maxi dressI’m wearing pajamas today. Like, all day. I finished my morning routine: diving into a delish bowl of peanut butter granola and banana slices swimming in chocolate almond milk. Hey, I see you scrunching your nose up at the most unlikely likely combo – but, I bet your bottom you’d try it and like it. At least tolerate it, I’m sure.

Then comes a good face scrubbin’ and teeth brushin’ – my Great Grandma called this most important bullet on a to-do list ‘getting the blankets off your teeth’. Maybe the comparison to ripe teeth and gums was ‘cobwebs’, I’m not positive on the word she chose. Either way, I learned early on the importance of good dental hygiene – thanks, Gigi. So then, my face was fresh and my mouth, extra mouthy.

One quick tango with free weights and resistance bands, my heart was thumping, my blood was pumping. I was rosy-cheeked, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Because I fell asleep wearing my bunny rabbit Halloween costume – ha! I kid, but how cute would that have been?

Rabbit or not, I was feeling like I could take on the world. Or at least the remainder of my to-do list. That included getting dressed. All professional list-makers know there’s nothing like the euphoria of slicing a task in half with the sharp blade of your favorite pen. I’ll take that high wherever I can get it.

Speaking of, I am once again riding high on the Unemployment Train. Fear not, the second trip comes with some pre-planning, far less emotional baggage and the scenery is much brighter and more beautiful. I enjoyed my most recent job; I learned a lot about how to be a good, solid leader. I took ownership over a crazy number of projects and I networked my ass off. I would have loved to stay where I was, but my temporary assignment ended without additional funding to keep me onboard. The exciting life of a contract employee, amiright?

Anyway, when I’m not out pounding the pavement looking for my next gig or charming the pants off potential employers – if nothing pans out, I’m pretty sure I could make a few pennies teaching cover letter writing and job interview skills, I’m getting good at this self-selling game – I am choosing comfortable pjs over business casual as my job-hunting, phone-interviewing, prose-writing, laundry-doing, house-cleaning, bill-paying uniform.

And you know what? It’s freaking awesome. The awesomeness continues when I can trick people into thinking I’m wearing a crazy-cute, super-stylish maxi dress, but I know the hard truth: I snagged this uber-comfy number, made of nothing but angel’s wings and heaven’s pillows right off the rack of Target’s pajama isle. I am no illusionist, but that’s the ultimate magic trick, if you ask me.

After slipping into my pseudo-party dress, I went downstairs to deliver my rent check. No care that my five-minute makeup wasn’t perfect or that my unwashed hair was messily pulled into a top-knot. I only cared that I pass in the heavy check and avoid a lovely (insert air quotes) late fee.

How I looked in that moment of signing my autograph at the bottom of a rent check and scratching off another to-do list item didn’t much cross my mind, until a voice made me sit up and take notice:

“You look so beautiful right now. I mean it. Like, so strong, the way your arms and shoulders are flexing that way.”

She’s my close friend and fellow words of affirmation-giver, so it’s no surprise that she would recognize and lift me up in such a spontaneous, unexpected way. Still, my first, unfiltered response was an incredulous, “I do?” I mean, I knew I didn’t look like a gutter troll, but I also knew I was no fairy princess just then.

I asked her, like I often do, to take a picture of me right now. Because her phone has portrait mode, and the only thing missing from creating a perfectly effortless picture is an obnoxiously enormous, hair-blowing fan.

No, I wanted her to take a picture of me right then, as I am, unfiltered and stripped down because her kind comments and my immediately cynical response got me thinking:

Why is it so natural for us to accept the inevitability of criticism and judgment but it feels wildly unnatural for us to sit in the space of compliments and praise, so much so that we often question its validity. No doubt, we are a society drowning in daily deluge of freely filtered, meticulously edited photographs and videos. Of course, creating veiled perfection that only fosters internal comparisons and unfair feelings of inferiority and inadequacy.

Those negative and depressing feelings, though valid, could change into something much more positive and productive if we all challenged ourselves to think differently. It is possible to shift our perspectives on what such a dominant platform like social media is really meant to do.

We freely allow pictures and videos and stories and posts – no matter that they are thoughtfully and carefully edited – to evoke jealousy or envy, or dissatisfaction and disappointment in ourselves. The reason is because we convince ourselves that we haven’t reached high enough or worked hard enough for all the things – high-paying jobs, fast cars, perfect families and even more perfect bodies, vacations and experiences – that supposedly determines the value of our lives and the worthiness of ourselves.

But when turned all the way on its head, all the media that is social can be used as a place to find connections, commonalities and strong communities to lift us all the way up. It is more than possible to quit comparing ourselves to other people and learn from what they’re sharing about their lives. There is tremendous power in the vulnerability and honesty of shared experiences and understandings. There is so much to learn from each other, if we choose to listen to the lessons.

This second round professional hiatus is different. I’m not going to work every day, but I still want to work my mind as much as I can. That means pouring new knowledge into my brain and turning the volume way up on personal development. You name it, I’m doing it, guys. I’m consuming all the books, all the Podcasts and all the livestreams on how to name and reach your goals. In other words, how to find a spark and set your dreamin’ soul on fire.

My newest soul sister and teacher, Rachel Hollis, is one of the most engaging authors and educators in this space today. Sidebar: ladies, if you haven’t read her book, Girl, Wash Your Face, do yourself a huge favor and go get your hands on a copy of this, the New Testament of women empowerment. Seriously, girl, go now. Put this blog post down, read the dang book, come back and we’ll discuss it.

With wit and wisdom, Rachel touches on the dangerous poison that is comparison, noting that it is a serious killjoy. Isn’t that the truth? The joy of life comes from welcoming the courage to bravely dance to the beat of our own drums, never afraid to follow our spirit’s rhythm. We weren’t put on this earth to be anyone but ourselves. Why would we trade in our unique brand of cool creativity, wonderfully weird wit, sour and sweet, smarts and sass just to buy into someone else’s one-time-only brand of life.

Sure, we can recognize and shout-out another person’s greatness or success, but the uproar of their prosperity or triumph should never quiet the equally loud celebration of ourselves. Maybe when we realize that we can all share the spotlight, and that we don’t have to shrink ourselves to make room for others, we can more graciously receive praise instead of rejecting our own awesomeness.

It becomes easier, more natural practice to beat the drum and toot our own horns when we are also able to raise a glass and join in the song and dance of others. Engaging in the destructive game of comparison, scoring our lives using someone else’s scale, does nothing more than cause us to lose powerful energy and dim our light. Remember, trying to change beat to match others’ tempo only causes us fall flat and make a mess of our special symphony.

When you’re choosing the audience to your life’s song and dance – the friends and family, even followers you confide in, lean on and seek when you need some cheering on – make sure you do some gut-checks once in a while.

It’s important to surround ourselves with people who, even if we don’t see eye-to-eye on everything, can still see us with a completely real lens. Our people know that our beauty and worth doesn’t come from how we do our makeup or wear our hair and that it certainly doesn’t matter the filters or effects we use on pictures and videos.

Find and fill your feeds with loving, supportive people who see you clearly through the filters. Find people who know your true beauty lies in your strength, your courage, your values and convictions and your kindness. Find people who will dance with you to your jam, even when you wear jammies on a weekday and call it a fancy dress.

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