The Pressures of Perfectionism
Welcome (back?) to my blog! So sorry that I haven't been as regular with posting recently. With a holiday, exams and post-exams celebrating, I've not had much time to sit down and write. But I have 40 minutes till tonight's Love Island so I have plenty of time to write this post and hopefully I will be back to posting on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays weekly now. One of the reasons I've let myself stop posting so regularly is because it's another way of getting over my perfectionism. I'm definitely not a perfectionist in every area of my life but in the areas where I set myself goals, I most definitely am. I'm most regularly setting myself goals within UNI and blogging, so I thought I'd talk a little bit about the pressures of perfectionism in each of these parts of my life.
I decided to discuss this topic in a post with these photos because I very much had an 'ideal image' in mind before shooting them, as I do with most planned shoots, and the outcome wasn't as good as I had hoped. This is partly because we were in a rush whilst taking them but also because they were taken on a busy street in Corfu where lots of people were giving me strange looks and I'm still not totally comfortable with shooting in front of strangers, especially when the people who I'm with/are taking the photos feel the same way. I was kind of inspired to use this backdrop for my photos by Lucy Williams' recent campaign with Mango. Obviously my photos haven't come out half as good as hers because I didn't have a professional photographer shooting the photos, nor did I have a full day (or maybe even days) to perfect them, plus the backing and support of a major company. Considering the circumstances in which these photos were taken, I should be happy with them and I am after thinking about it! But this is just an example of one of the ways in which I hold myself up to ridiculous standards (and a segway into the rest of the post).
So, personally, I am mostly a perfectionist academically. This is something I've talked about previously in my post on work-life balance as well as my post on my experience with anxiety, so I won't really go into it too much. But it is interesting to consider how much of the pressure I used to put on myself (and still do sometimes) academically is really created by myself rather than influenced by social factors. The pressure I put on myself during A-Levels was mostly generated by people telling me how difficult they would be and perhaps maintained by the feeling that I would inevitably be letting people down if I didn't do well. Although it really was me and, mostly, no-one else putting this pressure on myself, I think it was created by my social situation i.e. the fact that doing well in A-Levels is seen as the be-all and end-all during sixth form. My first-year of UNI has allowed me to be a lot more laid back because rather than being told that grades mean everything, we are instead told that grades don't matter this year, which has been endlessly helpful for me.
Moving onto university (I'm on a roll with the segways today), this post was actually inspired by conversations I've had with various people about the social pressure of university, particularly inspired by one with my friend Lucy at Parklife festival this weekend. You might be surprised by the amount of people who have dropped out of university this year based on the appearance of their Instagram feeds. Social media definitely suggests that EVERYONE is having a great time at university because, as my friend Katy said, no one is going to post a picture of themselves during one of the (probably) many times that they are crying in their bedroom. First year of university is difficult for most people but because we are constantly told that it should be 'the best years of our lives' and that we should be extremely social, there's lots of guilt attached to feelings of sadness, boredom and loneliness at university and I think the pressure to be perfect is extremely prevalent here. I'm glad I've been able to share some of my more difficult experiences with university on my blog because it is so isolating seeing people with lots of new friends going out every night on Instagram, when you're spending your 5th night on a run eating leftover bolognese and writing an essay on a Jane Austen novel (I've written on three Austen texts this year which might just have put me off her forever). But no one, that I know of, is really having an amazing time all the time so just remember that. I'm definitely going to be making more of an effort in second year to talk about some of my more difficult moments at university on Instagram. Even if I don't post a photo of myself crying in bed- because, quite frankly, I don't want to do that and I am 100% sure that no one wants to see it- I might talk a little bit about my shitty week in the caption or on Instagram stories. Not to moan but to prove to anyone who might think that my life is in any way 'perfect' that I have as many shitty times as they do and so they should never feel bad about them or pressured to have to feel better.
My perfectionism is something I'm trying to let go of in all areas of my life and I think I have been able to do so in lots of ways. I'm never going to be totally laid-back and I really don't ever want to be as my motivation and determination has been really good for me in lots of ways. But when it starts to affect my mental health is when I know I've taken it too far and hopefully in ignoring and abandoning any pressures to be perfect I won't have to let it get that far again. My Instagram and Twitter DMs are always open if you want to talk about any of your experiences and if you've gone through anything similar, do get in touch! I hope you've enjoyed this post and that it's reminded you to focus on yourself and ignore any social pressures around you.