The Grass Is Always Greener on Facebook


The Elf on the Shelf is all over Facebook. Every day my newsfeed is filled with Elves in cute, creative poses that my boring little Elf could never come up with on his own. I look at these photos, and even though I give them a “like,” I’m secretly envious. Why can’t my Elf parachute from the ceiling fan or do pushups or bake 5 batches of cookies? I’m lucky if my Elf remembers to change location every night.

My Elf simply doesn’t live up to Facebook standards.

Facebook is really good at nurturing our insecurities. Reading my newsfeed for a mere 5 minutes is enough to make me wish impossible things. I wish my Christmas tree looked that festive. I wish my dinner looked that yummy. I wish my fingernails looked that pretty. I wish I knew famous people. I would love to live in the world of Facebook, where everyone is witty, where successes far outnumber failures and where no one sees you wearing your Pepto-Bismol pink pajama bottoms and your hair thrown into a crooked ponytail because it hasn’t been washed in 3 days.

We put our best faces forward on Facebook. And why wouldn’t we? With all the random blasts from the past that find us, it’s kind of like going to a high school reunion. It’s natural to want to look your best and show all those nasty girls who ignored you for four years that you are now the coolest kid on the block.

I guess I’m guilty of doing the same thing. I shared a photo of the one and only semi-creative place my kids found their Elf. But I wouldn’t share a photo of their disappointment the day they woke up and saw that Elf was in the same place he was perched the night before. I’ve shared my half marathon finish times when the times were impressive. But I didn’t share anything about that half marathon I ran with a pulled hamstring and a personal record for worst finish time ever. And I’ve shared snippets from date nights and fun outings with my husband. But I never share the arguments or rough patches.

Even though no one’s lives are exactly the way they’re portrayed in status updates, it’s all too easy to make comparisons and fall prey to the “grass is greener” syndrome. That’s why in those moments when a friend posts the 512 smiling pictures of her amazingly toned body in a string bikini on her third cruise of the year, I try to remind myself of this quote from Pastor Steven Furtick (which I found, ironically, on Facebook):

“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlights reel.”

It’s not fair to myself to compare my own behind-the-scenes clips (husband gone, kids screaming, dog puking) to someone else’s highlight reel (having tea at the White House with the First Lady on a clear, sunny day while wearing fancy new shoes). Because for all I know, that tea at the White House ends with the overcharging of an underachieving baby-sitter, feet eroded by those fancy shoes and the realization that all the pictures destined for Facebook came out blurry.

So as this month continues with Facebook pictures of perfect families on Christmas cards, and proclamations that Christmas shopping is complete, and yes, photos of Elves that will circulate through millions of Pinterest users (don’t even get me started on the insecurity-inducing properties of Pinterest), I will remind myself that my Elf is no less of an Elf if I never dress him in a camouflage uniform or craft dog tags for him or poise him saluting a miniature American flag that I made with the sewing machine I don’t plan on ever owning.

But really, at the end of the day, although I may think Elf is a part of my behind-the-scenes Christmas festivities, my kids think he’s in the highlight reel. And their opinions matter a whole lot more than Facebook.

As you probably guessed, the above photo is not my Elf on the Shelf. That awesome military-inspired Elf belongs to my friend Ann Marie, the beautiful brains behind the blog Household 6 Diva. And yes, I totally have Elf on the Shelf envy.

About the Author

Heather Sweeney
Heather Sweeney is an Associate Editor at, former Navy wife, mother of two, blogger, and avid runner. She’s the blogger formerly known as Wife on the Roller Coaster and still checks in every now and then at her blog Riding the Roller Coaster.
  • I manage several facebook pages and twitter accounts that appear to be upbeat and happy. Thanks for putting my feelings into words. As I type away I hope that the positive words I write will inspire me on a bad day and sometimes it does. My hope is that someone in my audience will smile or laugh out loud.

  • Rquick

    Yeah it can be tough on FB. I do my best to be happy for people. I’m happy there elf on the shelf was so successful, that the new recipe came out great, and that they were able to take time off for a vacation. It makes such a difference when you stop comparing and resenting and just be happy for your “friends”.

  • Couldn’t agree more and needed to read this. I have a friend who recently moved away from the isolating duty of recruiting, and constantly posts about hanging out with all these wives. It reminds me that I am now alone in this duty, and not hanging out with anyone. The resentment it’s causing isn’t appropriate, or worth it. I’m happy for her, I will be there when this is done, and meanwhile find the motivation to become more active in the community to discover new people as well.
    And the “elf on the shelf” is the first year I’ve seen this, and some of the pictures I’m seeing are amazing.

  • anothermilitarywife

    At least your children have an elf on the shelf! Mine do not yet (they Are only 4 & 2). Remember, there are those who are going with out – the refugee families in Syria. Other families here whose homes have been foreclosed. So your elf on the shelf was not perfect like those ‘perfect moms’. Who cares? You have a home and a family …. What is important ?

  • Emily

    I enjoyed your article and am glad other people feel the way I often do when browsing FB. Perspective is important!

  • amy

    Thank you for sharing this! Your words speak so much truth. I need to remind myself of what Pastor Steven Furtick says and try my hardest NOT to compare. I’ll join you in the ‘Elf envy’ club. :)
    Thank you for being real!