Stressed, depressed, well-dressed

If it were to name a thing that makes life bitter, it was our ordinary perfectionism. Today is no wonder if you’re telling someone that you’re a perfectionist. The shock will be if you’re not. We’re taught from early in our lives to strive for perfection. To try to make things as good as we can, both in our personal and professional lives. To give our best day after day, so that, one day, everything will be perfect.

A perfectionist’s “career” begins early, in the family. From what I’ve noticed, the whole ride starts in school, with comparing grades. This is the most frequent way that kids learn they need to be as close to perfection as possible, to be loved. That’s how the self-doubt shows up, as a subtle inner voice asking the same question over and over again:             Is my best good enough?

And with that simple question, everything takes form. You begin to question your self-worth, your experience, your littlest decisions. But, above all, you begin to question your body, as your first attempts of building a social image appear.

I can’t even say that this is an exclusively feminine issue anymore if I have a second thought about all the men judged by their looks every day. We are, as nasty as it could sound, being judged by the way we look, dress and…pose. And this is more than visible on Social Media.

This is why we develop, from an earlier and earlier age, a sense of self-consciousness that is simply overwhelming. We are deeply aware of every little change that occurs in our bodies- a pimple, an extra pound, everything gets to be noticed and criticized by our childhood inner voice. And that voice is merciless.

But this is not the big deal. The big deal is the fact that we are getting into a vicious circle where nothing that we do or are is ever good enough for ourselves, in the first place, yet expect other people to show up and prove that we’re good enough for them. How messed up is this kind of reasoning?

It is, somehow, a mental health epidemics, where we are, all of us, trying to look as close as the mass media-served beauty ideals as possible. And this has a few bad, really bad side effects for our psychological well-being.

First of all, we tend to compare ourselves. Compare, compare, analyze, and then compare a bit more. And we’re never comparing ourselves to our equals. We compare with the augmented versions of the popular kids in our teenage years- the Social Media influencers, the celebrities, and generally the people who seem to have the perfect lives. Oh, our so beloved perfection, how damaging it is!

The aftermath of the comparisons is low, low, low self-esteem. Because let’s be honest about it, you will never win a mental battle between your current self, as imperfect as it is, and the thoughtfully crafted, long studied social images of these people. We compare ourselves with other people’s jobs, as they have some awesome teams behind those photos and stories that we’re comparing our bodies with, and they live by the money they make promoting different stuff and looking in a certain way. And this affects us in ways that we’re not even aware of.

After losing the game, we change the way we talk with ourselves and our self-perception. We become the toxic people we warn our friends about, but only when it comes to ourselves. We enhance the negative self-talk, we label ourselves as dumb, meh, not good enough, and the list could go on and on forever. We’re so accustomed to the negative labels, that we don’t even blink when we hear them from somebody else. What surprises us is the kind, flattering, polite type of discourse.

It is a common narrative, as one has to be, to be seen as successful, stressed, depressed, but well dressed. It doesn’t matter that much if you’re stressed and depressed if you don’t look like someone stressed and depressed. You have, and this is a silent prerogative, to look like your ideal version, not like your real one.

The fact that this kind of attitude has an impact on how humans perceive each other is no news. By now, it is well-known already that we judge the others in the very same ways that we’re judging ourselves. And that means forgetting the simple truth that there’s no such thing as two people with the same background.

It happened to me as well. Being a plus-size girl since literally forever made me understand better how self-talk and peer labeling interact. I’ve been called big, fat, obese, nasty, made compliments like It’s a shame of that beautiful face and I am proud of you for losing weight, as nobody thought you would. But, above all, I’ve never seen myself as a beautiful girl. Of course, there were things I liked about myself, like the lips, but the ones I was disliking outnumbered them effortlessly. Maybe that’s part of the reasons why now when someone tells me I look beautiful, or that I’m a good-looking woman, I tend to answer that Audrey Hepburn was a beautiful woman, and I, in my best days, am decent. But this came after a long time of hating my body and comparing myself with other women, that I’ve known for real or not.

