The illusion of “having your life together”

By Alexis Book

Opinion Editor

I got a job this past Tuesday. Like a real life, full-time, big-girl job in a reputable company, months before graduation. As to be expected, I walked out of my internship that day with a giant smile on my face and resisted the urge to do a celebratory dance performance in the parking lot. I was overcome with supportive messages and congratulatory comments on social media and on the surface, this looked like the perfect end to my college career.

But on the inside, I was freaking out. I spent that whole night sobbing into a pillow and trying to talk myself out of a panic attack. After sufficiently coating my room in dirty tissues and ensuring my eyelids would be swollen for work the next morning, I finally went to sleep. I woke up four times in the night from vivid dreams of unfinished projects and disappointed bosses. Since that day, I have felt sweeping waves of depression and inadequacy.

The combination of existential dread, the realization that my undergraduate career was coming to an end, the fears of failure, anxiety of paying bills, and sense that I was starting at the bottom of the totem pole again was overwhelming and I still am struggling to handle it. Of course, nobody knows that.

Often times, when I accomplish something worth sharing to others, I am met with positive responses. But something happens at the end of those sentences. Finishing off every “I knew you could do it” and “there was no doubt in my mind” are words that drive me absolutely mad: “You have your life together.” Some people even go as far as to suggest that my life is perfect.

I’m grateful for the opportunities that I have been able to take advantage of and the status that I have earned. But do I have my life together? Absolutely not. Are things going perfectly? No.

It’s easy to look at the people who appear to be successful and assume that everything in their life must be perfect. The envious feeling that they’ve somehow found all the answers when you’re still struggling to get dressed in the morning. But I’m going to let you in on a little secret: they’re still struggling, too.

I work my hardest when I feel like everything else in my life is broken. Stretching myself thin with extracurriculars and volunteering and work is a hell of a lot better than sitting alone with my thoughts. Distracting myself with long “to-do” lists and long-term goals to achieve makes me feel good about myself like nothing else does. Every “A” and award and added LinkedIn contact fools me into thinking that everything else is OK.

Naturally, I consider myself to be a hard worker. I’m ambitious, I hate losing, and I’m easily inspired and highly motivated. Naturally, I’m also incredibly anxious, have a crippling fear of failure, and have to constantly combat looming thoughts of disappointing those around me.

Some people might look at me and think “she’s got her life together,” but every single day, I see people working harder than me, accomplishing more than me, and still managing to be great friends, eat healthy, and remember to call their parents. Even though I know better, I fall into the same habit of doing to them exactly what I hate people doing to me: assuming they’re perfect. They’re lucky. They have it all together.

Part of the reason we keep thinking like this is because “successful” people don’t like to talk about their struggles. For years now, I’ve refused to tell friends and family when anything in my life is going wrong. I fall into the trap of sharing only the good things in my life on Facebook and fake-smile and squeal whenever I see anyone I know, regardless of how I’m feeling or what I’m thinking. People are always going through things. Don’t be fooled and don’t be naive. Nobody is “perfect,” and at 22, I don’t care if you’re the next Oprah; you don’t have your life together.

We need to stop perpetuating the idea that just because someone fits into society’s ideas of success, they’ve got it all together or they’re perfect. So, because I’m almost done at this school anyways and am running out of excuses to give and fake smiles to put on, I’ll start.

My name is Alexis Book and I do not have my life together. Sometimes I’m so busy that I forget to eat food all day long and then complain about being tired. I never make enough time for my friends, and I overcompensate my lack of a sense of humor and bland personality with extensive involvement and success in the workplace. Like everyone else around me, I am struggling a little bit. Certainly less than some people and more than others, but I’m struggling nonetheless.

You can be excited and proud and happy and do everything in your power to be the best version of yourself you can be, and you can still feel inadequate, and that’s OK! But what we need to stop doing is assuming that anyone has their life together just because they reached a milestone before you did. It’s not good for your health to think anyone else has it together, and it’s not good for theirs either.

We need to stop breeding a culture that believes perfection is possible and puts too much credit and pressure in the hands of people who haven’t even graduated college yet.

Let’s congratulate people for their successes, pat ourselves on the back for our own, and talk about how we’ve gotten through our struggles to get where we are. Let’s share the job offers and the nights alone in fear. Let’s get past the notion that anyone has it together. Let’s start being real about who we are so we can learn from each other.

We’ve only got one life to live, so let’s show more than the illusion. That’s more important than whatever the heck “success” is, anyway.

Lexxie you are my QUEEN -bh

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