Monday, 1 May 2017

Rejecting perfection: Why I couldn't care less about having my 'shit' together

I'm someone who has always put a lot of pressure on myself: to have a spotless home, an organised handbag, an endless selection of (largely unused) notebooks and makeup organised meticulously into shiny acrylic display holders. But lately I've become more and more aware of something that was probably inevitable but is still pretty disturbing. Having your shit together has become ridiculously commercialised, and I've really fallen victim to it.

Think about some of your favourite bloggers, YouTubers or famous faces. From lifestyle bloggers to healthy chefs, Instagram yogis and more - all we really see in their social media are images of pure perfection. They make appearing organised, well put together and successful look easy. And their followers, myself included, find this aspirational. We want what they have, and to project a similar image, because it's cool to have your shit together.

From bullet journalling to self help books, influencers have spawned an entire industry dedicated to being organised. Expensive Pinterest-worthy homes paraded on social media have also contributed to this. What 20-something woman doesn't have a set of cute miniature cacti on her bookshelf, or a motivational print hanging above her desk? (I certainly do) A craze for ladylike brunches of avocado on toast has also taken off even though most of us probably find the stuff gross. Working in scandi-chic cafes on marble encased MacBook Pros is all the rage.

But it's made to look so attractive that everyone is doing it. Perfection is the new black. 

Lately I've noticed several hugely well-known influencers complaining that it's not all glamorous outfit photos and exclusive brand dinners, but I find it very hard to be sympathetic towards this. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate that most of these figures have worked incredibly hard to get to where they are, and just like every job I'm sure there are downsides. I'm sure they have all kinds of personal struggles behind the scenes just like you and I. But herein lies the crux of the problem. 

The parts of their lives that we are shown are a glorified highlight reel. It's very rare (with the exception of a few big names that regularly engage in #realtalk) that we see anything about these people's lives that humanises them. I'm sure that they, just like me, have been so tired and overworked that they drop a 4 pinter of milk on the kitchen floor and just burst into tears. I'm sure they have relationship problems, health scares, messy bedrooms and career worries the same as anybody else. But they just don't show it. 

And I really wish they did. It would mean so much to so many young women who are struggling with everything from mental health to financial problems, who feel like they could never achieve what these influencers have, to be reminded that really we're all the same and all get lost in the chaos of life sometimes. When all we're confronted with are edited versions of others, we start to believe we're inferior with our messy lives and rented magnolia bedrooms.

Perfectionism is the devil. Obligation and guilt are demons we can all live without

I don't blame big influencers for wanting to seem perfect - the picture of health, style and positivity. It's what makes them so attractive to brands. It's how they make their money. But ultimately, it's just not real. 

Many of these people have agents, managers, accountants, videographers, editors and everything in between helping them take their success to the next level. Product placements and PR events have evolved into huge brand campaigns, book deals and makeup lines. But where is the substance? Where is the realness? The lines are so blurred that audiences just doesn't know anymore.

And I'm not suggesting that influencers should have to share every nitty gritty detail of their lives with us - privacy is a basic human right, and most us are grown-up enough to know that what we see is very much censored. But I do feel is that there is an element of responsibility here, to inject a touch of balance into the squeaky clean videos and images girls as young as 11 or 12 are consuming on Instagram and YouTube daily. 

All I know is this

For too long I've been feeling like I have to be just like these people. To spend every penny on the latest stuff, to spend so long taking photos of my coffee it's gone cold when I finally take a sip, to carefully design a weekly schedule in my bullet journal and never tick any of it off anyway. Comparing my acne-scarred face to a photoshopped version of someone who's used face creams costing hundreds of pounds that I don't have. And I've finally realised that none of it matters.

It's not healthy to put pressure on yourself to always be hyper-organised perfectly dressed and fully in control of your life. Nobody actually has their shit together. It's a disturbing projected image that reminds me a little too much of that 1950s-style Stepford Wives aspirational lifestyle. Be practically perfect in every way or be rejected by society. 

Why are we so afraid of being publicly honest about the struggles of everyday life? Why do we allow advertising and social media to set such high standards, and get disappointed when we don't live up to them? We are we so worried about being our own weird selves and straying from a spotless bleached white and pastel colour palette? Where did our personalities go?

Do what you want

One evening a while back I'd been scrolling Instagram for what seemed like hours (to the point that my hands hurt) and it hit me just how much I'd been sucked into all of this. Many of us preach that comparison is the thief of joy, but we allow other people to shove their supposedly perfect lives under our noses for hours and hours of the day. 

After this moment I stepped back from all things blogging for a few weeks. I turned off push notifications and abandoned Instagram pods, I missed Twitter chats, ignored my YouTube subs and abandoned the blog post schedule I was struggling to keep up with alongside changing jobs. And it did wonders for my mental state.

It felt so bloody good to remember what it was like not to obsess over Instagram themes, monthly pageviews and how many retweets I was getting. I went for dinner and didn't take photos of my food. I didn't feel desperately compelled to place an order for a bunch of 'useful' stationery I'd never use. I posted dark, low quality photos of little moments on the go that made me smile. Who cares if my hair's a mess or my nails are chipped or I didn't use a selfie light to show of my highlight?

Is my engagement worse as a result of it? Yes. Of course it is, because we're all so obsessed with perfection that anything less gets ignored (or worse, unfollowed). But did I enjoy it? Hell yeah. It was liberating. And should I continue to blog and keep up my social media from now on, you can expect less of the stuff I think you'll love and more of what interests me.

Be more real, don't change yourself or buy things just because that's what somebody else has done. Don't agonise over 'having it all'. Just do what makes you happy.

© kelly anne rist

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