Actually, this came when I got tired.  Because there comes a point in one’s life when you get tired of labeling yourself as good enough or not good enough, as proud or disappointed of who you are, depending on how close or how far you are from that ideal image. At first, you try to change it, you are revolted, and would do anything to fit in. You start to look more carefully in the wardrobe, see what good outfits you can mix. You become interested in makeup, and try to be more…like a girl, even if you feel uncomfortable at first. You’ll even try to diet, at a certain point.

And you will reach a point where your energy will be desperately needed elsewhere. Maybe it is the career, maybe it is emotional healing, it can be whatever. But, sooner or later, you’ll reach the point where the image displayed socially is no longer a priority.

From that point, things become easier not because you’ve become wiser, as it is not always the case, but because you became relaxed, and that’s a game-changer. When you relax and stop comparing and labeling everything around you, with the task journal in hand, eventually, ready to check some bullets, life becomes easier.

Maybe it has never actually been that complicated as the continuous race for the perfect social image made it appear. Maybe life was always an easy thing to understand, but we’ve made it become something complicated by adding useless ideas and questions to it.

I don’t know. I don’t have an answer to this. But the thing I know for sure is that you see life with brighter eyes when you’re aware of yourself for good. When you know and respect your limits, when you know and put in the spotlight your strong points.

Because, at the end of the day, it is all about the individual. Mental health is an individual set of actions, with a collective impact. There is no such thing as a healthy society formed by unhealthy individual and there’s no mentally healthy individual that keeps comparing itself with the other people day after day.

And, no, the perfect look is nothing achievable in nature, without interventions, so stop chasing illusions and enjoy your bodies, because that’s a bigger deal than living your life surrounded by an army which has as its only purpose to make you look good, regardless of what that good looks like that season. You’re more than just that, way more.

You’re only owing to yourself

We live, as mom once said, interesting times. In today’s fast and furious world, one can do with less sleep, but not with less social-media. We talk with our loved ones, read, share photos, music, thoughts with others, and, when we put things this way, social media seems to be an inoffensive, happy place. But this is also the problem.

As going through my own recovery journey, I’ve became fully aware of something that I used to know only as a theory: social media is doing more harm than good in the process.

This happens because no one on social media is really honest. We share the bits that we love from our lives, the highlights, and this is how the fraud begins. We are creating a perfect image for the others, but, in exchange, we tend to forget that they’re doing the same thing. We tend to forget that, for some people, social media is a career, what they do for a living.

And that’s how the harm is done. By comparing our raw, unfiltered real life, with the fake, perfect lives of the social media people. We look up to them, take them as standards, and then we’ll look back at ours and see the huge differences between them.

This is how any progress gets lost in the long run, just because we tend to forget the essential: there are no two recovery journeys alike. Every single one is unique, intimate and special. Share yours if you feel like it, but don’t take other people’s perfect social media lives as goal or comparison terms.

Because, if there’s something worth saying about it, then would be the fact that social media is a very, very powerful tool. It connects different people, different stories, different images form all over the world, in no time. This can make or break any kind of mental progress a person’s trying to achieve, being the main reason why social media should be used wisely.

I don’t say that being active on social media is bad. Actually, I spend a lot of time online. But, as I’ve started this rather uncalled for mental health journey, as old scars have opened again in front of me, hurting, I became more aware of the social media influence on me.

Social media, with all the perfect photographs, fueled my body insecurities. I know, it sounds childish, but being overexposed to so many images of perfect bodies constantly has only made me feel worse about mine. Even if, in the back of my mind, I was totally understanding that some of those perfect bodies are the byproducts of a whole team, usually consisting in fitness trainer, dietician, make-up artist, hairstylist, photographer, and the almighty Photoshop.

Even so, I couldn’t help, but ask myself Why am I not looking like that, or even close, at least? and fantasizing about how my life would be better if I’d be prettier- the social media kind of prettier. That was my revelation moment, when I’ve started to unfollow the accounts that were making me feel bad with the way I look.

