So I’ve been stuck. Call it writer’s block, call it a depressive episode, call it what you want. I can’t describe how I feel more accurately than the word “stuck.”
But what I’ve realized is that feeling stuck, or like you’ve reached a plateau, doesn’t mean that you aren’t still making progress. I think that these days, with the presence of social media, there exists this pressure to always be doing something. You have to have something “interesting” to add to your Instagram story – and binge watching bad superhero shows on Netflix in your underwear doesn’t always cut it. The things that you do just to get by each day doesn’t cut it.
But isn’t that sort of messed up? Everyday of our lives should cut it. The nitty, the gritty, the seemingly boring and uneventful.
On a Personal note
I’ve been on this road of self-improvement and self-care for a little over a year-and-a-half now. There have been marked ups and downs. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the times of neutrality. The times where there’s nothing remarkably good happening and nothing disappointingly bad. Everything seems to have gone into slow motion. And that’s felt frustrating. Frustrating because I can’t identify the progress that I am making as easily as I would like to.
I’ve never felt like this in my life. And it sounds crazy to say — but I feel stable. Sure, there are days or spans of days where I can sink into a dark, depressive hole… But more often than not, I’ve just been floating in calm waters.
But what is important that I’ve realized is that that progress has not stopped. I’m just in a period where the changes are more incremental. And maybe that means I need to put in more work — but it could also mean that I need to be truly present in the person I am at this moment.
Socially Prescribed perfectionism
A study by a writer and activist from Inc. found that 67% of millennials feel extreme pressure to succeed, compared to 40% of GenXers and 23% of Baby Boomers. Millennials have this profound feeling that they “haven’t done enough yet,” and that time is running out.
I can definitely relate to that. With social media, you see so many more examples of young people accomplishing amazing things as artists, entrepreneurs, and even CEOs. Meanwhile, I struggle to pay my bills every month and make just enough to stay afloat.
A recent American Psychological Association (APA) study found that in comparison to prior generations, millennials are harder on themselves, and report higher levels of social pressure to be perfect. This has reached the point where the desire for perfection has become unhealthy. I often feel like I’m stuck in some sort of rat race. I couldn’t put it better than a writer from The Cut:
“And yet there is obvious risk to feeling trapped in an endless cycle of unreachable expectations and overly critical self-evaluation. Tying one’s sense of self-worth to achievement can make a person unable to hold on to the sense of satisfaction that comes with success, and has been associated with clinical depression, anorexia, and early death.”
don’t get distracted
Sorry – don’t mean to scare anyone with the “early death” part — but we all need to take a collective deep breath. And also we need to pause to recognize that we’ve already done some pretty great things in our life — even if there isn’t a trending BuzzFeed article out there about us.
That same APA study showed that this pressure can be even more damaging when we feel like that pressure to be perfect is coming from others. We’ve all become the victims of self-comparison. We live in a meritocracy that places huge importance on self-success – and then we’ve gone and made matters worse by comparing where we are in life to the highlight reels that everyone else is sharing to their social media. And heaven-forbid we have a day that isn’t worthy of sharing to our feeds. Because to us that means we haven’t accomplished anything that day.
So remember this. Progress is slow and life moves fast. Don’t waste the days you have worrying about if you’ve done enough, if you’ve accomplished enough, if you’ve made enough money, or lost enough weight. Be here now, even if that feels uncomfortable. Take that weight off your shoulders, and have a goddamn drink or a piece of chocolate. True progress is made through experience and interaction, and I think you’re doing pretty fucking great already.