I recently had a conversation with a young woman in an airport who felt incredibly pressured to have the “perfect life.” Within a short period of time she’d obtained a nursing degree, gotten married and moved to a new city to work at her hospital of choice. Her husband, a musician by trade, left Music City (aka Nashville) in support of her career opportunity. It had been three months since their move. Now she says that they hate their new zip code, and she’s feeling guilty, because they’re not blissfully happy.
I listened and I reassured. I even, I’m ashamed to admit, offered a few words of advice (on her nursing career, not her marriage), but I walked away from that conversation contemplating the concept of “perfect.”
Here’s my take: We’re brainwashed by perfect. It’s everywhere we turn. The advertising industry and its clients are making a fortune off of our insecurities by trying to convince us that happiness is only obtainable when everything is just right. Appearance, relationship, house, car, boat, kids, dog, cat, toilet bowl. It’s exhausting.
I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that the pursuit of perfection wasn’t so much in the forefront when I was that young woman’s age. I tend to theorize that the reason for this is a combination of advertising and our use of social media. God forbid we portray our lives as anything but flawless to our many “friends.” Hence, only the most flattering pictures, the best vacation shots, and the happiest moments are shared.
Back in my day (did I really just start a sentence with that?) we had a close knit circle of friends who we got together with for a literal version of face-time. We were not only unable to hide our imperfections, we talked about them openly. Sure we wanted to fit in and be accepted like everyone else, but generally only a smattering of folks appeared to have truly enviable lives – in my hometown, anyway. Now we check in with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people on a daily basis. I’m not suggesting that we start sharing only bad things on Facebook (FB), but I think we should remind ourselves that every person – with their perfectly crafted little pages – is struggling with something on some level. It’s the human condition.
By the way, I also told this young woman to give her new surroundings a full year before giving up. Every city deserves a chance to show its good and bad side before being fully judged. Every person does, too, which is why I’ve decided to leave that tagged picture on FB that makes me look like I have two chins.
Guess what, folks. Our lives aren’t going to be perfect, and what in hell would we have to strive for if they were? I like things just fine the way they are.