I stepped on the escalator to make the same journey I make every Tuesday and Thursday morning out to Arlington, Virginia for my summer internship. Swiped my metro card through the gate, hurried down another set of escalators, and waited for either the blue, orange, or silver line. Only two minutes left for the orange line to arrive--and then, a ten minute walk to the office after I get off the metro.
Traveling along the metro gives me a lot of time to think. Without reception, my head begins to fume of epiphanies from out of nowhere.
My metro thoughts usually consist of what I'll do once I get home, what's there to make for dinner, how much I need to save up to balance my bank account, to-do lists that need to be updated, calendars that need to be written on, people I need to respond to that I probably should've responded to two days earlier (oops), and the list goes on.
As my list grew longer, my anxiety had seemed to reach its peak for the day, spewing steam out of a pressure cooker. Just slap the label “perfection” on the side to top it off and give it a name.
Society has crafted a path for girls and women to follow. A path of perfection, and pressure to follow it. Girls are expected to do as they are told growing up, and women are placed into a category of instantly needing to be “put-together” to a T, 24/7.
These often, so-demanding thoughts to “live your best life” creates a façade of a flawless, exemplary lifestyle. Whether it’s looks, education, relationships, friendships, or work, there’s a bar raised to the clouds for women to reach.
This does not, in any way, mean we should not always strive to be our best selves. I fully and whole-heartedly agree that it is every humans’ purpose to live up to their highest potential, and to be the best they can be—to work hard and strive to make a life for ourselves and be successful.
However, a looming problem in society is constantly striving for a perfected outcome—of which, studies have shown, is linked to anxiety and depression. The “pressure-to-be-perfect effect” creates a damper on one’s mental health, specifically for women due to problems in self-confidence, lower self-esteem, problems with self-image, and comparison with peers.
It’s a lot when you think about the detrimental effects of teaching girls to be perfect in everything they do starting from ballet classes at the age of four to having her life put together by the age of twenty-one.
Instead, we should teach our daughters and sisters that if we fail, we try, try again. That it’s okay not to straighten her hair everyday in high school—it’s beautiful just the way it is. That she shouldn’t compare herself to the models she sees on Instagram. If she makes a bad grade on an exam, don’t let her beat herself up about it. It’s okay. Teach her to pinpoint her mistakes and change for the next exam. It’s okay that she doesn’t have the perfect job straight out of college. Tell her she doesn’t need to count calories; instead, teach her about proper health and wellness.
Everywhere, plastered on social media is the ideal image of a woman being the BEST she can be. Right now. At this moment, she has to take any amount of insufficiency in her life and cut it out. Snip it away. We’re only living our best life, after all—right?
No. Living our best lives is taking the slips and falls, and incorporate them into the dance. It's to not be so hard on ourselves, and to fix a mistake accordingly without the guilt. It's loving ourselves for who we are, for where life has us standing at the moment, and embracing our imperfections. It's remembering that nobody’s perfect (thank you Hannah Montana for that one), and being less harsh on ourselves. It's remembering that happiness is far more important and achieved when we fulfill our own dreams and purpose each step of the way—without being pressure perfect.