The Before & After Photos You [Never] Expect to See
We moved into our house in January 2014. Since then, we’ve had paneling on our walls and a tiled, drop ceiling. I’ve hated it for 9 years. But it’s never been very high on the priority list to change because there were so many other *FUNCTIONAL* things that took precedence. It was just a cosmetic thing I hated. Oh and we really wanted to pay off the house. We hated debt more than I hated that ceiling apparently, so I’ve been stuck looking at that ugly ceiling for almost a decade.
Now we are in a season where we have *FINALLY* decided to replace the walls, ceilings, and floors in the main part of our living room. Last week I’m standing in my “construction clothes” ready to start demolition on the living room. I’m checking my phone before we get started and I see this reel from a more high-profile instagrammer who is known for her house renovation projects. And she has this reel showing all of the upgrades they’ve made to their house in the year of 2022. And I’m shown about 7 or 8 pretty MAJOR projects and their before and after pictures. Exterior painting, complete upgrade of an outdoor patio, a bathroom overhaul. Of course the house looked amazing. The progress was incredible. I was in awe of the amount of work (and $$) they put in in just TWELVE months to make those kind of changes. And I got to see it ALL in just 30 seconds.
And I could FEEL the comparison creeping in.
Here we are, standing in our little living room with short ceilings that we can’t make any higher. With a budget for a living room we can’t make any bigger. Looking down the barrel of AT LEAST a month long project before we get our space back again. We’re going to make some awesome changes to *OUR* space, but it’s not going to look like THAT. And it certainly won’t get done that quickly.
Thankfully I was able to step back quickly and recognize the situation for what it was. This woman has a passion for house projects and sharing it. And that’s wonderful! She obviously has a gift for it. But I don’t have to compare her quick before and after reel that’s tied up with a neat little bow with the reality of me standing in a cloud of plaster dust as we demo our space. I’m sure a lot of time, money, and energy went into her projects. But we’re not seeing those things. We’re *ONLY* seeing the finished project.
That got me thinking about “Before and After” photos. We see them all the time on social media. Definitely when it comes to house projects. But also weight loss journeys. New haircuts. A makeover. And think about the “after” pictures you see and don’t even realize are AFTER pictures: like the epic picture in front of Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World or on top of a mountain on a crazy fun, adventurous vacation. Or the finish line photo at the end of a marathon. Do you ever think of how many hours and money went into planning those vacations or training for that run? We don’t see many photos of the late nights at the computer doing research for flights or comparing Airbnbs. We don’t hear too much about the skimping and saving on meals at home so they can afford said vacation. We don’t post photos of the tension between a husband and wife trying to nail down the plans to make this the BEST VACATION EVER! All we see is the fruit from all their labor: the fun vacation photo.
We don’t talk about THE MIDDLE.
A lot of times we’ll talk about the IDEA. And we’ll post photos of the RESULT. But never the work that it takes to get us from point A to point B. Think about that the next time you see someone’s accomplishment photo. You’re seeing their success (and, truly, GREAT for them! They should be able to share their wins and what they’ve worked hard for!) but you’re not always seeing the work they put it. Don’t forget about the PROCESS. Whether it’s a house project, a weight loss success story, or a vacation, remember that there was a process that went into each of those.
My husband had to figure out how to level our ceiling. Because our house is slanted. Anyone seen How I Met Your Mother and Marshall and Lily move into a crooked apartment? Yeah that’s pretty much our house. We’ve had to lug dozens of garbage bags full of paneling, ceiling tiles, insulation, and plaster to our garage without a plan on how we’re actually going to dispose of it yet. We have to make decisions on how to re-frame our windows and if we’re going to re-use baseboards in order to save some money.
It’s not sexy. Who REALLY wants to read about us leveling our ceiling or see photos of our family doing research on the best rides to prioritize at Disney World? I get it. It’s not exciting. The middle is messy. But we need to stop looking at people’s AFTER PHOTOS and immediately jumping into a game of comparison or envy. Pull yourself and your eyes off the photo and take a step back. Look at the truth. They have something to celebrate. AWESOME! Recognize the work they must have done to get there. It’ll help you actually be happy for them and be content with the fact that you’re not in the same place in your journey as they are. That reminds me of that quote that I see floating around the internet sometimes. About not comparing your beginning to someone else’s end. That’s exactly it.
Celebrate their win. Tell them that. Heck even ask them for advice on how they did it. But stay grounded. Stay YOUR course. It might look different and you might be knee deep in insulation falling from your ceiling but you’re doing the GOOD WORK! You’re on your own journey and you’re working towards your own AFTER photo. It just takes a little longer than Instagram leads us to believe. 😉
What’s something that you’re in the MIDDLE of right now? Something you’re not ready to share the “after” photos of but that you’re working hard on? Share a little bit of your messy middle with us! I hope you enjoyed my messy middle!