I have a friend who is an emotional eater. When stressed, food is her comfort. So to set a better example for her daughter, she started dieting and working out. For sixty days, she ate no sugar, caffeine, alcohol, dairy, or gluten. She juiced celery and made cauliflower rice, listened to podcasts about vegan cooking, kept a food diary, and posted the whole experience on her personal social media account. Losing weight became her full-time job. She looked and felt great, was proud of herself for meeting such a huge challenge head-on.
And then she launched a new business venture, with all the seven million things that being an entrepreneur entails. So now, on top of parenting a toddler, she was inundated with spreadsheets and financial projections and building a branded social media following. Little by little, the weight crept back on and she berated herself for the weight gain. “Why do I keep doing this?” she wailed, frustrated and angry with herself.
I think the only thing she needs to stop doing is denying herself grace.
I blame the myth of Pinterest-Perfection. Our mothers read Gloria Steinem and marched for Women’s Rights so that my generation would have more opportunities.
Our moms told us we could do anything. What we encoded is that we should do everything.
That false belief gave rise to social media sites like Pinterest, a website started by and targeted to women. Pinterest promotes the idea that our children, marriages, homes, careers, vacations, meals, and outfits be picture-perfect at all times. Most women have struggled with body image. But suddenly we also get to feel insecure about our weddings, kids, houses, make-up, dinner parties, and relationships.
It’s no longer enough to simply have a baby. You also need to host adorable “gender reveal” parties with homemade cake pops and mocktails served in hand-painted mason jars. You’re expected to dress fashionably to show off your “bump” and have professional photography sessions scheduled to document every month of gestation. And do not even get me started on the insanity that baby birthday parties have become.
It isn’t enough to have a job; we are now expected to “hustle”, endlessly promote our careers on various social media apps with fresh content and professionally curated photos, and maintain a blog or You Tube Channel or Podcast. All while staying thin, fashionably coiffed, and sporting a fresh manicure, blowout, and perfectly contoured eyebrow. We’re told that our lives are meaningless if they aren’t ideal and idyllic at all times; we find ourselves worshiping at the altar of perfection. If every moment of our lives isn’t a themed extravaganza, then clearly we have failed.
Social media, at its best, should inspire and motivate us. But more and more, we’re internalizing the idea that flawless is our only option. In a recent survey of over 7,000 moms, 42% owned up to “Pinterest stress,” or the worry that they are not enough. 75% of those same moms said that the pressure they put on themselves is worse than the judgment they receive from other mothers.
We’ve set the expectations so high that we are destined to fail. We are buying into the lie that it is possible to balance all the areas in our life. We cannot. Our mothers were right in telling us we could do anything.
In fact, we actually can do everything. We just can’t do everything at once.
My friend simply didn’t have the energy to parent, launch a new business, and practice self-care at the same time. We only have so much energy on the daily. Some seasons we need to pour that energy into our businesses. In other seasons our focus is parenting. Some seasons are more about taking care of our mental or physical health.
In every season, some ball is getting dropped somewhere. That is how life works. It’s messy. Because people are messy.
Those perfect-looking lives you see on social media? Don’t forget that a feed is just a highlight reel, a contrived, idealized version of a life that only tells part of a story. It’s like an Impressionist painting; stand far enough away and it looks stunning, but as you come closer, you see it’s actually messy and chaotic. Get close enough to any life, and you’ll glimpse the hot mess.
Author Glennon Doyle Melton says we need to, “Stop the “Pinsanity. We need to lower our expectations.” Let’s stop venerating perfection and start talking about how often we’re all crying in the shower. Real is far more interesting than perfect.
I shared that thought with my friend, suggested she take a deep breath and cut herself some slack. And maybe delete her Pinterest app for a little while.