These past few weeks I've been collaborating with my mom to take care of some wedding details. We've been making lists and researching options for table linens, deejays, photographers and stationery. I remember my aunt making these arrangements for her Hilton Head Island wedding about 20 years ago. Phone and Yellow Pages in hand, she called around, made arrangements and put some checks in the mail. She didn't text her friends. She didn't Google reviews. She just trusted her flawless sense of style.
Now, the Internet has ruined the ease of decision-making with endless articles, blogs and Pinterest boards. Searching for local businesses that we could use still yields hundreds of images from weddings all over the world, each one cuter and more idyllic than the next. A recent search left me staring at images of hand-stitched burlap table runners, monogrammed glasses and invitations with animated doves; I began to panic.
Until now, I had been perfectly content with our plans. "Oh no." I thought to myself. "I have been spending all this time working, sleeping and visiting with friends when I should have been embroidering 'Jim and Alison' on organically grown fair-trade cotton napkins. Do we even have a chance at lifelong happiness when none of our ideas will ever be repinned or featured on theknot.com?"
This isn't the first time comparison has caused me to question how I spend my time, money and mental energy. I'm a big fan of looking up recipes, decor ideas and even how to do a sock bun online. The World Wide Web can be helpful.
The danger is crossing the line from inspiration to comparison -- and that boundary can really sneak up on you, as it did when I was simply Googled "tablecloths." Maybe you've encountered this temptation to compare while scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed. You thought you were having a great night eating pizza and watching a movie, but then your friends share that they're on a sunset cruise and you feel lame.
This feeling can happen in "real life" (as in, not online), too. How many times have you brought your perfectly good car to the dealership for an oil change and found yourself wishing you were leaving in the newer, better model displayed in the lobby? Or while shopping for new shoes, you see the mannequins and realize your entire wardrobe doesn't seem good enough.
"A tranquil mind gives life to the body, but jealousy rots the bones" (Proverbs 14:30). It took me some time to realize it, but this overload of information was "rotting my bones." I was being robbed of the happiness I should be experiencing as I plan for this day, which will be awesome, not because of the creative way we fold the napkins, but because I'll be celebrating with people I love. I didn't recognize it as jealousy at first, because I didn't know any of these folks online (and come to think of it, I bet a lot of them are models hired by David's Bridal). I thought jealousy had to have an object. Yet jealousy doesn't begin with others -- it begins with me.
So how can this be helped? It would be pretty difficult to swear off the Internet for the next few months, but now that I've realized the potential it has to steal my peace of mind, I'm trying to be more conscious of what I see. Instead of comparing myself to others, I'm counting my blessings and realizing just how much I have to be thankful for. At the end of the day, the priority is that I've loved. Not "pinned" or posted.
Follow columnist Alison Griswold at twitter.com/alisongriz. Read her blog at www.teamcatholic.blogspot.com.
RELATED CONTENT Sometimes the answer to your prayers might be Brussels sprouts Don't judge a skillful leader by his Pokemon helmet A lesson in faith from the gluten-free crowd: Know what your label means first