These days I see increasing pressure to be a fantastic all round person and it is killing my friends. People are trying to do too much, and it’s not healthy.
[I would like to note that this is written from a female perspective, concentrating on women, simply because this is my own personal experience as a woman. However, this happens to men too, so I welcome comments and experiences from men.]
The 1950’s gave us the modern model of perfect family. A man had a good job and provided well for his family, expected to uphold certain social requirements and maintain networks and look smart. The women were expected to be women who not only looked impeccable, but were also accomplished in many things. They were expected to follow the latest fashions and trends, spending time ensuring their aesthetic portrayed the perfect housewife, they were expected to be good cooks, good at crafts, good at being a mother, good at sports, good at dancing and singing, good at being a wife, good at entertaining, good at being entertaining, good at socialising, good at being a friend, good at maintaining a home. Trying to do it all and be perfect.
We may be in 2017, but this attitude hasn’t left us. Women still strive to do all of these things, but on top of that they are now expected to go out and get a career on top of all of that. I see countless friends who have full time jobs trying to portray an image of themselves on social media of someone who eats healthily, who manages to go for a run or to the gym, who tries and succeeds at many crafts, who is a wonderful mother, who has a social life, and who cares about social justice and politics.
Gym, crafts, food, design, social life, film, pop culture, beauty, work, education, growing veg, meditating, career, friendships, current affairs, global affairs, local affairs, all these things flood my news feed but not because I have amassed a collection of friends with massively varied interests, they are all coming from the same people. People are exhausting themselves to try and be a polished “someone” and no facet can be left unturned. Then away from the spotlight of the news feed I receive personal messages, texts from friends saying “I’m exhausted, I’m so stressed, any chance we can chat, do you have time for a coffee sometime? I can squeeze you in between 11:13 and 11:49 on 28th July this year.”
So I find myself surrounded by friends that I never see, unless we actively arrange to meet up and do an awesome thing that can be tagged on Facebook. I don’t mean to imply that all my friends are social media obsessed, but it is becoming an increasingly important factor in people’s lives and in the way they express themselves or define themselves.
I am guilty of trying to do too much. I was dissatisfied in my job so tried to build an empire of self-employed avenues to enable me to leave the job I was currently in. I also decided to do a degree at the same time, and lose weight and maintain my meditation practices and groups on top of all the other things. It wasn’t possible and something had to give. Fortunately, just before I was the thing that broke, I decided to cut down on my list of “current activities”. The only thing I achieved in doing all of these things was not looking after myself.
Self care is so important. It is not selfish, it is necessary, and something that everyone should do every day. One thing a day for you that has no purpose other than to make you happy. It doesn’t matter whether that one thing is awesome or not. It is not to be judged, just enjoyed.
Here are some of the “self-care” things I have done for myself over the last week.
Mon 8th May – had a pint by myself in a nice pub.
Sun 7th May – had a good cry after sorting through memories
Sat 6th May – Got a tattoo
Fri 5th May – indulged in some of my favourite foods
Thurs 4th May – dyed my hair and watched drag queens
Weds 3rd May – went to yoga
Tues 2nd May – wrote a letter to my penpal and drew him a stupid picture
These aren’t massive things. They are things I enjoyed and did purposefully. Everyone’s self care is different. Sometimes it is just saying “No” to something you don’t really want to do, or saying “Yes” to something you would ordinarily turn down, but want to do. Sometimes it is just embracing your flaws and spending time with them rather than trying to hide them.
So many people are chasing the image of a perfect person, believing that being this person will make them happy. For me happiness is not the goal. Happiness is another thing we chase that is killing us. We are not meant to be perfect, and we never will be.