Striving to better oneself is undoubtedly an honourable pursuit. And there are an overwhelming number of ways that we can do this. We’re supposed to cut back on sugar, frequent the gym on at least a semi-regular basis, meditate during our lunch breaks, not use any plastic, utilize a ten-step skincare routine every evening, exfoliate, eat our 15-a-day, oh and still fit in all the usual work and familial obligations. The internet is littered with a trillion how-to’s and Instagram has an influencer for every niche imaginable. But are we doing more harm than good?
The self-help section of my local book store seems to grow by the day, as does the archive of pages pertaining to optimal wellbeing and exactly how I can get there. They tell me how I can mantra my way to my next best self and then journal about it when I find her. I tease, of course, because I’m very much immersed in this collective; I’m a human on a perpetual quest to better herself using evidence-based logic. And I relish learning new tidbits that might help me get more magnesium into my diet or strengthen my pelvic floor. But I think what allows me to maintain perspective is that I make sure to only follow those who really do keep things real. I’d much rather read about a real life struggle up a hill that isn’t yet summited than try to force myself to relate to that gal in the clouds atop Kilimanjaro. Know what I’m saying?
In the age of fierce competition to go above and beyond what the masses are putting out there, I fear that what started as a rather positive movement of wellbeing enthusiasts has become a somewhat toxic collective. It isn’t the majority of individuals that are to blame, of course, but rather the way that society capitalizes on the vulnerabilities of others. It’s the way that we’ve made all of these things like doing more yoga and eating more vegetables movements with labels that creates pressure and unattainable standards.
There has been a lot of publicity recently about famous vegan influencers and other wellness “gurus” falling off the impossibly strict bandwagon they’ve found themselves on. A lot of what we do in life is trial an error, but we get into dangerous territory when we decide to adopt certain things as gospel prematurely and preach as such. Consistent as we might try to be, part of the beauty of human nature is our ability to grow and change. This combined with our being prone to burnout and cortisol overload means that we can’t always make the perfect decision in a given moment. We can only do our best.
For some reason, though, we put this pressure on ourselves to maintain perfection at all times, I’m guilty of it too – believe me. And social media platforms like Instagram play to this bad habit with alarmingly detrimental consequences. The dopamine hit from a system built on “likes” means we forever crave more of them and the only way to get them in a saturated market is by having the wow factor. In the wellness community, that’s the flattest abs, coconuttiest smoothie, glowiest skin and most profound quote placed beneath a photograph of all limbs no chins atop a rainforest plateau of dreams. We want to be better to feel better. Only, it doesn’t quite work like that.
What happened to normal? Has it been lost amongst the the sea of perfection? I think so. But it’s OK, because I’m here to tell you that there are ways that you can check in with yourself and get that all important perspective before the mental breakdown ensues. Wanting to get a little healthier in your mind, body and soul is never a bad idea, but it’s the grain of salt that goes alongside that should never be forgotten. Here are some pointers that help me:
1. Look at people IRL for a second. Think about the family and friends in your life and answer the following question: are any of them perfect? No, of course not. I have friends who are physically stunning, workout more than I do, eat better and all the rest of it, sure, but they still have fights with their boyfriends, get breakouts when they eat too much dessert, have been rejected from interviews and got too drunk and puked in the neighbor’s plant pot that one time (you know who you are!). My point is this: if all of us can agree that none of our friends are perfect, that must mean that the friends of those influencers we put up on the pedestal would also be included in that category. Perfection does not exist, so remind yourself of this often.
2. Switch off. I know it’s hard when we use our phones for just about everything and things like Instagram are only a tap away, but try as often as you can to take a break and as a minimum an hour before bed every night. Tune out of the fantasy and into reality to remind yourself of what is real and important.
3. Remember your mental health. Your number one goal must always be a healthy mind, because without it, our body gets thrown into a disarray so chaotic that no amount of green juices or laps round the park will sort out. Pay attention to how it feels when you look at the posts of those that you follow online. If anyone makes you feel bad about yourself, consciously unfollow. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
4. Vocalize your struggles. I make a point to do this as often as I can (usually my #realtalk is about hormonal birth control, let’s be honest) in the hope that others struggling in silence no longer have to feel alone. It can be really intimidating at first, but I promise that the response will be more supportive than you can imagine and that first message you get from someone telling you that it helped them will make all the vulnerability totally worth it.
Join me in the movement to be a little more average and a lot more balanced. It’s sustainability at its best, showing up for yourself and helping others to do so too.
How do you keep things real?