I Let Go of My 'Perfect' Life—And Found Myself
February 5, 2018
We all have our canned “perfect” responses—I’m doing great! Work is awesome! Yup, I’ve got it all together!
We might dish them out when we catch up with a friend or greet a co-worker in the morning. Or, we send the same message without even saying anything, thanks to social media. We post our perfect brunch, cozy night in straight from the pages of a William Sonoma catalog, or our Bachelor-level date night. We constantly share and speak to our highlight reels.
I used to do it all the time. I’d post on Instagram three times a day (yup, some might call this excessive) to show my perfect life. The job! The beautiful city! The 24/7 utter bliss! Look, avocado toast! Isn’t it marvelous?! And when friends asked how I was doing? I always responded with an immediate Great!
But a few months after I graduated college, I started to notice the wide gap between the life I showed others and my real life. I started to feel like I was straddling a deep chasm. On one side: The perfect life I documented and shared with the world. On the other side: My reality, dotted with moments of bliss but also spread thick with difficulties and personal struggles.
I started to feel like I was straddling a deep chasm. On one side: The perfect life I documented and shared with the world. On the other side: My reality, dotted with moments of bliss but also spread thick with difficulties and personal struggles.
I felt like I was living a lie, and like I was contributing to this “perfect” pressure we all feel. As far as any of my friends and followers knew, I’d found constant bliss and balance. But really, it was all a curated facade.
I began to wonder: What would happen if I stopped playing pretend? What if I started owning up to my reality?
After my realization, I started slowing down my visual highlight reel and posting on Instagram only a few times a month. I used it more as a way to update my close friends and family (here’s what I’m seeing on my vacation!) rather than as a daily diary. That approach, plus some seriously long Instagram detoxes, gave me a little peace of mind.
But the real change? It happened when I started swapping my canned “perfect” responses when talking to other people. “I’m great!” became “I’m doing OK—this weekend was tough.” “I’ve got it all together!” became “You know, I’m still struggling to be productive.”
I started to let my guard down. To get vulnerable. To show people when I wasn’t OK. To open up.
At first, it felt uncomfortable to let go of the pageantry of perfection. I worried people would think I’m a mess, or that I’m not up to the challenge of adulting. But slowly, I saw that chasm between my portrayed world and real world start to close. I started to feel like I was living my truth, and it actually filled me up with more joy than pretending everything was “perfect.”
When I stopped pretending, I could accept my life in all its messy glory and learn to appreciate it. I could stop forcing life to be a series of constant highs and recognize what it truly is: a landscape with the highest peaks and lowest valleys and so much in between.
We All Live Messy Lives
When I started letting my guard down with other people, I also opened a door to a new world of incredible conversations. Friends I follow on Instagram started to reveal that, well, they didn’t have it all together, either—even if their profiles told a different story. I started to release that “perfect” pressure I absorbed from so many people, knowing I’m not alone.
But the best part about sharing my struggles with other people? It let me form an army of people who could help me. When I’d reveal my difficulties at work, for example, it immediately created space for someone else to share their experience, too. And then, it made it natural to ask how that person managed it all, to collect their tips for pushing through or addressing issues head-on. I realized I had so many people in my corner with advice and suggestions—all I had to do was break from my It's going great! and get honest about needing help.
Perfect Isn’t Ordinary
We live in a world that stresses perfection 24/7. I mean, we even hold our breakfasts to the highest of visual standards. But know this, dear reader: Perfect isn’t ordinary. No one has it completely together. No one’s life is as great as their Instagram. There's so much more hiding behind that "I'm good."
One person at a time, we can start to get honest and real about the difficult things we all face. We can create a conversation and learn to help each other rather than keep pressuring each other to master everything. We can stop pretending.
All it takes is getting a little vulnerable and swapping one “I’m great” with “I’m not so great—here’s why.”
Ease into authenticity, and watch the real you unfold. I know I have.