Pay No Attention to that Blogger Behind the Curtain

When I started blogging, I was amazed by the community. Blogging made the world feel so much smaller. There were folks in the Ukraine listening to the same music as I, women in Australia with the same figure sharing their style tips, ladies in Brazil whose lives felt so very much like my own. Blogs were about finding people you could relate to, and who could relate to you. Posts were about what you did that weekend, selfies in the bedroom mirror with a point and shoot camera, or musings about experiences from childhood. All three could be on the same black background, white font, hot pink hyperlink blog.

jeannette walls quote nobodys perfect were all just one step up from the beasts and one step down from the angels

Blogging became a “thing” around 2008, 2009 and people started achieving fame because of their web logs. Blogging was still about being relatable but also became inspirational. Everyday women like you and me who fought for health, for life, for their voice to be heard, for their community to be a better place. Women you wouldn’t look twice at in the grocery store who were changing the world and getting paid for sharing it on their blogs. People who had the same struggles as you were moving mountains, or at least embracing their curves. It was an exciting time, and it was exciting how the press would recognize these virtually unknown people and give them a larger platform.

The next decade started and blogging became HUGE. Bloggers were admitting that they made six figures from partnerships and everyone was clamoring to get a piece. Overnight, unknown bloggers would gain tens of thousands of followers on Instagram, star in TV commercials, secure partnerships with covetable brands, and take comped trips all over the globe. CNN, Time, and even Vogue were referencing bloggers and featuring them in articles. Attractive, perpetually happy women with beautiful families, beautiful homes, beautiful closets, and beautiful hair were documenting their perfect lives and getting paid bank. Blogging went from inspirational to aspirational.

When I started blogging in 2005, I didn’t have the best body image. I recently switched from a job in retail (on my feet all day, lots of lifting, heavy labor and walking) to Corporate America (sitting on my ass all day in front of a computer). It seemed overnight my body didn’t just grow but morphed into a completely different shape. Connecting with women around the globe who were shaped like me, had budgets and lifestyles similar to me was an amazing boost for my confidence. I knew how to dress my body, but I still gained so much seeing other women infuse their personal style into their wardrobes. I tried new things, and in turn made good friends.

blogging quote allison burnett only on the internet can a person be lonely and popular at the same time

A few years later, blogging helped me once again. After having Emerson I felt lost. I was a mother, a wife, a cloth diaper expert (thanks The Nest and Mothering), but where was Alison? Reading blogs, I learned of women in a similar place as me, and they were experiencing the same struggles and sharing how they found themselves. They inspired me, and reminded me why I continued to blog. And so I used my blog to share my style and personal journey, hoping I too could inspire fellow women. Blogging took a new role, and it was so fulfilling. During this time I connected with several people through this blog, women across the globe, many who are still friends to this day, even if they have shuttered their blog or stopped reading mine.

Last Tuesday I opened Feedly for the first time in a month. Once an avid blog reader, I now avoid more than just a handful because I get so frustrated. I get the appeal of aspirational blogs, there’s some I positively adore because they are just so beautiful, like a living version of ELLE Décor or Vogue (or Domino or K I N F O L K or Nylon). But many… it’s not about beauty or art or style. It’s about curating a very specific lifestyle to evoke jealousy in the hope that people will try to emulate with a few clicks of their mouse.

Charles Baxter quote when all the details fit in perfectly something is probably wrong with the story on jealousy

Specific angles of the camera to make their small studio apartment look like an airy open loft. Borrowing clothes from friends or hiding pricetags to be able to strut down a city street in a designer frock. Knowing that a casual strut down a city street took place at an ungodly hour to get good light and fewer people in the shot, that there was not just a boyfriend photographer but friend as assistant, makeup artist, and often a photographer’s assistant with a reflector there putting in a lot of effort to achieve effortless chic. And that the casual strut outfit was the second of six that were shot on the very same day.  That a beautiful airy living room usually has that chair in the office, that paperweight belongs to a neighbor, and the kitchen is currently filled to the brim with everything that is usually in the living room: toys, ratty afghans from childhood, celebrity gossip magazines, books that don't fit into the color story, and a lamp that may not look pretty but gives the perfect light for surfing the ‘net while binging on Netflix.

There’s nothing wrong with any of this, as long as people realize that a lot of blogs aren’t real. These people aren’t perfect, their life isn’t perfect, and they’re not that different from you. And I don’t mean that in a, “Lady Gaga also pumps gas! Reese Witherspoon also goes to Whole Foods!” way, but in the fact that these seemingly perfect bloggers have lives outside the blog and social media. Fights with spouses, children who throw huge fits in the middle of Target or projectile vomit in the back of the family car, body image issues, health issues, and yes even financial issues. Buying her dress or her couch or her mascara won’t make you her… and you don’t want to be her anyway.

