I posted this photo on Instagram on Tuesday night:
After talking to a fellow blogger today about the dangers of social media’s creation of fake perfection, talking to my soul doctor about the pressure to achieve impossible standards, and reading a line in the @girlspo_positive book about how social media often shows us only our peers’ highlight reels, I wanted to put it out there that there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with being real.
This is me, the unfiltered, unmade-up, end of the day, real me. It is unbrushed hair and PJs. It’s no make up. It’s insomnia and depression and anxiety. It’s dad’s freckles. It’s clumsy and insecure and unable to sit still. Its mistakes and lessons learnt and completely human. And that’s ok.
Keep posting the beautiful photos because it’s always good to look back and remember the perfect moments. But don’t think you have to delete the imperfect moments; those are the ones that make you real.
I did it in a moment of slight madness (since my mental health has taken a bit of a hit, I really don’t have many photos of me anymore) and was surprised at the really positive responses that came at me, including a very good friend posting her own photo and “be real” message the next day. The reactions this photo generated made me think that we have some real problems if being real is no longer the norm and garners such praise…
When I took this photo on Tuesday night, it had been a long day. I was still recovering from the whirlwind birthday weekend that ended up playing out despite my initial reservations and protests. Monday, my actual birthday, presented some challenges centering mostly around food, which were compounded by some of the relationships in my life. Tuesday was a full work day, punctuated by a quick tea/coffee date with fellow blogger Lisa from Lisa Eats World.
I can’t remember who I heard this from, but I remember being at some kind of bloggy event a while ago and someone saying that if you read something interesting from someone you find fascinating and inspiring, reach out and see if they want to grab a coffee with you. Just before going to Japan, I read Lisa’s post about how she quit her job to become a full time freelance writer, instead of it being just something she dabbled in on the side. I was intrigued at this lady who was brave enough to do something I’d always dreamed of, and wanted to find out more, so I sent her an email and we decided to catch up when I got back from Japan. Among other things, Lisa and I spoke about how dangerous social media can be in creating false impressions. I’m no longer on Facebook in large part because of the constant “keeping up with the Jones'” attitude so many people had started taking and the competition to have the most publically perfect life. Not for me, thanks.
A few hours later, I had an appointment with my “soul doctor” (AKA my psychologist), and it was a good one. There was a lot of helpful information to come out of the session, including this absolute best piece of advice I think I’ve ever heard from a medical professional: “you need to be kinder to yourself and learn to accept your new lifestyle, and everything that comes with it.” This was on the back of my answer to the question of how often do you exercise – “every day!” I said, without hesitation, almost surprised at being asked. Without working out every day, how could I possibly control the damage that eating would do to me?? My soul doctor smiled at me and told me gently that I didn’t need to do that anymore. That exercise should be something you do because you love your body and want to keep it healthy, not to punish it for fueling itself. Anyway, that got me thinking – accept my new lifestyle. I didn’t need to be a fitness freak anymore, that’s not my job now, nor is it my passion. I have permission to let that go. I don’t have to look like a perfect little gym bunny anymore. I can be more “real.”
After that, I got home and sat down to my Girlspo+ workbook, and happened to be up to the chapter on comparisons. Reading the line about how are always comparing ourselves to everyone else’s highlights reels hit me hard, because it’s SO true. No one ever posts the unglamorous, embarrassing, real life shit on their social media accounts, because we want to present images to the world that show how fabulous our lives are. I hope that’s not how I come across, because I’ll be the first to admit my life is anything but glamorous. So I posted this picture.
This was me at around 10pm Tuesday night, after everything that had come before that point.
This is me, for real.
This is no filter (how hard that was!), no make up, no straightened hair.
This is a full day on 5 hours sleep.
This is the rash on my neck that pops up when I get stressed and anxious, and the corresponding rash that presents in bleeding welts all over my scalp.
This is depression and anxiety and disordered eating and insomnia.
This is a daughter and sister and wife and friend.
This is bingeing and purging and dieting, over and again.
This is laughing with friends over the stupidest jokes.
This is crying with them when they’ve been hurt.
This is 12 tattoos and stretch marks and cellulite and surgery scars.
This is my dad’s freckles and my grandmother’s auburn hair.
This is a wealth of knowledge from reading more books than you could imagine.
This is a dream to travel and explore and learn.
This is trying to turn it all around.
This is a determined smile knowing that all the hard work is starting to pay off.
This is a tired smile knowing that I’m lucky enough to have the opportunity to live tomorrow, all over again.
Behind every few pictures of the beautiful homemade meals that pop up on my Instagram, there’s been an epic fuck up, like an oven set to grill instead of bake (seriously).
Behind every amazing travel shot, there has been nights out with friends missed, extra work undertaken, and wearing the same clothes year in year out to save the money to get there and take that shot (again, seriously, I’ve had this skirt since year 10…).
Behind almost every incredible burger and cupcake you see, there has most likely been a lot of self-hatred and harmful behaviour and thoughts afterwards.
Behind all those lovely cups and pots of tea, there’s often been tears or anxiety attacks that have led to their necessity.
Behind all the books you see me reading, there’s an underlying need to escape reality.
Behind every photo of my tattooed legs, there is an insecure girl who doesn’t believe the unadorned parts of herself are worth recording or being seen.
But all those fuck ups and sacrifices and anxiety attacks and scars add up to a real person. Not a pretty, perfectly curated life for and on social media, but an actual living, breathing human. And the whole point of this rant is that there is absolutely nothing wrong with posting the beautiful shots that we work so hard for. Keep posting the money shots of the sunsets in foreign lands – you worked hard to earn that! Post those gorgeous new shoes you worked hard to earn the money for. Post the gym shots that show off the body you put the hours of sweat in to earn. But don’t think that you need to delete every imperfect moment that led up to those shots, because those moments are your life.
Post some of those real moments while you keep posting the beautiful, perfect ones. Because those perfect shots are only possible because of all the imperfect moments that came before them. Those perfect captures are the moments created by your sacrifices and hardships and fuck ups, and they make you REAL, and that’s not something you should ever feel the need to delete.