Expectation Vs. Reality
By Montana Mapes, BLOOM Workshop Director
Growing up with an anxiety disorder, I was constantly hard on myself, giving myself high expectations to be the best at everything I did. This pressure finally caught up to me in university, where I began to experience panic attacks and lack of motivation. Pressuring myself to be someone who I wasn’t had significant detriments to my mental health, resulting in a person that I was disconnected from, even though that person was me.
Have you ever seen the traditional post on Instagram where someone posts how others “expect” them to look, compared to the “reality”?...And although their reality looks significantly more dysfunctional than the expectation, it somehow looks a lot better than how you're doing? Well, I feel the exact same way, and quite frankly, these unreliable realities of other peoples’ social media is what causes me to put pressure on myself. What we, as a modern generation have to remember is that social media is a presentation, or maybe even a performance as us theatre kids would say. With social media being the most accessible way to communicate during the COVID-19 Pandemic, children, young adults, and even our elders are exposed to false realities. By no means do I wish to disregard those of you who inspire others and build rapport with your community through social media, as we all know that we could not be here without you. This blog simply wishes to point out that our mental health is important, and the expectations that we can find on Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook can be daunting to our individual successes.
Being locked indoors with quite little to do, I find myself “scrolling” through my feed on every possible social media account that I own. Although this is informative as I enjoy seeing what my friends and family are up to, I sometimes become overwhelmed when I see picture perfect lifestyles and daily routines that are out of reach for me. It is not that I wish sadness upon these individuals, but it is simply because I feel bad about myself and wish that I could be better when I see others that are thriving amidst the pandemic.
About 6 months into the pandemic, I started to get frustrated with myself, and I knew that I had to try something to combat my negative attitude towards the expectations that I put on myself. My reality has not been filled with laughter and immense progress, but I have had the support to develop my strengths slowly and controllably with the help of those who I love. If you ever experience a breaking point during this pandemic and want to try something new like me, I have listed some practices that have assisted my mental health throughout the past 3 months.
1. Understanding Your Reality
You are not the same as anyone else, and nobody is the same as you. We have to remember that someone else’s reality is never going to look like ours. What is attainable for you? What are your weaknesses that you wish to overcome? Writing the answers out to these questions may shift your perspective like it did for me. In order to progress in the way I wanted to, I had to first understand what was attainable for me. For example, although I want to workout everyday and have a “summer hot” body, this is simply not attainable due to my bone structure and access to gym resources. Instead, working out for 40 minutes 5 times a week is what is attainable for me, and when I reach this goal, I cross it off and reward myself with sleeping in on the weekends!
This past month, I started to journal at night when I found myself overwhelmed by social media content. When I journal, I simply put my pen to the notebook and write with a free mind. I don’t worry about spelling or organization. I just write what my mind tells me to at that moment. Sometimes, a picture will form instead of words! This really helped me practice mindfulness, which ultimately allows me to reflect on my mental health and well -being every day, instead of judging myself through others on social media.
3. Join a Community-based Program
During quarantine, I knew I wanted to start working out more to feel good about myself. I decided to join a fitness community called SHINE, that BLOOM actually partnered with at the beginning of the pandemic. This fitness group has taught me to love my body and self for who I am and what I am capable of, rather than forcing me to calorie count and have an end goal of a certain weight to achieve. Working out alongside the SHINE community has allowed me to start living in the moment, and with more intention. Without posting before and after pictures on their feed, SHINE motivates me by helping me feel good on the inside, which ultimately boosts my confidence.
By no means will these strategies work for everyone. If none of these work for you and you don’t feel comfortable trying, then that is okay, we all have different needs and desires. What I hope that you take away from this is that it is okay to feel overwhelmed, anxious or worried in our lives. Whenever you are feeling this way, why not try something new? It may not work for you, but if we keep trying everyday, then that is the best that we can do as humans.