Lauren King quote there are two kinds of perfect the one you can never achieve and the other by just being yourselfl

I know all this, yet it still gets me. Last Tuesday night I curled up in bed next to Karl and he asked what was wrong. I didn’t realize my thoughts were evident, and I told him what I am embarrassed to admit. I'm such a lazy slacker. There’s so much with this blog I want to do, but instead I sit on the couch with Emerson and watch America’s Got Talent. And a good parent would do something far more constructive and educational than watch bad summer TV.  I was late at the office because I was procrastinating and had to rush to get a project done in time. I’m overweight, and if I had a bit more willpower I could get my ass in gear. I need to lose weight, if I lose weight I can get better sponsorships.  My bedroom is a mess, my closet’s a mess, I really need a haircut and should get one since income comes from my appearance. I need to update some evergreen content with new links, I need to start working on getting into video, I have 73 unread emails in my personal inbox, I need to return those shoes to Amazon, those dresses to ASOS, that hideous sweater to LOFT. I have a dozen half-written posts and nothing scheduled past tomorrow. Should I spend to get a bigger site redesign so I can compete with other bloggers? Should I go to another conference? Why am I doing all this, do I want to go pro? I need to set up coffee with half a dozen people in the next two weeks and I need to reschedule dinner with my friend Kim. Do you want to go see that concert? I can buy tickets tomorrow morning after I order Emerson swim shoes and schedule us all dental appointments and I need to get Emerson’s school supplies and she needs new rainboots right? Maybe I should do Whole30 again…

“Have you been reading blogs again?” Karl said after letting me babble on for ten minutes. “Because anyone who actually knows you in real life would never ever consider you a slacker.”

He's right.  I’m not a slacker. I have two jobs, I’m a Girl Scout leader, I volunteer in my community, spend time with quality friends, have an amazing family. I like blogging on my terms, and while I lose my way from time to time I feel lately I’m getting back to where things feel right. My life is pretty fantastic, when I don’t compare it to anyone else’s life. I am pretty great, when I am not comparing myself to any other.

Mark Twain Quote Comparison is the death of joy

I’m betting you’re pretty great too. If you’re a blog reader like me and you start doubting your looks, life, and choices please understand it’s not you, it’s the blogs. Money is made by encouraging you to buy something, and the easiest way to get someone to buy is to feed into insecurity. Don’t fall for this trap. You’re lovely just the way you are, and just like these bloggers who work extremely hard to curate an aspirational lifestyle, you’re perfectly imperfect. There’s nothing wrong with being human, being normal, and being imperfect. We’re all that way, it’s just that imperfection doesn’t sell shoes.

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30 Comments

  1. Emily R
    August 18, 2015 / 4:11 pm

    Absolutely loved this post. I’ve been following you for years and part of the reason I do is because you always tell it like it is, you don’t try to be perfect (because no one is) and your posts don’t leave me feeling like I’m inadequate or like I need to buy something to improve my life. Everything you said here is completely on point. Thank you for being you!

  2. August 10, 2015 / 11:50 am

    Gosh – I stopped reading all be a handful of sewing blogs years ago. I blame it on my new life – working in a downtown with a commute – but really, I don’t need to see anyone else’s ‘perfect’ life to make mine feel small and imperfect. Like you – I need to lose weight (my hair cut is scheduled!) and do more than I’m doing – I was just thinking of the to do list for when I get home tonight. I’ve been married for 20 years, my girls are grown women who are doing great things with their lives and I enjoy knitting while watching crappy summer tv. My husband loves me and I’m good at my job – there really is nothing wrong with my life!!
    Fabulous post – thank you for putting words to it. g

  3. August 8, 2015 / 8:05 pm

    1) this is why I mostly read bloggers in their 50s+ (I am 31, smack in the target demographic for mom-fabulous blogs)–they seem to have a much easier time being real and seem to have figured out how to like themselves. That’s also why I read your blog!
    2) fwiw, I never watch videos on any blogs–I’d much rather take a blog post at my own pace, leave it to run off and chase my kid or finish a task at work, and come back to it as I please instead of having to sit, captive, while a blogger (who got famous writing, not speaking) rattles on about something. So there’s at least one of your faithful readers who doesn’t care if you get into video 🙂 and who let her child watch tv with her last night too 🙂

    Leah from http://thriftshopchic.com

  4. Nancydrew
    August 8, 2015 / 9:28 am

    I not a blogger, but your thoughts here resonate with my Facebook envy! I find I am much more content with my own life when I distance myself from
    Facebook. Your blog is the only thing I check religiously online these days because I know that after reading it I will always feel better than I did before. Thank you for that!

  5. Lisa
    August 8, 2015 / 8:10 am

    Once again- its Ally for the win! You have no idea how much I needed this today. One of the reasons I love your blog is you are real, you are honest and you tell it like it is.
    Thank you a million times for the dose of reality.

