These days, it seems that people are either ecstatic or going through a really difficult time.
At least, that’s the case in my social networks as of late.
While the countless engagement and baby announcements (and subsequent baby photos) continue to flood newsfeeds on the regular, it turns out that a lot of people aren’t experiencing such joy. Maybe it’s the slow start to the warmer weather; perhaps getting older has us reevaluating life; or it could be the insane amounts of pressure for perfection in young professional circles, but many young people are in a rut these days.
The good news is that they’re not afraid to talk about it.
Highlighted even more in our age of social media obsession, many of us strive for perfection in every aspect of our lives. We’re expected to be killing it in our careers (and have the awards to prove it), maintain #relationshipgoals-worthy relationships, be involved in charities, live active lifestyles, lead jam-packed social lives and look effortlessly stylish doing it all (especially on Instagram).
I remember going through a particularly stressful time a year or so ago, as I anxiously questioned my life decisions like it was my full-time job. While exchanging self-indulgent “I hate my life stories” with one of my best friends on the phone, she made a good point. She pointed to a well-known TV personality who had lost her job, but weeks later got engaged. “You can’t have everything at 100 per cent all the time,” she said. “Life is going to be a constant shift in success of your personal, professional, social and career life.”
And she’s right.
Very rarely are all elements of your life going to be as great as they can be all at once. In conversations with others and evaluation of my own mental habits, many of us tend to let negative aspects of one element of our lives – like a heartbreak or hating one’s job – affect our overall levels of happiness, therefore spilling into other areas of our lives. But, a lot of the time, it seems that for every loss in one area of your life, something gains in another (like the case of the TV personality, who is now back on the air by the way). The good and challenging parts of your life usually have a way of balancing themselves out. I can remember being totally heartbroken a few years back, but within the weeks that it took to get over it, booking two acting jobs (something that rarely ever happens).
You just have to pay attention to the wins and any breaks tossed to you in other areas of your life. When something is less-than-ideal in one aspect of your life, it’s important to focus on the positive as a way to stay strong. Some days, it may be the only thing that keeps you going.
Of course, it is possible that all things are simultaneously failing in your life at once. That’s a hopeless place to be. “I get that by this age, everyone has had bad things that happen to them, but most people seem to have enough really good things happen to balance it out,” said a friend of mine at dinner who is currently going through a hard time. She hasn’t had that balance yet. But she’s at least talking honestly with her friends about it.
We should follow her lead. It’s time we stop bullshitting one another all the time that we lead perfectly unflawed lives. Although I will admit that a disproportionate number of my friends are indeed the type who appear to “have it all,” I assure you that everyone has something that they struggle with. I also admit that my life looks a lot better on Instagram than it really is.
Not to get all “boohoo me” about it but – like many of us by this point in our lives – I have been through my share of tragedy. From the death of a parent and the near death of another, to the death of many friends and crippling heartbreak, I know what feeling low is like. What I’ve learned is to embrace the pain: cry about it, scream about it, write about it – whatever you need to do. Completely break, knowing that it’s only going to get better.
But talk about it.
It’s important to discuss struggles with your peers instead of dancing around them. Once you’re brave enough to take that step and say, ‘actually, I haven’t been so great’ when you’re asked how you are, it inspires others to do the same and a mutually beneficial dialogue begins as you realize that most people can relate. I’m not suggesting that we should all become Debbie Downers and turn things like birthday parties and girls’ nights out into group therapy sessions (and no, it wasn’t a good look that time I cried at an event) but if we were all a little more honest about our struggles, the pressure for perfection would diminish.
As I’ve learned, there are few things fun about being a perpetual perfectionist anyway (or dating one, for that matter). A perfectionist mentality can lead to detrimental impacts on your overall well being, as your inner critic can’t help but rear its head, imposing ridiculous expectations and standards on yourself and those around you. Real people are so much more refreshing.
Frankly, people who appear or claim to have it all at 100 per cent all the time make me nervous.