It began with a slight meltdown.
Last week I was a half hour late to coffee with a new friend. I felt awful. The morning flew by while I was fussing over a video project and I ended up in full-on panic mode. I think I used the word “emergency” when I called to apologize to her. More like “identity crisis”.
I was on deadline for creating content, and the pressure of having to film myself right before walking out the door was making me extremely anxious. I kept messing up what I wanted to say, and if I did manage to utter something coherent, I didn’t finish before the video ran out. Don’t get me started on angles, lighting, and filters or lack thereof.
I finally finished a video I was satisfied with and jetted out the door to meet my poor, sweet friend. Not the best first impression. As we sat down with our coffee and chai tea, we were joined by my best friend of seven years whose presence, I hope, vouched for my credibility as a decent human being who doesn’t often leave people hanging solo at a coffee shop.
Though my lovely new friend reassured me it was fine, I still felt disappointed in myself. Not just for leaving her hanging, but for over-scheduling my morning, and for not being comfortable enough with myself on camera to have just filmed everything in a timely manner like I originally planned.
The pressure to be perfect.
I actually had a few more film deadlines that day and found myself distracted and nervous because of it. I confided in the girls that I felt the pressure to present myself in a polished way on camera and sometimes it took many takes before I felt confident.
Not to mention I just can’t take myself seriously holding my phone up or balancing it on a tripod in an effort to capture a video, especially in a public place. Could I be more millennial? Yes, in fact. If it wasn’t for the year I was born I’d probably test out of most of the aspects of millennialism.
Given the choice I would start my sentences with “Back when I was a kid, I had to walk two miles in the snow” and then I’d go to bed at 10 PM after playing cards. Yet, since a primary role in my current job is marketing myself (and my clearly very exciting life!), I have to, by default, get a hold of this whole selfie thing.
Which takes us back to my coffee date. As I confessed my veiled attempt to appear more together than I was at that particular moment, the girls reassured me that I wasn’t alone. The pressure to be perfect is infiltrating our minds even when we think we’re guarding ourselves against it.
All the highs and lows.
As we scroll through our feeds at all hours of the day and night, we’re inundated with filtered images of our flawless, stylish peers “living their best life” and though we’re probably just as guilty of posting said photos, we forget to separate perception from reality. It’s a highlight reel. It’s only a highlight reel.
I know, this so why am I contributing to it? Worrying about my appearance, how others will perceive me, whether or not I got the right angle or lighting. Here I am, trying to be authentic and relatable, and simultaneously trying to look perfect and presentable.
“I think I worry so much about it,” I found myself justifying to them, “because people want to see pretty photos, manicured videos, and coordinated feeds. It’s a necessary part of blogging.”
“I don’t know,” my new friend said, “That’s what I thought, but I posted something super honest the other day and a lot of people reached out and said they could relate and thanked me for sharing it. I think people want to see real life, too.”
Real life. What a concept. That thing that we’re all living.
Minding what matters.
I knew she was right. I know that for as much as I enjoy a beautifully curated feed, my favorites are the ones where I feel like I’m getting to know the person, where I’m seeing them for who they are in their daily life. The captions that resonate are the ones where I can say, “me, too”. It makes the world feel a little smaller, a little more manageable.
When someone is honest and vulnerable, it opens up this safe space for us to be honest and vulnerable, too. I know this and I truly try to embrace authenticity in real life and with my writing. Yet, it’s clear to me that I could do without the overthinking of each image along the way.
I’d like to be put-together, of course, but it’s okay to let being human shine through, too. I’d rather not shy away from sharing the things that make me me. The rosacea on my cheeks isn’t going away any time soon. Those wrinkles, sparse grey hairs, stretch marks or pimples are a common part of life. Maybe we don’t need to post a photo of them, per se, but if they happen to show up in a photo we took, maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world.
That’s not to say I’m doing away with aesthetically-pleasing photos or my attempts at building a cohesive brand, but I am going to make an honest effort to get over myself. It’s not about me, anyway. If I’m sharing a video, it’s because I want to connect with others, to inspire, relate, or encourage. I don’t think perfectionism is the best avenue for accomplishing that.
After all, I’m in it for the “me, too’s”, not just the likes.