  6. Jodi Truscott
    August 7, 2015 / 3:37 pm

    Alison – we’ve all been there, at least I know I have! No matter what I do, it seems sometimes that someone can do it faster, better, prettier, thinner, etc. than I can – and that pisses me off.
    What I got from your article were a few nuggets that jumped out: You’re sitting with Emerson. You’re a GS Leader. You’re in a relationship with a man who gives a crap about what’s bothering you (and he picked up on something bothering you, and “gets you” enough to care). You’re an amazing blogger, and many of your posts have helped me when I was feeling blah, tired and as though nothing in my closet/makeup drawer made me look like anything else than a 43 year-old overweight mom in the ‘burbs, despite what anyone else said. BTW – yours is the only blog I subscribe to and read faithfully. Keep on keeping on!

  7. kittysocks
    August 7, 2015 / 2:15 pm

    Once again you have saved my sanity. LOL I love to read blogs, but have been getting tired of seeing all that perfectness when my house has dust bunnies and dog fur running out from under the sofa. On top of that, I am retired and should be a bonfire of energy. But with 3 back surgeries under my belt and another on the way, I am TIRED! Thank you for making me feel better about all that and knowing that there are other women who feel like slackers when they have fabulous lives and terrific spouses and kids.

  8. August 7, 2015 / 1:22 pm

    I totally understand what you’re saying. I had gotten to a similar place myself. Now I’ve cut way back on the number of blogs in my feed reader, keeping only the ones I really enjoy (you’re one of them of course!) and check it less often. I also made the conscious decision to significantly reduce the number of posts I write because blogging had gone from being an enjoyable creative outlet to something that felt too much like work. And I already have a job. Once I took that pressure off myself, it was such a relief. I realize you’re in a different place with your blog, income-wise, but I hope you’re able to find a happy medium. Work-blog-life balance? 🙂

  9. August 7, 2015 / 11:45 am

    Our post timing was so on point. I absolutely know how you feel. I have even more of this little stuff, wtih dry cleaning and laundry, and unread emails, and returns, and the list goes on that makes me feel awful, and I too, am just laying in bed watching Odd Mom Out (which by the way is FREAKING HYSTERICAL). The internet really is a lonely and fantastic place all in one but the subconscious comparison game we play is horrific. I absolutely get it. Hugs.

    alyson
    http://www.theaveragegirlsguide.com

  10. Vicki
    August 7, 2015 / 8:31 am

    I love your posts!! Seriously, you are a cool person and you are so authentic. Thank you for being vulnerable enough to share this with all these strangers. Life is a messy juggling act for most of us and I appreciate when other women are brave enough to share their truth. By the way – I think you are fabulous inside and out!!

  11. August 7, 2015 / 7:53 am

    Alison, you have eloquently given voice to many of the same thoughts that I have had over the years with regards to blogging. After giving birth to daughter number #2 last year, I began to feel horrible about myself – doubting my worth as a wife, mother, friend, etc. My husband lovingly pointed out that I was trying to make my life fit those of bloggers I was following. So I took a step back, stopped reading most blogs, and saw a huge spike in my self-confidence. Now, I read a handful of blogs and find that I do it because I learn from them – but don’t try to be them.

  12. Jennifer
    August 6, 2015 / 8:16 pm

    Love this post!

  13. Happinessatmidlife
    August 6, 2015 / 8:15 pm

    This is so well said! These bloggers that are making obscene amount of money and living a very lavish life style really have a good idea of making us “normal” people escape reality of what happens in life. I think maybe because I am older, I don’t ever compare myself to these bloggers and I am perfectly happy how my life is.

    Of course, I do get a little envious of their beautiful clothes and traveling to all these beautiful places but I would not trade what they have.

    It’s great that you have such great support from Karl!

    Alice

    http://www.happinessatmidlife.com

  14. Brittany Mangold
    August 6, 2015 / 7:11 pm

    Well said! Lovely truths here and I can completely relate. Thank you!

  15. August 6, 2015 / 6:15 pm

    I have been feeling all of this lately. I haven’t blogged in a week. I haven’t got anything in me to blog about another summer outfit when I am sitting around in t-shirts and shorts to get through the heat. I love blogging, but I think we all go through phases where it is overwhelming. Whether it is the comparison to other bloggers, whether it is keeping up with posting when you really just need to have a break, or wondering how on earth some people get all the love on instagram when I can’t break a few thousand followers. Lately I have been just trying to enjoy some time off work with my kids and if I post I post, if I don’t I don’t. I know as we move into fall I will find my style mojo again …

  16. Curvy CEO
    August 6, 2015 / 4:04 pm

    Giiirl. ALL OF THIS. Minus the husband and kid (another source of anxiety looking at the bloggers who manage to “do it all” – meanwhile I can’t get asked out on a second date). *applause*

    There is always more to do – in work, in your personal life and yes, with the blog. The other day though it hit me – I am NOT going to be a monster blogger who lives off of endorsements. I don’t even know if I *want* that … I am pretty addicted to benefits and health insurance *lol*

  17. August 6, 2015 / 3:17 pm

    “Don’t compare your ‘behind-the-scenes’ to someone else’s ‘highlights reel’.”

