Stop stressing and striving for the impossible
I’m not going to lie, I’m partial to the odd glossy magazine. Not the gossip rags, but normally something along the lines of Glamour. It’s a bit of escapism to imagine what I could have and what I could be. What glamorous lifestyle I could lead. I’m a dreamer in love with Parisian chic, la Belle Époque, travel, adventure and cocktails. I want to be that ever organised, well-turned out, femme fatale. An arty, smart, annoyingly healthy city girl, brimming with big plans and ambition. Heels, street-smarts, hair in place, latte in hand, and professional portfolio in the other. And if I was in Paris, I’d be doing all this while cycling.
The reality? I’m a student in Glasgow, returned from my year in Paris. I live in a nice enough, but cold and rather bare flat, the only decorations consisting of old crisp packets and empty gin bottles. I normally first face the day in flat, ‘practical shoes’, with damp hair, and no coffee. Too tired to even envision the end of the coming lecture, don’t ask me about my ‘future plans’.
I started the year, as ever, with so many resolutions. Take more time over appearance. Learn guitar. Go to yoga and salsa classes. Drink less tea. Eat less cake. Cook a Jamie Oliver meal once a week. Stop boycotting the library.
Ok, some of these things did happen, but most didn’t and I still feel I fall very short of becoming that multi-tasking, city-cycling bombshell.
There’s too much pressure to be fabulous. We all know that perfection is impossible, yet it doesn’t stop us trying. But as the glamorous world of glossy mags saunters its way out from the pages and onto our news feeds, there is a growing sense of discontentment.
To be honest, it’s probably one of the reasons I’m doing a blog. It’s probably one of the reasons most folk write a blog – to try and make their voices heard above the increasing clamour of people marketing themselves.
Friends that I considered normal have begun to promote themselves shamelessly on Facebook. ‘Selfies’ have become worryingly acceptable – especially if you put a disclaimer of ‘selfie lol’ underneath. Every trip, every party, every funny line, every coffee- any piece of remotely good news is posted for our delight.
It’s not that I grudge my friends success. And it’s not that I think ambition is a bad thing. I just think that the Situationists knew what they were talking about when they warned us about the society of the spectacle. It’s like that annoying person who gives 20p to a homeless guy on the street and then proceeds to mention his good deed ‘casually’ in every conversation for the following fortnight. Increasingly, people are busying themselves, not for fun, and not for others, but to be considered successful. Because in a society where every minor success is displayed, and every failure hidden, we begin to feel ourselves to be failures if we do not rise to this false level of perfection.
As a student I’m frequently reminded that it’s not enough to have a good degree at the end of the day. You’ve to be determined, enthusiastic (about everything), play sport and a musical instrument, speak a foreign language, and support a charity (preferably by running a marathon). In this frantic rat race we are beginning to lose sight of what we do for fun, and what we do so as to be considered successes.
People need to try and step back from this competitive game and do what they really enjoy. If watching TV and eating pizza with friends is more of a normal Friday night for you than taking a selfie while skydiving in Australia, that’s ok. Basically, don’t try to do everything – prioritise and be proud of achieving the things important to you. Dry your hair before you go out in the morning so that you don’t catch a cold, but if your underwear drawer isn’t organised according to its maximum potential, don’t get your knickers in a twist.