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Do you find yourself in social media comparison when you look at Instagram Perfect accounts? Here’s how not to compare your dog, your life and yourself to others.

Ohh, Instagram!

You’ve had our heart and our attention for many years now.

How many of us awaken each morning, fresh for a new day, only to reach for our phones and scroll through our Instagram feed? Or maybe we’re reaching for our camera to snap the perfect photo of our cuddle bug puppy so we can get it out when the audience is greatest?

But how many times do we scroll through our feed and find ourselves in that downward spiral of social media comparison and self-judgment?

We see beautiful photos of people and dogs in incredible locations, sporting the latest gear, with a myriad of accessories, using the perfect exposure and impeccable editing. We see people and dogs traveling to exotic locations, swimming in the ocean with pristine beaches. There are dogs curled up under café chairs on a European street. Or we see dogs sitting on the finest leather sofas in houses that look like they jumped off the pages of Architectural Digest.

And suddenly what is meant to be a place to share our lives and find inspiration has turned into a feed of doom. An ugly black hole of despair we can’t escape. How can we possibly live up to those expectations? Are we depriving our dogs and ourselves of these epic adventures?

It’s an easy hole to fall into. I have definitely been there. I’ve felt hopeless and depressed in the face of these Instagram-Perfect accounts.

If you’ve found yourself in this comparison trap, you’re not alone.

Social Media Comparison Reality Check : Not Everything is as it Seems

It’s a good reminder. We all know that not every photo you see in social media is real. Photo shopping and filtering are a “thing.” Enough celebrities have come forward with their own before/after photos to bring it home.

The same ‘editing’ technique can be used on lifestyles, traveling – and dog accounts. There is always a behind-the-scenes reality. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you’ve ever attended a ballet performance, you were probably so mesmerized by the elegance of the dancers that you forgot a whole lotta work, sweat, cursing, and chaos is going on back of house to stage the ballet and bring the story to life.

Dog and ballerina dancing together by Go Dog Nashville

The same is true for Instagram photos. After all, a photograph is only a moment in time. It’s easy to look at a carefully composed photo and forget that there is another story going on behind the curtain. And it probably isn’t the one you imagine it to be!

Am I saying all Instagram-Perfect accounts are fake?

Not at all. There are some real-life amazing people out there living dreams we wish we could live, too.

With that in mind, I’m going to challenge you a bit.

Because if what you are looking at on Instagram is making you doubt your own lifestyle… or makes you feel like you’re not good enough, then it’s time to examine that. And give it a positive spin.

You’re Meant to Dream Big!

Every one of us has dreams inside. Things we want to do, places to visit, lifestyles we want to embrace.

You’ve heard of stretch goals. Your goals need to be large enough to feel reachable – yet scare you just a bit when you think about them. They challenge you and stretch you beyond who you are right now. Those are the goals worth reaching for!

Watching other people on Instagram live the life you dream about can feel downright debilitating. If that’s the case, stop and realize the importance of that. Social media comparison can be used to show you something important. You have goals that are life-giving to you. And you should have them.

Whether you want to travel more with your dog, or start competing in dog sports or go on more adventures together – let yourself dream about how that would feel and why you want it.

Instagram perfect photo of a Dog looking off into the distance at a temple on the river.
Image courtesy of Pixabay

Make Room in Your Life for the Important Things

Priorities are everything. I was just listening to a few podcasts recently where two things mentioned stood out to me.

First, every human on this planet – those people that are successful and achieve great things or those people that live mediocre lives – have exactly the same 24 hours in their day. No more and no less. It’s what you DO with those 24 hours that will determine which life you live.

And you determine that by setting your priorities.

Dogs tend to make themselves a priority in our lives. When your dog needs to go for a walk,  that takes priority over your morning coffee or wanting to finish the last chapter of your book.  Because you made the decision to add a dog to your life, you knew he would be a priority many times. Why did you choose that? Because spending time with your dog makes you happier.

It’s okay to choose what brings you the most joy in life.

And secondly, if everything is important, then nothing is important.

Read that again.

Trying to balance EVERYTHING in our lives is a lesson in futility. Those seasons of life you hear about? There are times in your life where one passion will be more important than another – and that’s okay. There are other seasons of life when you may need to switch gears. And when the tide is out, you rest and regroup. I like the thought that you can’t balance work/family/passions – but you can integrate them into something more.

