A few days ago I followed a shared link on Facebook, to an article someone had written about social media and the impact it has on people wanting to portray perfect lives. If you want to read it, the original article is here. It’s really well written and the woman who wrote it is smart and a great writer!
The overall theme of the article was about people creating their dream life or projecting a perfect life on social media by carefully selecting or fabricating moments of their lives. It really got me thinking about why this is happening and what it all means.
I feel like it is happening for a few reasons. Firstly, people want to feel accepted and even looked up to – it’s a nice feeling to know someone thinks highly of you or admires you, right? Secondly, the way people connect now through social media, it’s possible to fake it a lot easier and to a larger audience. Lastly, and most importantly, I think we’ve externalised the process of determining self-worth.
“But wait, what the heck does that last thing even mean?” I hear you ask. Excellent question, amigo! Well, let’s take the red carpet at a major event, like the Grammy’s, as an example. The day after all our favourite musicians have dolled themselves up and hit the red carpet, magazines across the globe will have photograph features of the attendees, listing the best and worst dressed and rating their outfits out of 10. There’s no thought given to how the person in the picture is feeling, the only thought is given to what they look like.
They are given a score out of 10, on some fictional ‘on-fleek-o’metre’ or whatever it is. What if, instead, the person in the picture was asked to rate themselves? What if the red carpet photographers and magazine people asked our favourite musician how they feel in their outfit?
Someone who was heavily criticised for wearing something considered ‘drab’ might actually feel like a million dollars in their outfit and feel like themselves. Maybe the person wearing something considered ‘fab’ feels really uncomfortable and would rather be wearing something else. We’ll never know… because their value has been externalised. The focus is on a visual rating of their outfit, not a true rating of how the person under the outfit feels.
I feel like this externalised assessment has crossed over into our personal lives too and lots of people feel the pressure to project a life different to what their’s really is or what they want it to be. But, there isn’t one definition of perfect. We all come from different places and have had different upbringings in different social situations and were raised by people with extremely varying values and beliefs. It would be impossible for us to all strive for one agreed version of perfection. I’m sure a Harajuku girl would have a much different idea of what perfect is compared to what mine might be. But I’m sure we would both agree that feeling happy and comfortable in our own skin is far more important than living up to a perceived idea of perfection.
That makes me think there’s no pressure on any of us to define ourselves as any one thing or aspire to be a certain version of perfect. We’re all many things, a complex mix of beautiful, interesting values, ideals and desires. Nobody else has to know everything about us or even understand us completely. The only person whose opinion really matters is our own and I think it’s important to remember to internalise the process of determining self-worth.
Now, look, I don’t exactly feel comfortable sharing my sad days on Facebook or Instagram, I’m not going to post a photo of me wrapped up in a blanket, cradling a box of chocolates and watching my favourite movie because I’m feeling low. I’m also not likely to post a really bad photo of me where I’ve got triple-chins going on and my hair looks like a family of possums are living in it. But, I’m not going to feel pressured to construct the image of a perfect life or a perfect moment either.
Valentine’s day is coming up, guys and for some people, it means they want to share photos of a romantic dinner with their loved one and the flowers they’ve been given. Good for them! It’s not up to me to judge whether or not they’re happy or decide if what they’ve shared is fake or real. I’m not a Valentine’s Day person so I won’t share a photo of me out to dinner with my husband and that’s cool too, I’ll be on the couch watching a movie in my sweatpants. It doesn’t mean I’m any more or less happy than the person sharing photos of their V-Day dinner on Facebook and the only person who knows exactly how I feel and whose opinion matters, is mine!
Through all the wonderful things that have come of creating Little Grey Box and being able to share with so many people, I just want to tell as many people as I can that you should always feel comfortable doing whatever it is you want to do and determine your own self-worth. You decide for yourself whether you’re a 1/10 or 10/10 on your red carpet, don’t let someone else do it for you because their opinion doesn’t matter one little bit.
I don’t want anybody to look at the photos I post or the things I write and think, “Her life is perfect, she’s got it all figured out.” Guys, we’re all in this together! Some days I’m an absolute mess and other days I’m cool as a cucumber, just gliding by and getting stuff done. If you’re ever having a really shitty day, just remember that everyone else on this planet, including me, have them too… even the person whose Instagram account or Facebook profile looks perfect. I once had an anxiety attack in the middle of the grocery store and had to abandon an entire trolley full of groceries at the checkout and run back to my car in tears! True story! I also had such a bad day at work once that I just walked out and left, totally unhinged and on the verge of a breakdown, then called my boss from my house in a flood of tears and sobbing, to tell him I had run away. Thank goodness he understood and didn’t fire me on the spot.
This post isn’t a bash on social media either, because I think it’s a really great thing. As much as people reminisce about the good ol’ days before smartphones, it’s pretty incredible the way in which we all connect and share now. I’m able to meet thousands of like-minded people and feel more comfortable about how weird and awkward I am because they are awkward too. The world has changed and we all share differently, it’s a wonderful thing and I’m sure there are many, many people out there who appreciate being able to get in touch with others who share similar interests. I know I do! It has given me a career I never thought I could have.
Nothing is ever perfect, there’s always a challenge we’re overcoming, a lesson we’re learning or something we’re going through. As long as we’re being honest with ourselves and true to ourselves, I think we’re doing a pretty good job of going through life. You alone have the power to decide how you feel and to change it, if you want or need to. Maybe it all boils down to finding a balance and making sure, before we share with other people, that we know how we feel about something and are secure in that feeling. Always remember, you are wonderful just as you are.
Phoebe is a travel writer and photographer with a love for storytelling and making people laugh. Matt is a videographer and photographer with a passion for the great outdoors and big adventures. Together we inspire big adventures through our guides, videos, vlogs and photographs. Find out more about us here.