By Alex Davis
Hot tears stung my face as I spat out buckets of gritty sand. My hands were starting to swell and I had torn the knees of my riding pants.
Thank God I wore my helmet. I winced in pain as I watched “Sally” amble off and start ripping up grass with her ugly yellow teeth. Stupid horse.
It wasn’t that I thought I was some perfect equestrian or that the occasional spill wasn’t inevitable. This particular moment just happened to be one in a string of unfortunate mini calamities that sapped my confidence and left me feeling defeated.
The problem wasn’t my performance or anyone else’s – human or equine – it was my self-talk. Self-talk that, even at age 12, was frighteningly powerful. And frighteningly negative. Whether it fueled me to be ever dissatisfied with my still-growing body – my awkward gangly legs and my frizzy hair that I had not quite figured out yet – or whether it berated me for the history test I could’ve done better on or blamed me for the fact that one of my friends suddenly turned on me for some catty reason, it taunted me with the lie that perfection could be mine if I just chased it a little harder. But at the same time, it sneered at me, telling me that I would never be enough.
Why are we conditioned from such a young age to be hyper critical of ourselves? My late-twenty-something version of my inner critic is even harsher than it was 15 years ago. It is nasty and pushy. And it feeds on the lie that chasing perfection will bring me ultimate fulfillment and joy.
Friends, since when did perfection become the ultimate gold standard?
I call this lusting after perfection the Instagram Effect. In our digital age, images of false perfection constantly bombard us. Have you ever spent an unknown amount of time mindlessly scrolling through perfectly curated images on Instagram or Pinterest? Recently, I caught myself doing just this, until the swirling images literally started to make me sick. Here I was pining after all of these seemingly “perfect” things – the perfectly-executed latte shot, the perfect homes, perfectly healthy and balanced meals, a perfect shot of a Caribbean sunrise on someone’s vacation. Meanwhile, I was hulking in my office scarfing a Lean Cuisine and slurping cold coffee. No wonder this mindless Instagram trolling made me feel dissatisfied with my life.
Here’s the reality: my Lean Cuisine-scarfing and cold coffee-slurping is real life, and the filtered snapshots on social media are just a lovely, momentary blip of that life. In my heart of hearts, I know this.
But I have a confession to make. The blogging world is just so pretty and perfectly executed that for the longest time, I was nervous to launch this blog. How could I possibly compete with experienced bloggers who know how to capture the sweetest moments of their lives when everything is just so on-point? Sometimes, looking at my Instagram feed makes me feel like the gangly 12-year-old falling off her horse. Why would I want to showcase anything about my imperfect life when other people’s appear so perfect?
Well, rather than wallow over the fact that I don’t look like a model or know how to capture the most effortless latte photo, I decided to just GO FOR IT, making imperfection my platform. Why?
Because an imperfect life is exciting.
Because it is much more fun to laugh about a really, really bad hair day rather than to get stressed and irritated about it. It is awesome to flop onto the couch with a glass of wine after a horrible day and finally let loose and relax. It is so rewarding to learn how to navigate small calamities and put out fires rather than to predictably check things off of lists. And in retrospect, my childhood was incredibly exciting when horses hung me in trees and I got to experience the beauty of patching things up with good friends.
Life is made up of wonderfully imperfect moments and not Instagram snapshots. Of course, there is nothing at all wrong with these snapshots. They are lovely and they serve a beautiful purpose. But it is critical not to get lost in the lie that therein lies real life: reality that is messy, chaotic, imperfect, and beautiful.
So, friend, if you slop coffee on yourself today or if your hair won’t cooperate or if someone catches you jamming out a little too enthusiastically in your car, awesome. Know that I am cheering you on from my own little imperfect corner of the world.
Join the fun! Let’s start this movement of celebrating imperfection by sharing our own real-life moments in the comments below or on Instagram. #howshedoesit
Photo credit: Ivorymix