August 5, 2016

Defy Convention: Set your Own Standards.

woman mess hands paint

I am always surprised at the need we have to classify people.

For example, I often get called a hippie: I have strong empathetic tendencies, I do yoga, use essential oils, shop at the farmers’ market, and live from the heart.

I am also: a voracious carnivore, covered in tattoos, a total “type A” with a need to be setting goals and checking them off in order to feel successful, and stubborn as hell. Not exactly “hippie” qualities. I don’t mind the term hippie at all—I just feel like that’s only a portion of who I am.

I was having a conversation with one of the most influential people in my life today, and the topic of conformity came up. The discussion centred around the increasing number of people who are affected by the perfect life many of us convey in the social media age we live in. You know what I am talking about—the brief glimpses into other people’s glamorous, ideal, Stepford-esque lives that leave most of us feeling like we are inadequate.

We create this unhealthy internal dialogue around how we don’t measure up to what we see.

“She’s the perfect mother/wife/girlfriend. Look at her hair/makeup/body. How does she do it?”

“He’s a better husband/spouse/father than I’ll ever be, and he’s got his sh*t together…I’ll never be like that.”

I know I don’t have a fairytale relationship, or kids who look like they just stepped out of a Gap ad, and if you pop by my house unannounced, chances are you’ll find dishes in the sink, laundry sitting in baskets unfolded, and toilets that need cleaning—but, I do know that I’m happy in my relationship, the laundry and dishes can wait, and my kids are well-loved and healthy. So why hold myself to these standards set by brief glimpses into other people’s lives?

While I realize that my version of normal is probably much closer to the truth for many of these “perfect” social media accounts, emotionally it can be disheartening to feel like my reality doesn’t measure up to other people’s. Society inundates us with images of perfection almost daily. It feeds the notion of “less than” and “better than” that we all struggle with as humans.

The problem, I think, comes when people choose to expose an authentic feeling or thought. While the image of perfection makes so many of us feel inadequate, the notion of vulnerability or real, raw truth make us uncomfortable as a society. There is a social taboo associated with exposing ourselves to the masses. It’s a real catch 22—the general request is that we don’t share too much, but ensure that we are not being fake, either.

I’m learning that authenticity and vulnerability go hand-in-hand, however. I can’t live from an open and loving heart space without being vulnerable. I can’t be vulnerable if I am afraid of upsetting someone or making them feel uncomfortable when I am being real and open. Real and open are the antithesis of what we are bombarded with in the general media, and more importantly in social media. In order to conform to the social norms, we must uphold the ideal image of perfection.

I am finally coming to terms with the fact that I am not perfect, nor do I have to be. Imperfection is a beautiful thing, it means there is growth and learning available to us. My mentor loves the term “perfectly imperfect.” It’s a paradox, but I like the overall implication: I’m human, and perfect just the way I am, honouring my imperfections.

I no longer have any urge to adhere to the labels that people place on me, and I embrace my individuality: I love the fact that I can wake up tomorrow and choose to be whichever pieces of me suit the mood that day. I acknowledge that am constantly evolving, ever-changing, and super okay with that. It means I’m on the right track.

Defy convention. Be who you are, and love yourself for it. To hell with the image others portray. Create your own reality.


Author: Alexandra Woods

Image: danabooo/Flickr

Editor: Emily Bartran

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