Health, Wellness, & Self Care,  Motherhood,  Personal and Spiritual Ramblings,  Recovering Perfectionist

Dealing with online guilt, jealousy, and self-doubt

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{Previously titled: when you feel threatened by her choices}

You probably wouldn’t ever say those words, but you know what I’m talking about. You’re scrolling online…Facebook, Instagram, Twitter…and you feel it.

the twinge

You aren’t quite sure how to identify it, but you feel it.

When your online friend announces she’s switching to cloth diapers, entering a 5K, planning a home birth, sending off a book proposal, going gluten free, planning to adopt, having her 11th child, reorganizing her house with a new organizational method she read about in a book, devoting herself to a new volunteer organization, sponsoring a foreign child, going back to work full-time, redecorating her entire house with ideas she found on Pinterest, or deciding to homeschool.

You feel the twinge when someone online decides to do something that you haven’t done, didn’t do, can’t do, or don’t want to do.

Sometimes the twinge feels like guilt. You feel that their choice to do xyz somehow invalidates your choice to NOT do xyz, or to do abc instead. Your brain for the briefest instant says, “She is doing xyz and it’s working for her, but I didn’t do xyz. Therefore I must be doing it wrong. I should be doing xyz.” You imagine that she is judging you and everyone else online who hasn’t chosen xyz. You imagine that she thinks you are lazy, uneducated, don’t care about your kids, or not surrendered to God.


But then your guilt turns into self defense: Your brain skips ahead to list all of the reasons why you chose abc, why xyz wouldn’t work for you, why you can’t do xyz. You puff yourself up in your own decisions and remind yourself why your decisions were right and good (and sometimes, even better than the ones that she made).

Sometimes, you even go on in your brain to vilify xyz and the friend who made such a decision for her familyYou list all of the reasons why xyz is ridiculous, or assume that she is simply judgmental, proud, or pushy about her choices.

You justify yourself with righteous indignation. 

You get angry and hurt. You may even fight back with an online comment in response about why xyz doesn’t work for everyone. You may get on your own personal Facebook page or blog and promote your own not-choosing-xyz-and-this-is-why or abc-is-the-best.

There has been so much to be said in the blogosphere about the danger of comparison, mommy-guilt, and how “mommy wars” are started because we compare ourselves to others. But what I’m talking about here goes far deeper than simple comparison or guilt.

I’m talking about a lack of personal, internal self-control. 

In the hallway of the building where I saw a family therapist on Fort Knox there was a motivational poster with the following quote by Eleanor Roosevelt:

Buy this print here!

It frustrated me because I didn’t believe it. Every time I passed it I would argue:

It’s just not true! You don’t know what she said and how it made me feel! You don’t know how judgmental she is. How much I feel like crap because of so-and-so!

But within every person exists the ability to look at her emotions honestly and to take ownership of those feelings for what they really are.

No one can make you feel anything. How you feel is entirely up to you. 

But this ability is like a muscle. It can become atrophic and you can get so used to blaming other people and their choices for your feelings that you live a life in which you never take ownership of your own emotions – and you don’t have a clue that you are even doing it.

Trust me – I’ve lived such a life.

I’ve suffered from chronic guilt that I’m not doing enough because of what other people have done or said. I’ve participated in angry “mommy wars” online trying to defend my choices with all of the righteous indignation that I could muster. I’ve unfriended people on Facebook simply because they had devoted their lives to fitness and posted about it constantly which “made me feel bad.” I’ve unfollowed bloggers who promoted their perfect little at-home preschool activities because it “made me feel” like a loser mom. I’ve avoided friend’s blogs because I was envious of their photography and their put-together homes, and it reminded me of how much better I wanted to be in photography and homemaking.

I’ve puffed up my own choices to live in pajamas to flaunt it in the face of the moms who subscribe for the “dress for success” ideals. I’ve defended my reasonings in leaving behind attachment parenting. I’ve gone beyond a simple “that’s just not for me” and filled online posts and comment boxes with excuses and justifications as to why.

I can’t tell you how many times in my marriage I have fought with my husband and the words “you make me feel…” have come tumbling out of my mouth.

The truth is that jealously, self-guilt, and self-righteousness are far more connected than we all like to admit. 

They are all by-products of the deeper root of being unable or unwilling to control our own emotions. 

Yes, there are a lot of judgmental or simply uniformed people online who don’t know your story. They don’t know why you’ve made your abc choice. All they care about is their xyz. And some of them promote xyz as the only option and look down on those who choose something else.

But a lot of people are simply excited about their xyz. And thanks to modern technology, they get their chance to share xyz with the world. They aren’t purposely trying to make anyone feel less about making other choices – they just want to share their own.

