Like millions of people today, I have long lived a dangerously competitive life: comparing myself to friends, family, and even strangers. I’m embarrassed to admit that if I were to enter a marathon, I’d do it to try and beat people rather than to take part or challenge myself individually. I’ve laboured under the false belief that this “marathon mentality”, always moving forward, ignoring the niggling pains along the way and racing people to the finish line, would bring me happiness. However, recent events have brought into sharp perspective the fact that sometimes, perhaps inevitably, I will be overtaken at the sprint finish.
When I found out I hadn’t achieved a recent academic goal of mine I went into emotional meltdown (mascara everywhere, whole pack of Kleenex used, Britney Spears circa 2007 kind of meltdown). All I could think was “I’ve been beaten”. Luckily for me, a wise friend stepped in and questioned why I felt the need to compare myself to others.
Reading the Oxford Dictionary definition of ‘marathon’, clarified where my “marathon mentality” was completely, horribly flawed: “A marathon: A long-lasting or difficult task or activity.”
Now, whilst I do hope my life will be long-lasting, the prospect of viewing it as a “difficult task” is fairly grim. The approach I had was purely delusional as the amount of stress it caused (I’m sure many of you can empathize) was not only futile, but also at the expense of my happiness. Comparing myself to others never lead to anything other than resent and disappointment.
Of course it is important to have ambitions and to seek them. However, I’m starting to see the dangers of approaching life as a marathon, as something we have to endure because, before you know it, it will be time to make that sprint to the finish line. It is so important to make the most of today and revel in small accomplishments, enjoy other peoples’ successes, and for goodness sake stop comparing yourself to others. Be you and enjoy taking part in the event of life; it doesn’t always have to be a race!
Anyone who knows me will know I am a serious fitness fanatic – exercise has been a gift to me in my recovery from hard times in my life. However, although I have always loved sports, I only got into working out through my discovery of “Blogilates”, an exercise channel on youtube run by Cassey Ho, at the age of 13. Admittedly, I have become more independent in my fitness journey but without the inspiration Cassey gave me maybe I wouldn’t be where I am now.
Today I came across a new video by Cassey called ‘The “Perfect” Body’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsL7W-GHhJA). Considering the theme of my blog at the moment, I decided to watch it; I was immediately touched.
In just 2 minutes and 25 seconds Cassey makes an impeccable depiction of a thought I’m sure many, if not all of us, have had: “I am not good enough”. She makes an important point about the pressure imposed on us not just by the media, but by one another – yet this is something we are still so in denial about. Of course, its a natural instinct to protect ourselves, to reject responsibility for our wrongdoings – people have denied their own prejudices for years and the guilt of realising we have ‘judged a book by its cover’, to use a tired idiom, is something we still struggle to handle. But in our “enlightened age”, it is time to start taking responsibility rather than blaming a faceless organisation that is too big for anyone to comprehend. Though the media definitely has an impact on our shockingly bad body image, behind the magazines, the television programmes and the radio there are people just like you and me. We are the ones paying billions to consume this mind-rotting, soul-draining drivel, we must be the ones who make a difference.
Let’s follow the example of Cassey Ho, a person who, just like many other men and women around the world, has been a victim of body-shaming and judgement. I challenge you, as I have challenged myself, to go out and enjoy meeting new people in the confidence that you do not need to judge them: appreciate their personalities, appreciate their appearances… maybe even give them a compliment (but only if its genuine). Then do the same to yourself. In the words of Michael Jackson, “if you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change”.
The tragic death of Eloise Parry (read http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-shropshire-32391903) after an accidental overdose of diet pills is a painful metaphor for our desire to be perfect – without even realising it, we can drive ourselves to destruction and waste a life so worth living.
Of course we all self-criticise at times: constructivism is a hugely important part of growing and changing. However, where should we draw the line? I found myself reading this article just minutes after subjecting myself to mental turmoil for the trivial ‘failure’ of not having achieved the top grade in a recent Spanish essay. Though this may seem completely different to taking diet pills to provoke a physical change, both my reaction to my ‘imperfect’ performance and Eloise’s reaction to her ‘imperfect’ physical appearance are manifestations of perfectionism.
The truth is, this form of self ‘torture’ (for lack of a euphemism) can be devastating. I am beginning to realise that subjecting myself to this is nothing other than detrimental. Instead, I am trying to learn self-acceptance because, as the wonderfully insightful George Orwell pointed out, “the essence of being human is that one does not seek out perfection” – too right, George.
Hopefully a small goodness can come from the Parry family’s terrible loss – I hope this post provokes your reassessment of the times in your life you felt a sense of crushing failure (you know, that clichéd cloud over the head, lump in the throat, I want to crawl under my duvet feeling). The days will only get brighter if you replace destructive thoughts with constructive ones. Please think of Eloise Parry and her family in their time of need, and continue striving to improve healthily and without self-hatred.
“There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.”- Buddha
With this philosophy in mind, I continue the journey I started years ago – the “road” has been long, the obstacles many, but perhaps with the help of this blog I will go all the way.
I used to see the “truth” in this proverb as perfection. This is what I sought for in everything I did – I, like so many others, wanted to go all the way. Who can blame me? Magazines, instagram and cosmetic surgery all add up to an idealistic world, a world without bad hair days, without failure, without tears. The only problem is, how can you appreciate the good if you’ve never endured the bad?
I am starting to see that “truth” actually means happiness. Accepting who you are, accepting your imperfections, because who knows, maybe they’re the reason somebody loves you. So this is the road I am on now, and this is why I’m writing – I want to document this journey and maybe inspire or help someone discover their own “truth” along the way.
Thank you ramblingmaddy.wordpress.com for inspiring me to start something new.