Now is the time of year I used to dread when I was younger as the summer holidays were coming to an end and the time to go back to school was fast approaching. It was the first time in my life I can remember counting down the days with a growing sense of doom building in my stomach rather than looking forward to something with eager anticipation. I didn’t like going to school, I hated the routine and I didn’t much enjoy socialising with so many people every day (still don’t in some ways).
Looking back now, I can see that it’s not that I didn’t like doing the work, (except for Maths, I was right about never needing to know algebra – in your face Mrs North!) it was the pressure I couldn’t take. It was the idea that I would never live up to expectations – not my parents’ expectations but my own.
I wanted to be perfect – I wanted good grades, I wanted lots of friends and I wanted to be a success at everything I did. I wanted to be the pretty, skinny girl on the front cover of ‘Just Seventeen’ who wore cool clothes and smiled like she didn’t have a care in the world. So I tried to emulate her and be all of those things that I thought would make me perfect. I dieted constantly, I did my homework religiously (if there was one spelling mistake, I’d screw it up and start again), I threw house parties that I didn’t really enjoy and hung out with the popular kids whenever I could even though we had very little in common. I was fourteen years old and my days were constantly filled. It all took so much work.
Time and time again I felt like I had failed in so many situations; when I got a B instead of an A, when I got snubbed by the popular crowd, when I couldn’t fit into that designer t-shirt that all of the other girls were wearing. Each failure was a blow and although I picked myself up every time, little by little, I just got more worn down by the pressure I was putting on myself to become this perfect person.
The annoying thing is that the perfection I was seeking, that so many of us seek every day, it didn’t exist. There is no ‘perfect’. Everyone is out there every day working their arses off to achieve this unattainable, non-existent concept. Every single one of us has our own aspirations, our own ideas of what is ‘perfect’. Most of the time we’re not even happy. Even achieving that sense of perfection fails to bring a smile to our face because we find that it’s often difficult to maintain and the accompanying sense of accomplishment is fleeting at best.
Those beautiful, successful women you see on the covers of magazines? It takes armies and teams of people to dress them, make them up, get the lighting right and even photoshop them to create this idealised image of success. I have no doubt that they have worked hard to achieve their goals and be successful in their chosen fields but they have support to do it. Also, here’s a question for you, how do we know that what they are doing and how they look is their idea of ‘perfect’?
I’ve realised recently that I’ve carried that same doom laden ‘back to school’ feeling with me for the majority of my life. Although now it starts building on a Sunday morning in preparation for going back to work on Monday. I still worry about being perfect all these years later and you know what? That feeling has frozen me. It’s stopped me from doing so many of the things I’ve wanted to do over the years for fear of failure and the pressure I have put on myself hangs all around me like the chains on Marley’s ghost.
So you know what I’m going to do on 1st September?
I’m going to stop worrying about being perfect.
I’m going to stop judging myself.
I’m going to throw off the shackles that I placed on my own wrists so many years ago and I’m just going to live my life the way that I want to.
I’m not going to be afraid of failure and I’m not going to worry about trying to be like anyone else.
I am just going to be completely, 100%, unapologetically me from now on!
We’re all different and there really is no ‘perfect’. All we can really do is be the best possible version of ourselves and most importantly, enjoy our lives and take the time to feel happiness.
Come join us this month and give it a shot! Throw off your own shackles of perfection. You never know, you might just like it.