Have you noticed how during lockdown Facebook and Instagram have become full of pictures of fit people doing their latest workout, or the wardrobes that have been newly organised by colour and the photos of stunning dessert creations?
Being in a lockdown has given us more time to be creative and to learn new skills. Understandably people want to share their achievements. But, when you read yet another perfect example of homeschooling or their someone’s fabulous artwork. Doesn’t a part of you think really? Where did they find the time, energy and motivation to do all these things in the middle of a global crisis?
For some, it will be a one-off post to genuinely share their pleasure, but for others, it is more like social media bragging. By posting what looks like a perfect lifestyle people get a boost to their self-esteem. But, that lift is only temporary and when it passes the need to feel better about themselves comes back again.
Gordon Flett, Ph.D., co-author of the book Perfectionism, calls this phenomenon “perfectionistic self-presentation”. It’s driven by our competitive and image-conscious culture and reinforced by social media.
Perfectionists have very high standards for themselves and fear that underneath they aren’t good enough. To prevent anyone seeing this they put on an armour of a perfect life, which comes with a huge amount of pressure to not make mistakes and be flawless.
The problem for the rest of us is…
that we don’t see the other side of the Instagram posts. The fallouts, the bored kids, the worry. The impossible task of balancing work, kids and sanity at the moment, and as a result, we feel bad and that we’re failing in comparison. Even though we know a person’s life on Facebook is an edited and embellished reality, not someone’s actual life.
If you’re like me you can’t help it— negative thinking starts to build up. Why can’t you find the motivation to produce some wonderful artwork? Why are you barely managing to shower each day, not lose your job, and keep your kids from being 24 hours a day on screens? Is it only you who is failing?
The truth is that everyone is struggling in lockdown. It’s part of being human: doing the best you can in any given moment, making mistakes, falling, and getting up and trying again. It has always been like that, and the coronavirus pandemic has just forced us to take off our rose-coloured glasses. And yet, there is strength and resilience in this imperfection! Be brave and embrace it. The next time you reach for Facebook or Instagram, experiment with just being real. You might be surprised by the response.
If you’d like more help with comparing yourself to others then there’s a whole chapter on it in my book – Good Enough – A Career Woman’s Guide To Courage, Confidence and Credibility which is also available from Amazon
Stay safe and well.