The other day I was writing about my shoe collection. Naturally I thought to include a photograph, but of course I had in mind a curated photograph like the sort I see on lifestyle blog posts. I definitely didn’t want a real photo of my shoes lined up the way they actually sit.

Opening the door to my closet I took stock of the situation, threw a bunch of high heels and booties on the floor, re-organized a bit, moved various pairs of shoes around to achieve balance, added a framed picture…you get the idea. I then snapped a few pics, but wasn’t satisfied. So I rearranged a bit more then played around with the angle and lighting. Half an hour later I had a decent photo showing three pretty shelves of shoes. All around me, however, was the mess I had made getting the one shot I liked. Meanwhile, a stack of bills needed attention and a hungry family patiently waited for me to make the meal I’d promised.

My one ‘perfect’ photo came at a cost. So do most of the other curated photos on social media. We just don’t see that part.

Scrolling through site after site of Pinterest worthy rooms, hair, outfits, gardens, and meals is great for inspiration and escape, but we do ourselves and others a disservice when we don’t acknowledge that in most cases a lot of unseen fuss, or even a whole team, was involved to create that fantasy of effortless order and impeccable style. Behind the model photograph stands a real life with its own share of human struggles, heartbreaks, irritations and disappointments in addition to its beauties and joys. In other words, we don’t see the pile of shoes on the floor but, like the magician’s audience, we ought to know that the picture we are seeing is an illusion.

Sometimes I need to remind myself of this truth, especially if I’m tempted to compare myself or my life to that flawless photo online. How about you?