHAPPINESS LIES THIS WAY. EJECT, EJECT!
Perfection rose up in my face- beautiful, seductive, DESTRUCTIVE perfection- and my instincts regarded it as the monster I knew it was and pushed me to abandon this dreadful, beautiful place before it gobbled me up.
As my thoughts wrestled around, I started wondering about the purpose of aesthetics, and if there was any value to living a life concerned about the style and placement of things. I knew beauty wasn't inherently bad and had this instinct that concern over aesthetics wasn't bad either...I just hadn't yet found my equilibrium after a perception shift, and I needed to explore this more.
I ended up finding way more than I can share here, as I am now on a road to self-discovery as I explore my passion for the philosophy of aesthetics, but I will share what matters at the moment.
Beauty has a purpose in our lives. It gives a shape, a texture, a richness to everything. We have to be careful about easy pitfalls like vanity or very limited definitions of beauty, but being sensitive to our environment and it's inherent beauties is a life-giving thing. With aesthetics, we learn to explore and engage all of our senses in a vibrant, emotional experience. So when we take extra care in the planning of our weekend with our kids, or carefully select our favorite textures for the pillows on the couch, or search for the perfect butterfly bush for the garden...it isn't always vanity. It can be responding emotionally to an environment, and in creating new environments, we are wanting to bring others into that emotion with us. We desire to create meaningful space. Really, aesthetics is a beautiful thing when your perspective is coming from that kind of place.
Where Instagram goes wrong is when you drag the kids outside to play in the snow, you ask them to pose a bunch, the kids are miserable and you are miserable and you realize you didn't bring them out there to play at all in the first place. It was all for show. Who's done it? Guilty? Guilty? I am, for sure. The whole idea isn't wrong. The push to get content for Instagram is. And that alone was what bothered me so much that first two weeks.
But before I threw the baby out with the bath water, I realized I could eliminate that toxic mindset without getting rid of what makes Instagram an incredible place: the pursuit of aesthetics and the sharing of ideas. Quality of life, finding beauty, exploring the wonder in the everyday. I can shift my mindset just a little and find myself living my ordinary life that is in the pursuit of the everyday extraordinary. I can get inspired by a fellow Instagrammer exploring Greece with their kids, push my lazy butt off the couch, get my kids in the car, and go explore our city a bit. I can be inspired by another mother's thoughtful picnic with her kids and decide that a picnic under our oak tree would be wonderful that afternoon, and treat my kids to some special treats out in the dappled light, instead of inside on my phone while my kids enjoy their 4th episode of Odd Squad.
I will still have those lazy days. I will always advocate laziness and TV time and crappy cozy clothes and hot dogs at dinner whenever you need it.
But I have found that I am pushing myself to add more quality to my life these days, because of the inspiration and aesthetics I find myself enjoying through Instagram.
So two weeks in, coming full circle on the anxiety train, I stopped looking at my home so critically. I chose not to worry about the time I spent on Instagram by carefully selecting times throughout the day to do it without guilt. A little care, a little intention, a little planning, and I found my perfect balance between being present locally and being part of a creative, international community.
Because the world IS beautiful. And I want to engage in it, healthfully.