So, what can we do…when she says something online about xyz and you feel that twinge? 

You take control of your mind and emotions. You ask yourself why you are twinge-ing.

  • Is it true conviction? Sometimes the decisions of friends and others can be the greatest influence on things we truly need to be doing or areas in which we have failed. If so, be gracious. Admit you were wrong or uniformed. Ask for forgiveness. Go to God and ask for grace to make the changes you need to make for the future. Surrender to His plan if you haven’t been. Ask Him to make you a better person.
  • Is it guilt or shame that you don’t need to be feeling because God has led you down another path? “But…but…I should…” Well who said you should? Was it her? Or was it you? Allow yourself to take a different path. Allow yourself to be your own person, to be confident in the decisions God has called you to. But do so humbly. Tell yourself “that’s just not for me” and move on. Chances are she didn’t ask for an explanation – so you don’t need to give her one. You don’t need to go to war to defend your choices.  That’s the devil’s foothold to try to get you to doubt yourself and the plans God has called you to – and to drive a wedge between you and the friends and acquaintances that you have.
  • Is it jealousy? Sometimes the decisions or announcement of a friend simply make you want what she has. You want to be the one launching the ebook or redecorating your home. But maybe those aren’t your talents and gifts. Surrender those desires to God and look for ways to put YOUR gifts to good use instead of defending why you can’t do what she does. Or maybe you do have those talents but just haven’t found a way to bring xyz to pass in your own life. Then be inspired! Don’t try to be her – but let her encourage you to be the best you you can be.
  • Is it impatience? Don’t blame or lash out at her because God is telling you to wait – that now is her time, not yours. Ask God for patience and for grace in the waiting while He works His plans for you and your life behind the scenes.

I am no stunning example of this self-awareness, this self-control. It’s only been very recently that I even realized that I had this problem – blaming other people for my feelings.

Just last week a friend of mine (the friend pregnant with her 11th child – yes that was a real life example) posted an online article about small families versus big families and some of the very selfish reasons that people chose to use birth control. I took the article very personally and responded in frustration to her post. When she removed the post, I sent her a personal message to defend what I said and explain why I said it – why what she had posted was judgmental.

While I still feel that the article she posted may have had judgmental undertones, the truth is that I simply took it far more personally than I needed to take it. I was frustrated because the author didn’t know my story. He didn’t understand that sometimes people have reasons for having a small family that aren’t selfish. I felt guilt and shame. I felt an instant of “but…but…I should…” all the while forgetting that God has led my family in another direction. I was jealous. Jealous of her and her brood of little ones and her big homeschooling family. I was impatient. Impatient because God is telling me to wait – that now isn’t my time to have another baby.

But rather than deal with my own emotions and bring them under the self-control of God’s Spirit within me, I reacted in hurt and anger and directed it all at her and the author of the article. (Thankfully she is gracious friend and received my tirade with grace and understanding.)

Dear friends, readers, sister-in-Christ, can we take stock of what’s truly going on in our hearts? Can we stop defending our choices to death when faced with someone else who has made a different choice? Can we unmask our jealousy and our impatience? Can we allow our friends to be an inspiration to us instead of blaming them for how guilty we feel? Can we walk side-by-side with women who have made different choices than us and have it be okay, because we know God has different plans for us? Can we “rejoice with those that do rejoice” and stop making everything about us?

Can we start taking ownership of our own emotions?

I’d love to hear from you. Maybe you felt like someone else “made you feel” a certain way and you either rushed to judgment of her choice or self-righteously defended your own. Can we talk about this and what was really behind those feelings?

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  • Stacey Jordan

    Ok, I am so relating to this but in a different way then what you talked about; you have touched on something that my husband I have talked about, the controlling your emotions part. My husbands favorite thing to say when I tell him that something he has said hurts me is that it’s my choice to feel that way.
    Let me tell you how much that bugs me! I feel like it is a cop out for him, a way for him to not take responsibility for the things he says. We even teach our children to not say mean things and yet I read over and over how no one can make me feel such and such unless I give that that power ( like your quote above).
    I agree with that- to a point; my question is what about all the Bible has to say about the power of the tongue? James 3 talks about what a little member it is and yet it can start a great fire and then there’s all the verses in Proverbs.
    I am working on understanding this but its hard!

    • Aprille

      Stacey this is such a good question and one I’m still grappling to understand. I relate with everything you said and my husband and I have gone rounds and rounds over this issue. He says/does something. I’m hurt. I lash out. “But I didn’t mean to hurt you.” And it feels like a cop out.

      Here’s a few things I have learned.

