Sometimes I turn to my husband and ask, ‘how are you?’
His answer is often always the same, he is doing well, praise be to God. In turn, my response is pretty much always along the lines of ‘yeah I’m good, praise be to God, but I’m just thinking…’, and what follows is a long list of the things that I’m worried about at the moment; I wonder how that interview went? I wonder whether they will offer me the job, I wonder whether I will ever find a position where I enjoy my role for longer than 6 months, will I ever be fulfilled in my career, will I ever be like x, why can’t I love my job like y, z’s Facebook shows she’s doing amazing things, will that ever be me?
And then the worries begin to point inward:
Did I do anything worthwhile today?
Was my food cooked well enough?
How many people did I not find time to message back today?
Why isn’t my life in order?
Perhaps all seemingly futile worries that could be glossed over. Or perhaps this insecurity and worry is a symptom of something that runs a little deeper; something that is inherently connected to the pressure that I feel, as a woman, to have it all together. And I’m convinced I can’t be the only one.
I am often told that I am impatient. I know this to be true. Not to deflect from my personal agency and my ability to be responsible for my own actions and behaviour, but I often wonder to what extent my impatience is a product of the age in which I live? You see for me, my impatience extends to fear of commitment, lack of tenacity, repulsion to drudgery…. literally just sticking things out. I often feel there is an underlying current to this – perhaps stemming from the era of instant gratification in which I am now living and growing.
We are surrounded by fast food, fast fashion, life hacks, quick fixes…and now I fear I have come to expect fast success. Success is a highly subjective term. For me, my idea of success too, has become tainted, or influenced, by the content saturating my news feeds: beautifully dressed women with immaculate hair and make-up, incredible and rewarding careers, going to the best places and eating the best food, travelling often and, essentially, living their best lives. Women like myself are constantly inundated with these images and content, presenting to us an ideal that yes, is contrived, but also very, very appealing.
Being constantly exposed to this has formulated an ideal within my mind, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this. It has created an ideal of a life I feel I should have: designer shoes, handbags, lavish meals, a perfect figure, picture perfect holidays, and an immaculate manicure to match.
Deeper than the image, this fast culture has created a deficit of sorts internally; a feeling that I am not quite good enough. I am constantly seeing women who are living the life I feel I should be living, that I am measuring my success against, that too often, I neglect my own accomplishments and scrutinise my own failures to an unhealthy level.
How many more women feel this way? It is all around us; the growing impatience with our own lives and our achievements because we are constantly faced with images of better. Why has the media that we consume now become saturated with tips on how to outwardly perfect the vision of our lives? This is not a new phenomenon and advertising media has projected this notion for years. Perhaps it has only become more pertinent an issue recently as our idea of instant grows with our technology and our advancements. An entire world of these images and ideas are at our fingertips with the scroll down a news feed. Instant access allows a constant flow of this notion to overpower our senses. Our expectation of instant has become faster, and subsequently, our patience has been reduced.
What is the impact of this on our minds, on our well-being, and more widely, on our society? I fear we are no longer allowing ourselves the space to grow naturally, and contribute fully to our spaces due to an internalised self-deprecation stemming from this impatience. We cannot even begin to fully comprehend ourselves before yet another image of the woman we are supposed to be is shoved down our throats; an uncomfortable reminder of all that we are not.
I have come across some insightful and important pieces online on women and the mental burden they carry around to always be on top of things. This rings true for my own life, and I want to express that it is okay to not always have everything in order.
A friend recently asked me around my birthday to share some life lessons with her now that I had hit 25. I was stumped by an answer. It appears that I had become so accustomed to the idea that I was not quite enough yet, not quite yet a proper adult, that I was unable to truly reflect on what I had learnt so far in life. It was hard to see myself as successful. Upon some thought however, I came to the realisation that I am okay as I am. It is okay to not be living a life that makes for a perfect Instagram picture every day. It is okay to not have to curate a lifestyle; it is completely okay to just live. I believe it is important that we raise the next generation of women to understand that they are whole as they are, that the pressure of life is enough of a force to be reckoned with without having to add the pressure to maintain a perfect outward image to the mix. We need to reassure them that your feelings of self-worth should not be determined by those around you. Yes, they will play a part, but let’s try to minimise that part as much as we can now, whilst we can still recognise it.
International Relations grad and lover of cultural commentary and a good cup of tea. Instagram: @sajidahfali and @3culturekitchen
By Wardah Abbas