February 02, 2011

Not my best look (musings on competition)

Twinkle by Wenlen dress
Wolford heart tights
Rosegold Liz booties
Vintage necklace

Sometimes I wonder if I should be more selective with what I post on my little blog. Or if I should try harder to get really excellent, truly flattering photos since so many of my fellow bloggers are exceptionally skilled in that arena (inspiring me with their photographic equivalent to poetry, full of romance, atmosphere, and narrative). I often wonder if I should work harder to make sure all the things I include here are subjects/ensembles about which I am 100% confident. Sometimes I find myself falling into an inevitable game of comparison, wherein I measure myself against all the things I am not and all the things I wish I had/was. It should be said that I often do this when something external reminds me about competition and conflict and general negativity.

This comparative impulse runs so contrary to my beliefs. In many ways it is in direct tension with my own politics (feminism, optimism, social progression, collectivity, etc.) and in complete discord with my pedagogy. My teaching philosophy is an articulation of my beliefs. I strive to encourage students to be empowered by the concept of their own potentiality, but to also be reflexive and mindful of the privileges that have yielded that potential.  Finding such a balance means bridging confidence with humble gratitude. My hope is that they find a way to tow that line outside of the classroom too, as social individuals and as citizens who are thriving as they study (and in most cases, live permanently) in a representative democracy.

When I indulge the impulse to compare myself with others, I also facilitate my own negativity. I chide myself for not being smarter, funnier, prettier, wealthier, more talented, more accomplished, more aligned figuratively with a conventional ideal, etc. This ritual of self-effacement is the kind of thing I would try to minimize, if not completely diffuse if I noticed my students doing it. I would remind them that despite the conventional wisdom of performance soft-drink ads and the sloganeering of sneaker companies, not everything is a competition. I'd encourage them to re-frame their outlook to one that strives for a personal best. As I find myself frustrated when I measure reality with what I thought I would have accomplished by now (life-wise, not blog-wise), I need to remember my own humanity. I need to re-frame my outlook to include the space for self-praise rather than only self-critique.

I consider my outlook on this little blog to be metaphoric to my outlook on my life. It is not a competition and sometimes I need to be less hard on myself. In the case of my blog I lack crucial equipment and talent. I lack time and landscapes. I lack the perfect closet full of flattering things and the perfect figure/face/hairstyle on which to dress these pieces. It is easy to take stock of what I lack in terms of this blog. It is much more difficult and harrowing to do so in terms of one's own life. I continue to feel an immense amount of gratitude because I am very fortunate. I take for granted so many things. For example, I take for granted the reality of my own democratic freedoms. As I watch the revolution occurring in cities across Egypt, I am inspired and humbled. I am tearful and hopeful. But I am also human which means that I occasionally indulge my less-than-becoming impulses to lament life's petty frustrations.

I need to remember that we are often our own worst critics. And our insecurities and flaws are less noticeable when they go unannounced. Part of my philosophy of style is to embrace fallibility (in my body, in my visage, in my closet, etc.), realizing that through trial and error good lessons can be learned. Lately I think I need to make that a bigger part of my philosophy of life.


gee said...

it is really easy to compare yourself with other bloggers..i ALWAYS do.
but i love your blog and enjoy all of your lovely photos. i will always be a follower!!
wonderful post though..i agree with your last paragraph!

ps. you look wonderful in purple... that is one color that doesnt like me..but it looks so lovely with your hair color.

Cynthia said...

I follow plenty of blogs that aren't the most high-tech or artful because I like the person's style. I like your style so I'm here. Comparing: we all do it, and it generally causes stress we don't need. Right?

goldenmeans said...

You are one of the coolest, smartest and most mature bloggers I read Jess! Just so you know :) I think your academic background and your personality often shines through your posts, which I really appreciate.

Anyhow, I think that it's normal to have feelings of competition and jealousy, even if we try not to. Blogging-wise, I myself find myself going into a tailspin of insecurity if I ever try to compare myself comment / follower / hit wise to other bloggers out there...and the worst part is, no matter how far I rise, it is never enough because there is always someone new and "better" to compare myself to. I find in these cases I have to sit down and sternly remind myself that I don't blog for popularity and I don't blog for anyone other than myself really, so why even give those things importance? As long as I write what I feel like writing and it keeps me entertained, than my blog is successful at what it's meant to be, period.

St Germain said...

Well, I may be in the minority here, but one of the reasons I read your blog is BECAUSE of the homegrown photos. :) I like the beautifully composed artistic shots of other bloggers, too, but yours are "real life" snapshots and honestly they match my very real, very busy, very inartistic real life. Keep 'em coming!

LC said...

I really like the quick and simple OOTD shots on blogs. I enjoy the photo shoots as well, but that's not very feasible for most people.

JewishGirl said...

This is a very thoughtful entry. I think it's only natural to compare ourselves with others, particularly as a way of defining ourselves. (What do I like about other blogs? How can I make those sorts of features my own?) It becomes destructive when, as you said, we turn those natural comparisons as a way of putting ourselves down or making ourselves insecure.

I like what Anjali said about reminding herself that she doesn't blog for popularity, just to keep herself entertained. Your blog is yours and it's wonderful!

Allie said...

Like everyone has noted, you are certainly one of the more intelligent, thoughtful blogs out there. While it's nice to see great photography and designer shoes, it's ultimately the blogger's voice that shines through for me. Besides, you certainly don't let this blog dictate your life, real life gets in the way of blogging! Who realistically has time to orchestrate a full photo shoot a day? Who's significant other truly has all the time in the world to follow us around with a camera, capturing every skirt flick and hair swish? You got it going on girl, we love you for doing you.

roxyturtle said...

I agree with Cynthia. I'm definitely amazed by the design and photo skills of several blogs and see them as inspiration (and yes, sometimes I compare myself to them too). But the blogs I love the most are a mix of high and low-tech, professional and home-grown photos. It's all about the personality behind the blog in my opinion. Flashy or not, I read your blog because it's fun! And I think that is something to celebrate. You're a pretty cool chick in my book.


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