  18. Lee4
    August 6, 2015 / 2:52 pm

    This is such a good post today. I have a tendency to compare myself to other women I know & can get so down on myself. Sometimes, I need reminders that we all have issues & things we struggle with in our lives. We also handle our lives in different ways. Just because I think someone else has it easy, that’s not necessarily true. They just react differently than me or I just truly do not know their own insecurities & problems. I have to do what works best for my family & not worry about what I think is going on with others. Love this real perspective you share with us!

  19. August 6, 2015 / 1:40 pm

    This is a great reminder to all of us….bloggers or not. One of my favorite quotes lately was (something like) we compare someone else’s highlight reel to our backstage rehearsal. I think that is one of the things I like the best about aging…I made it this far and I’m happy with it (usually)!! jodie
    http://www.jtouchofstyle.com

  20. LoriM
    August 6, 2015 / 1:39 pm

    Really good post. Wow, I love that quote about just being the perfect that is “myself” and your line about “I’m betting you’re pretty great too”. Every once in a while my mom or a friend needs to remind me of this but it’s not because of blogs (not sure WHY it is, actually). I don’t struggle much with pretty blogs and comparison because – hm, why? I’m older, I guess, and my generation isn’t blogging as much – and I just don’t read those too-pretty blogs. I like blogs like yours. Keep up the great work!!

  21. eds_77845
    August 6, 2015 / 11:36 am

    I have pretty much quit reading those perfect life blogs for just that reason. When I come across a blog with a young mother married to the love of her life with two adorable children (her words!) I just run screaming. The internet has provided so much and so much of it is good, but the opportunity for constantly comparing you life to others can just be devastating. You see others “perfect” vacations, you see the get togethers you were not invited to. I think we need to be very careful with this.

  22. Kathryn B.
    August 6, 2015 / 11:13 am

    thanks for being so open, allie!! this was so refreshing to read and a large part of why I’ve stopped reading a bunch of blogs in the past few months. they’re beautiful but unrealistic, more something to admire from a distance simply because the pictures are pretty. I prefer reading blogs that make me feel like getting up and doing something, not wallowing in self-pity that my life doesn’t look like that. same idea as with social media lately – you can’t compare your entire life with someone else’s highlight reel!! <3

  23. August 6, 2015 / 11:01 am

    I totally need a hair cut too and have been thinking about how I should just schedule an appointment every day for the past four weeks… it’s cool, (good) life gets in the way sometimes 🙂

    By the way, I have been in a feedly-purging mood for the past few months. I consciously ask myself if reading the contents of a particular blog really adds to my life, and some of the “my life is always perfect” blogs haven’t made the cut. And somehow, *my* life hasn’t suffered for it 🙂

  24. jj
    August 6, 2015 / 9:58 am

    Thanks so much for taking the time to write this post. It felt really “raw”, real, amazingly refreshing…I have an even greater admiration for you. Not that this matters, but you’re pretty damn close to perfection. YOUR sense of what this word means to you. Thank you for letting your readers in, close enough to see behind the smoke & mirrors.

  25. August 6, 2015 / 9:39 am

    This post is everything! I know how you feel. My living room is a mess, I have toys all over the house. Clothes on the floor because someone tries to help. Sometimes I wish my blog looked like other blogs, I am a massive blog reader. Love showing support, I really do! But you are right you start comparing and then it becomes depressing. This post was very inspiring! Thank you for writing this, I adore your blog! Bravo!

  26. Patricia
    August 6, 2015 / 9:08 am

    After hearing others wishing they looked as good as her in a cosmetic ad, Cindy Crawford said she wished she looked that good too. We KNOW everything is airbrushed to perfection. Well, some blogs do that too … and sometimes they show the shots behind the scene where all the mess is tucked away.
    I’m not perfect, but I can make my house look pretty (if no one looks in my closet which also needs sorting). I make pretty good meals, sometimes great but sometimes we have hot dogs for dinner. Thanks to bloggers like you, I can put myself together and looks quite stylish and chic, and sometimes I look like I just cleaned out the basement. And I’m perfectly happy with myself just as I am (except those sneaky pounds that crept on my bottom).

  27. August 6, 2015 / 8:33 am

    Bravo to you for putting words to an issue I’ve had to work through!

    FYI, Part of the reason I read your blog faithfully is because I don’t walk away feeling the need to be more. Instead, I walk content with who I am and inspired to try new things.

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