If you’ve been inspired by others on Instagram to live your dreams, remember that those people chose to prioritize their lives. They use the same 24 hours we all have, made choices about when makes them happy – and then integrated those choices into their lives.

Keep this in mind also: those people “living the dream?” They’ve made sacrifices somewhere along the line. Travelers sometimes don’t have a cozy house awaiting them when they come home. If you live in the wilds, you’ll have to give up the amenities of the city.  Competing in dog sports means you might miss family events. You get to decide what is important to you.

Baby Steps Eliminate Excuses

“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” ~Jim Rohn

So I am the Queen of doing this when it comes to finding fault with Instagram accounts. Or at least, I used to be. Every time I find myself slipping back into the excuse habit, I remind myself I am not a victim.

How many times have we offered excuses why SOME people can live the life we dream and WE can’t?

  • “Well, it’s easy to travel the world when you have wealthy family to back you.”
  • “They can buy their dog all these products and toys because they don’t have any children.”
  • “Well, their dogs are so well-behaved, no wonder their home is so gorgeous and clean.”
  • “Yeah, I could live the van life if I didn’t have a home and a family to support…”
  • “My photos would look amazing too if I lived in the mountains/beach/city, etc.”
  • “Their dog is so beautiful/talented…no wonder they have so many followers…”

Any of those sound familiar?

True, some dog-parents are blessed with an abundance of resources. Some have children, some don’t. Some have nine-to-fives and some travel for months on end. Some live in beautiful regions. Some have dogs so photogenic we can’t help but love them.

But those are no excuses for not living the life you love.

Big goals start with baby steps. Small, achievable actions you can take. Because you don’t have to do it all at once. But you do have to start.

  • Want to travel more? Start with an easy day trip each weekend.
  • Want to buy your dog the latest and greatest dog gear? Skip the café coffee and begin a saving fund for new items.
  • Want a magazine perfect home and the dog to go with it? Implement some training sessions and start researching dog-friendly home décor.
  • Van life calling your name? Talk to people who are doing just that; rent out a van or camper and take off for a week vacation to test the waters.
  • Looking for photo ops in nature? Search nearby to find hidden locations you might not have thought about.
  • Your dog wouldn’t win a beauty contest? Who cares?! Find a unique way to showcase your dog and his personality in your photos.

Those are too easy and I’ll bet you can brainstorm better and more innovative ways to take baby steps towards your goals.

No One Can Be You

No matter what anyone else and their dog are living, they cannot bring to the table the uniqueness that is YOU. Your relationship with your dog is one-of-a-kind. The two of you are irreplaceable. What you love and the lens through which you view your life is special. Your value is immense.

If you feel what you share on social media is not as valuable, exciting or worthy as some of those Instagram-Perfect accounts, stop yourself right now!

You don’t have to own the perfect dog or live the perfect life. People appreciate others when they are real – whether that means sharing an amazing waterfall adventure with their dog or sharing their challenges or struggles in day to day life. People want to have a touch-stone to relate to others who are open and honest and love where they are headed.

Instagram perfect photo of a Dog and woman enjoying a sunset together in the mountains by Ashley Kooijman
Image courtesy of Ashley Kooijman. Follow along @tennesseewanderer Ashley and Keeta May are keeping it real.

Social Media Comparison? Don’t Look!

It probably goes without saying, but here it is:

If looking at social media makes you feel depressed, hopeless or anxious, don’t look! Honestly, just don’t do it. At least for awhile.

Focus on your own life, your goals and your baby steps. Practice photography, take a course on editing, spend more time having fun with your dog. Tackle the hard stuff like setting priorities and deciding what brings you the most joy. Appreciate your dog for who she is. Strive for becoming more of who you are.

And when you’re feeling more confident, more joyful in your own life, you can put a toe back inside the social media streams.

Challenging to give up the social media comparison game? Sometimes. Sometimes it’s easier than getting clear about what type of life makes you feel alive and giving yourself permission to have it. But always worth it in the end. Regret over not reaching for your goals is far worse.

So let those Instagram-Perfect accounts help inspire you to begin those baby steps. Take a moment to appreciate what your unique viewpoint brings to social media. Appreciate your dog. And share your adventures along the way.

Part two – here you go

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