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If your Instagram feed looks so picture-perfect it leaves you wondering about the quality of your own life or if you feel the need to tweak your personal photos in order to fit in, Joanna Gaines has some advice for you: step away.
It's the same advice the interior designer and author gave herself when she noticed the negative impact social media started to have on her own life.
"It wasn't so very long ago that I had only a handful of followers on Instagram," she writes in a new column for The Magnolia Journal. "There wasn't any pressure to post anything at all, so whenever I did, it didn't really cross my mind whether or not people would 'like' it."
But as she gained fame, she gained followers who were very invested in what she had to share and show — and that changed her perspective.
"I could feel insecurity start to creep in, and posting a photo was no longer an act of enjoying the in-the-moments of life but rather a more calculated decision," she explained. "With every picture I found myself critiquing if there were messy backgrounds or blurry smiles. I think this is how we can end up losing sight of what it worthy of sharing and what is even more worthy than that — moments worth simply experiencing."
Sure, it's possible to experience a personal moment and record it for public consumption all at once, but at what cost?
"Eventually, I realized that I was letting this small square on my phone become yet another thing to perfect," she wrote.
Gaines, who shares five children with husband Chip — Drake, 13, Ella, 12, Duke, 9, Emmie, 8, and Crew, 7 months — worries that trying to put the best versions of ourselves online means not being true to who we really are.
And right now, her focus is authenticity.
As the spring 2019 cover of The Magnolia Journal touts — and the spring decor on the wall of the Magnolia Market now reads — "The world needs who you were made to be"
Not who you want the world to believe you are.
"It is so easy to let social media rob us of authentic moments," she continued in her column. "There is a certain, creepy allure to a place where we can present ourselves any way we choose with very little accountability."
And she considered, "What happens when we don't think out 'real life' looks as good as someone else's? We make adjustments — find better lighting, dress our kids in something nicer, place a vase of fresh flowers in the background, or add the perfect filter."
The 40-year-old keeps that in mind when she looks at other people's photos that fill her feed.
"I am also, finally, mindful of when the red flags of comparison or anxiety begin to move in," she added. "My best next step is to stop scrolling and put my phone away. That's way harder for me to do when I'm not in a great place in my head or heart, but continuing down the rabbit hole never, ever helps a thing."
But she's found something that does help: living in the moment.
"I love to snap photos of my kids whenever it's physically possible," she wrote. "My camera roll is constant full because of it, but when I hear myself start to say something like 'move slightly to the left' just so I can get the perfect angle, that's when I know it's time to check myself. ... Perhaps I'll post that photo in a few days when I have some distance from it and a fresh frame of mind. Or maybe I won't."
The most she'll miss out on is a potentially popular post, which is nothing compared to what she gains.
"What I can't get back to later is the beautifully imperfect view that's unfolding right in front of me — no edits required."