      While it’s very important to take control of your emotions, it’s still okay to feel. But part of controlling your emotions is understanding WHY you feel that way (much as I described here). Often “guilt” or “hurt” are simply other emotions in disguise, such as insecurity, not feeling loved, fear of abandonment, self-frustration at your own shortcomings. Often if I’m struggling in an area (such as laziness, not be as responsible with housework) and Russ mentions something about the messy house, I react in hurt – he hurt me. When in reality I am angry because he has touched on something I’m painfully aware about myself. THAT’s what I need to really address.

      It’s very important for us to tell our spouse how we are feeling. And we are affected by them. But we cannot blame them for our feelings. It’s a very fine line.

      Scripture is clear that there is power in the tongue and we should be kind, gracious, honest, etc, but it’s also important to remember that two wrongs don’t make it right. No matter how mean, inconsiderate, rude, or hurtful your husband is to you (and whether it was intentional or not), you still have the responsibility to react in kindness*. Be honest about your anger, frustration, fear, or whatever you are feeling, but self-talk – remind yourself of your standing in Christ, your relationship with your husband, the love that you share, and that you still have a responsibilty to control your emotions and not lash out in response.

      It’s not easy. This is my biggest struggle, not just here as I posted in comparing to others, but in my marriage this is HUGE and most of our fights revolve right around this issue. It’s a long, hard road and I’m still learning!

      (*I must clarify this by saying I in no way condone of verbal abuse, that is very much another matter and must be addressed and confronted, preferably with a neutral third party involved.*)

  • Sara

    thank you for sharing this! i understand exactly where you are coming from…exactly! we are very much alike, you and i 🙂 one thing that God has taught me, specifically through Stephen, is that none of us have the same path in life and the only thing that matters is whether or not we are walking with our Savior. while there are some who think their path is better than others because of circumstances or their life or their choices, not everyone is called to do the same thing or have the same life. i’ve realized, albeit slowly, that where i am at right now, the life i have, the precious child i’ve been given, the good, the bad, and the ugly, is all part of God’s calling on MY life only…not anyone elses. where you are Aprille, the husband you have, the child you have, all of it – that is God’s special plan and purpose for YOU. it doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing, or even whether they think their way is better or the “right” way…what matters is that you are walking with Jesus and are allowing His Truth and Grace to permeate your existence <3 i love you friend, and i think you're wonderful!

    • Stacey Jordan

      Thank you; you have given me some great things to think about. I can see how my reactions are really are just part of my own feelings of guilt or that I am just assuming a meaning that isn’t really there at all.
      And I know your right; I am responsible for how I react to what I feel are hurtful comment I am just trying to line that all up with Scripture as well. By the way; my husband and I argue over this all the time too.

      • Aprille

        I think men overall can sometimes simply be ignorant to the tender sensitivities of women. But, I think a lot of women (at least I do) tend to excuse their lack of control of emotions and blame it on the guy, or hormones, and refuse to take responsibility for the fact that sometimes we are just as out of line as they are. I catch myself in this act all the time.

  • Brittany L

    Amen… I don’t deal a lot with this personally, as my personality tends to be more the independent, I don’t care type, but that has its issues too. Often now I just deal with a lot of grief and jealousy over the fact that others of my friends have their babies and I don’t have Samuel. 🙁 In some ways it is similar, yet in others very different.

  • Emilee

    I can definitely relate to this. I struggle with these emotions – sometimes because God needs me to so I do get that push to move forward and sometimes because I just let myself get caught up in emotions that are truly mine, and I need to let go. My blog is actually a big one for me. I always feel very insecure about it and compare it to others and then try to defend it. Then I remember I’m not meant to be like anybody else, which means those reflections of me aren’t going to be like theirs, either. Yet, I still find myself reminding myself and praying about it almost every day. I just have to remember to keep “looking up” because ultimately, as long as I’m following Him I’m doing the right things.

  • wifosaurus

    Reading this, 2 Corinthians 2:19 came to mind:

    But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

  • Elizabeth@Warrior Wives

    I love how you brought up feeling like someone “made you feel” like something right at the very end. We always like to blame our emotions and reactions on other people – how they responded, how they communicated their choice. If they just would have said it a different way, then you wouldn’t have gotten mad. But the truth is that no one makes us do anything. Situations reveal parts of our hearts that were hidden. We’re often secretly insecure, or jealous or self-righteous and reading about other families’ choices brings that to the surface.

    Great post!

  • Selena Campbell


    Once again, it is a God-thing that I read this post. I am struggling right now with feelings about choices other moms have made, and I feel rejected by their choices (and we aren’t even close friends). Emotions can go nutty, if we always play the blame game. I think this is an area that the devil loves to get control of because we are so easily manipulated by our feelings, if we don’t submit them to God and ask for wisdom.

    Thank you so much for sharing!

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