Welcome to the new Instagram Envy! It used to be about exotic vacations you couldn’t afford, selfies with celebrities, gorgeous outfits that wouldn’t fit you anyway, and beautiful homes you could only dream of. But now that we’re all at home trying to save each other, there’s been a shift.

The new Instagram Envy is about those truly admirable people who are shining stars of accomplishment now that they finally have time on their hands and are making good use of it. Not diss to them – I stand in awe. But the pictures of meticulously organized pantries, gorgeous loaves of artisan bread, and inventive crafts for kids who are being home schooled can sometimes make the rest of us feel a little… inadequate.

But don’t.

Here’s what you SHOULD feel guilty about: you’re not self-isolating. You’re not washing your hands. You’re not social distancing. You’re throwing the gloves your grocery store gave you on the sidewalk. If you’re doing those, you need to step up your game immediately.

But here are some things you should NOT feel guilty for, because guess what? We’re only human, and we’re all in brand-new territory. Together.

Your House is Still a Mess

It’s okay if you haven’t organized your kitchen, gone through all the closets, alphabetized your books, cleaned out the garage, and finally gotten to all those DIY and fix-it projects that have been on your list for years, with the “one day when I’ll have time” plan. Not having the vim and vigor to do those things is perfectly understandable. (And if you’re videoconferencing and you don’t like your co-workers seeing your house, download a fun background to put behind you!)

You’re Not Working on Your Abs

Sure, it’s important to keep moving. But if you’re not logging in for online yoga, hauling out your fat-busting DVDs, or improvising by lifting stacks of books or having high-energy dance parties, that doesn’t mean you’re a lazy slacker.  If you’re in a neighborhood where it’s an option, go for walks, breathe in fresh air, stretch your limbs, walk around (at a safe distance from others), wave at your neighbors. If not? Start small, finding something you can do to move a little, and give yourself a break as you try to figure out what works for you.

You’re Not a Home Schooler

Even if you’re long past having little ones around, it’s still guilt-inducing to see pics of inventive parents teaching their kids how to grow plants, doing science experiments with household materials,  and building giant glorious forts you’d love to climb around in yourself. It’s okay if you’re not drilling your teens with SAT questions— you may not need to anyway — or tracking every assignment the school sends them. And not all of us have families who can sing “One Day More” from Les Misérables together. That doesn’t make you an underachiever.

You Really Just Wish You Could Get Your Hair Colored

Or your nails done, or your eyebrows… whatever your thing is that you used to do to make yourself feel good when you look in the mirror. Sure, there are much bigger concerns, no question. While it’s not okay to want to risk someone else’s life for first-world-problems vanity, it’s still okay to MISS those things. (My hair has turned into a big puffball and I look like a lion.) It’s okay to have a moment or two lamenting that you can’t run out and get a haircut. Just don’t dwell on it—and definitely don’t post it on Facebook or Twitter, where it appears next to stories about respirator shortages and unemployment statistics.

You’re Not Cooking Like a Five-Star Chef

Sometimes it’s inspiring to see all those photos of the healthy and complicated meals people are making now that they can’t go to restaurants, sometimes it’s downright depressing when you just can’t muster up the energy to haul out 25 ingredients, all your pots and pans, and then spend an hour and a half cleaning it all up afterwards. If you don’t have it in you to get creative in the kitchen right now, give yourself a temporary pass. Try to eat something good for you, and if that’s just a tuna sandwich, so be it.

You’re Not Writing/Filming/Building a Masterpiece

You’ve probably seen somebody on social media talking about how Shakespeare wrote King Lear when he was in quarantine. Guess what? You’re not Shakespeare.  If you’re not writing the Great American Novel or a screenplay, making a film, starting up a podcast, knitting perky hats, or building a loft, that doesn’t mean you’re a loser. It just means you’re preoccupied by the same thing as everyone else: the new world we’ve found ourselves in.

Look. I’m not knocking any these things; they’re all great. But don’t let what anyone else is doing make you feel bad about your own situation. We’re all doing what we can as we navigate the new normal. If you want to contribute, there are plenty of ways to do it, from donating money to shopping for neighbors who can’t leave their homes to making masks. But don’t spend your time beating yourself up for struggling, because you’re in good company. All the compassion you’d have for a friend who’s finding it difficult to get motivated should be given to yourself, too. Hang in there.

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About Laurie Ulster

A transplanted Canadian living in New York, Laurie Ulster is a freelance writer and a TV producer who somehow survived her very confusing adolescence as the lone female Star Trek fan in middle school. She writes about pop culture, lifestyle topics, feminism, food, and other topics for print, digital, podcasts, and TV.

View all posts by Laurie Ulster

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