How I Pushed Myself To Give Up On Being Perfect

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stressed woman

By Nicole Goodwin

Possibly the biggest burden I carry is how I perform in life. I am 26 years old, and engagements, marriages, pregnancies, births, new homes, and general life "success" dominates my social media.

It seems that I am at the age where this sort of progression is normal and society expects this of me.

However, unlike my friends and the people I see online, I have yet to achieve any of the above accomplishments. I am not in a relationship, I still live at home with my mam, and I work in the same shop job that I was in before I started my degree.

When people ask what I’m doing with my life, I am embarrassed to tell them.

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Being constantly exposed to other peoples’ seemingly "perfect" lives via social media undoubtedly causes me to criticize my own. I browse interior design Instagram accounts, visit extortionately-priced show homes, and persistently poison myself with excessive targets.

When I’m not succeeding in my completely unrealistic, extreme expectation of life, I begin to feel really low and self-critical.

In the hope of escaping this warped reality, I decided to do what every Pinterest-perfect bucket list suggests and ban social media for a day. Although I deny being addicted to my mobile phone, this challenge proved much harder than I expected.

At first, removing the distraction of my phone felt strangely freeing. Waking up left me wondering what I was going to do with the time I would normally spend in bed browsing social media.

However, the feelings of freedom soon subsided, and I began to realise that I am addicted to my phone. This personal challenge really brought home a need to step away from my phone.

I now realize that I use social media to distract me from my own life.

When I can’t face being alone with my thoughts, I reach for my phone and indulge in the lives of others. This only adds to the pressures I put on myself.

As well as the pressure from social media, I believe my mam is worried that I won’t meet a partner and give her the grandchildren she dreams of.

She often encourages me to sign up for the dating app, Tinder, in the hope that I will meet someone. What she doesn’t realize is that a lot of men on “dating apps” are only after one thing, and that certainly isn’t commitment.

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To help her understand our generational differences and the modern dating scene, I downloaded Tinder, huddled together on the sofa, handed my mam the phone and gave her complete control.

She was in her element as she swiped through the endless stream of men, expressing her disgust at indulgent gym pictures and shameless night-out snaps. Nonetheless, her excitement grew as the matches mounted up.

“You’re going to be up all night replying to all these!” she said.

It was all fun and games until one of the guys started messaging. “My flatmate is working until 11, house to myself,” he boasted. “What shall I say, Mam?” I teased her.

“No!” she exclaimed. I could see the shock on her face, but I wanted her to understand this sort of behavior is “normal” in the world of dating apps.

The lack of face-to-face interaction in the virtual dating world gives people the confidence to say whatever they like as the whole experience feels less personal.

My appearance also plays a huge part in my perfectionist outlook on life.

I believe I am not what people consider attractive. I’m overweight, incredibly short, and I wear braces to fix my previously-hideous teeth. I will never match the perfectly polished images that haunt my Instagram feed.

Admittedly, wearing makeup acts as a last-ditch attempt to salvage any beauty that may be lurking within me. Regardless, I decided to reveal all and go to university bare-faced for a day.

Anyone who wears makeup on a regular basis will understand the comments that come with deciding to go au naturale. “Are you okay?” “Have you been crying?” and “You look ill!” are inevitable.

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I could sense the horror as people got a glimpse of the pale, panda-eyed, pore-ridden face I have disguised for so long. Yet to my shock, only one person rushed to console me because they thought I had been crying.

I would consider my personal reputation to be the final aspect of my life where I suffer from perfectionism.

I am very conscious of how others perceive me, I am uncomfortable with confrontation, and, like a stereotypical British person, I hate complaining.

My first opportunity to challenge this attitude came while I was out for a friend's birthday.

Despite booking a table well in advance of our planned visit to the cinema, we were still in the restaurant when the film was due to start. To make things worse, we were still waiting for our main course.

This was the final straw for my friend, who had previously complained about a number of things, including watery drinks and straws with “snots” on. With frustration running high, she turned to me and said the words I knew she was thinking: “I’m walking out, and I’m not paying!”

My heart started racing as we grabbed our coats and bags and bolted for the door.

As we burst out of the restaurant, our adrenaline peaked. To my surprise, the feelings of embarrassment had been replaced with liberation.

I felt respect towards myself for not only challenging my boundaries, but also for admitting that I deserve to be treated better than what I had just experienced.

I was finally standing up for myself and understanding my own value.

My experience of giving up perfectionism is similar to the emotions I felt that day. I understand that I need to respect myself and put less effort into conforming to what is expected of me.

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Nicole Goodwin is a writer and reporter for The Chronicle. Her work has appeared in Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror, Daily Star (UK), The National Law Review and others. Follow her on Twitter for more.

This article was originally published at Unwritten. Reprinted with permission from the author.