Saturday, January 23, 2021

You're Doing Better Than You Think

Hello my loves, so today's post is a bit of a new one for me, as its sort of going to be my first ever mental health post that isn't specifically a personal mental health update. 

Today I want to talk about something that has certainly been getting me down, and I imagine getting a lot of you down as well, and that's the never ending tidal wave of success stories or productivity posts on social media. Don't get me wrong! I love seeing other people's achievements or insanely productive days, but I think in an environment where people only post the good, it makes it harder for us to look at our not-so-goods.

Productivity in a pandemic

Obviously I think productivity is great, and as an ambitious student I strive for the most productive days too! But right now, as we face the Covid-19 pandemic and in the UK specifically, a third lockdown, some days feel more like you are simply trying to survive instead of trying to thrive. 

If you're already feeling bad about how little you've gotten done in a day or a week, and then find your Instagram or other social medias flooded with non-stop study notes, banana breads, and home workouts, it's easy to feel like everybody is miles ahead of where you are, even more so when you face added mental health struggles that already make day-to-day living a challenge.

So I suppose the rest of this post is going to be some tips and reminders, you can take each one as you will and maybe see this post as a bit of a social media reality check.

Social media isn't an honest reflection of someone's life

Now this may seem a bit obvious and something you've heard hundreds of times before - but it's true! Social media is like a display cabinet for all our happy and proud moments, we post about celebrating our grades or achievements, our made-up faces and cute outfits, our post-workout selfies, and our meet-ups with friends (though I hope nobody is doing that currently). It's easy to feel like somebody has a truly perfect life when all we see are pretty photos and lots of smiling faces. But we need to remind ourselves that this is only half the story.

Another obvious statement here, people don't tend to post the times they feel sad, the times they feel ugly, the breakdowns, the new clothes that don't fit, the failed exams. We don't like sharing our vulnerability online, it can make us feel weak and uncomfortable - a perfectly human reaction! 

My Instagram and Twitter is exactly the same, I'll post my smiling selfies, yummy lunches and pretty study notes. I'll talk about my studies, everything I did on a good day, or any exam successes. But what I don't share are the countless times I'll cry in a week (and I really do cry a lot), I won't share the awful essay feedback I get, or the embarrassing experiences in my tutorials. And if I do post about the bad parts of a day, it'll usually be followed up with some rampant optimism to show people I'm capable of moving on from it. The question is then, if I'm aware my social media are selective showcases, why do I criticise myself when I see other people's selective successes? We know there are two sides to our story, and we have to start recognising that it's exactly the same for other people; for your friends, the influencers you look up to, the celebrities you admire, they all pick and choose what they show exactly like you do.

Even those "realistic" posts you see usually have a layer of edits, revised sentences, and a photo that isn't too embarrassing. And that's fine! But what isn't fine is when we bully and criticise ourselves for feeling upset or being unproductive, because it doesn't fit the perfect narrative we see online and the vision of productivity and perfection we want to replicate. Nobody is perfect, and nobody is productive all the time.

Others success does not equal your failure

Another big thing to talk about, and something I am especially guilty of, is seeing other people's successes as my failures. University and the working world are cut-throat, we know this. And I think because of this many of us try too hard to be as successful as possible as often as possible. We want to get all the good grades, all the achievements, all the jobs and internships, we spread ourselves thin and when somebody else gets there first we often feel like we have let ourselves down. But this. Is. Not. True.

We need to remind ourselves that we are in a competition with nobody. Our successes belong to us, and somebody else's success bears absolutely no reflection on our "inadequacies". We are not inadequate, we are successful in our own ways and we are running our own races. Our goals and ambitions belong to us, and somebody else's success should not invalidate our own. 

And we most certainly must not compare our failures to somebody's success. Like with the one-sided stories on social media, to compare our failures with somebody's success is to ignore the fact that they have experienced failures too. Nobody gets anywhere without a few failures, and if we pretend that the road to success is perfectly even with a small incline and a scenic view, we are going to get even more upset over the inevitable losses and pushbacks. Those we see as successful most certainly don't experience only success and wins, they experience failure and losses too. If we don't criticise them for it, why do we criticise ourselves?

Whatever happens, your worth does not change

I think when we only surround ourselves with ideals of perfect productivity and constant success, we easily start to attach our worth to such ideals. Therefore on our (perfectly normal) unproductive days or mental health dips, we feel like we are worthless and deprive ourselves of self-love and care. I think more than anything we need to remember that our self-ascribed goals don't define our worth. You are worthy simply as you are. Your productivity level does not define your worth, your grades do not define your worth, your mental health struggles do not define your worth, your ability to bake a good banana bread does not define your worth (yes, I have cried over botched banana bread).

Ultimately we need to give ourselves lots of reality checks as we scroll on social media, to remind ourselves that no matter what we have accomplished compared to what we see online, we are still worthy of self-love and self-care. And right now we need that more than we need good grades, more than we need a success story, more than we need anything else.

I hope this post was somewhat encouraging or comforting, until next time take care and stay safe x

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