And that was also the point where I’ve decided that it’d be a good move to unfollow all the accounts that I recognize having harmful potential. It might not be the easiest decision, but it was one of the best taken on this: to unfollow, unfriend and block every single one that made me feel less than enough.

Because, one of the social media’s wonders is that, even though you’re surrounded by content all the time, you choose what kind of content will surround you. And understanding this was a total game-changer. My feed started to look different: more young artists, more mental-health-supportive, more visual (and in a very, very good way, as I’ve discovered a whole world of photographers and illustrators hidden by all those IG models), and, generally, much more uplifting.

Of course, social media connected me with people that helped me become the individual I am today, awesome people I couldn’t see myself without, but I’ve also met people that, by  having contact with them or simply seeing their posts, were awakening my, so-thought, long time burried unworthiness feelings. But, at the end of the day, when I’ve acknowledged for real what it means that my mental health an well-being are at stake, I’ve managed to understand things at a deeper level. To take them more serious.

By continuously looking for answers, as my mental state was worse, I found some, not only about body image, on my relationship with social media. I’ve discovered that social media has a serious impact. More than I’ve thought before it could have. It brought up strange, yet common mix between addiction, exhaustion and not feeling good enough.

It is easy, when you’re a perfectionist nature, to mix all these things up. You want to get that perfection that seems so achievable  in the online.

Because, if you’d ask me, I’d say that is the biggest problem with social media: that it makes perfection look ordinary. It makes you believe that having the perfect job, perfect body, perfect relationship, perfect outfit, perfect house or vacation is not only something that everyone could reach, but that it is so common, that you must do something wrong somewhere if your life ain’t perfect.

And this could be seriously draining for one’s emotions and psychic, even if that individual faces a mental condition or not. It could, if used carelessly, make the individual develop some sort of condition, in time. This is why we have to change the approach. To post relevant content for who we are, regardless if it is matching the trend or not, and be careful about what messages we receive from the accounts that we decide to follow. Also, there is this little thing that, kept in mind, will certainly do the difference.

The truth is, again, that nothing will ever be perfect. Not in the real, daily life. Here everything has ups, downs and stopping points. We have normal bodies, each of them special and beautiful in its very own way, and lives that can be just as pretty as we allow them to be.

Because, if you get out of the social media thing for a second, you’ll see that the world is still a pretty place, and life is still beautiful. That there are people who genuinely love you and care about you, even if they don’t tag you everywhere, spend every free minute of their lives with you or shower you with gifts. That your followers are not a way to measure your worth as a human. And, generally, that there is life outside the social media, too, and we have to live that.

We have to live it unapologetically, without any kind of filters. To stop trying to please everybody, to speak more of our minds, to share our feelings and thoughts more. Because a life doesn’t  have to be picture-perfect to be worth enjoying it.

Actually, what we see on social media is not a life. Is a collage made of cut-outs. A big painting made of the tiny detalis that used to be the highlights of every day, week, month, year, but arranged in such a way that they’d eventually fit.  Everyone out there is building a social narrative of their lives, based on the moments that made them feel and look good.

Even if they don’t put it on display, people still have bad days, periods when everything seems to be wrong. And it’s ok to be like this, as long as the bad times are part of what it means to be human.

Of course, talking on social media about the struggles of existence is a wonderful trend, that I really hope it would last a lifetime. But, in the meantime, things tend to remain the same as they were when, talking to a friend about what made me write this articles series I’ve told her that I do it because I have nothing to lose anymore. If I’d have the smallest thought that I could lose something, that I would be judged, or that my loved ones or the people whose opinions matter to me would look at me differently, I wouldn’t write a line.

But I have nothing left to lose anymore, so I keep writing, hoping that these pieces of text help. Live the life your own way, and, when you’ll have your next scroll, keep always in mind that what you see on social media and what you get in real life can be two really, really different things. No one has it all, and for sure not all the time, but getting guilt trips over not being able to reach social media’s ideals of living is not a thing we should let happen any sooner.

Scroll down wisely, and keep in mind that the reality happens always offline, what we get on social media are just some beautifully crafted postcards from it.