Someone said something to me the other day that gave me serious pause.
“I really wish I could be you!”
I know it was meant to be a compliment of sorts – that for whatever reason this girl thinks my life is so glamorous and easy that she wants it as her own. Instead it left me with a furrowed brow and sense of uneasiness.
This comment boggled my mind because I have spent the past few months wishing I could be anyone but myself. Despite trying to put my best foot forward when in public, I often trip and fall on my face when in private. The vision of confidence and happiness that I want others to see is not always what my insides are lined with and a lot of the time my exterior is in complete contrast with my interior. We live in a world where image and competition are being forced to the forefront of our priorities. This desire to appear “picture perfect” becomes an all-consuming necessity. However, sometimes if you look more closely at this picture, you will see that the lines are blurred and that the ink is faded to the point of colorless.We can’t believe everything that we see.
“You walk around like a snob.”
My mother said this to me one day as we exited Chipotle and I stared at her wide-eyed in disbelief. I have always taken pride in my appearance (sometimes to the point of vanity) and try to walk around with a sense of confidence, but according to my mother, I was coming across like an egomaniac. I am often reserved and will usually keep to myself, but this stems from a place of uncertainty rather than one of superiority. I’ll never start a conversation but rather will wait for others to approach me, not because I think I’m above making the first move, but because I’m too afraid to do so. I’ve posted a stream of bathroom selfies showcasing crop tops and long red nails, but this is the same bathroom where I have spent countless hours scrutinizing every inch of my appearance. Guys I have dated have mentioned how much they love my confidence but they don’t know that I spent the majority of these relationships feeling like I needed to look and act perfect in order to maintain their interest. I will “#tbt” to an old modeling picture, but won’t post how little I ate that same day because I thought I was fat. The fabric of my life wouldn’t be so beautiful if it was turned inside-out.
“You get asked out more than anyone I know!”
I’ve heard this from at least half of my friends. Yes, I have the tendency to attract very forward, confident and sometimes arrogant (this is not a good thing) men, however none of this has equated to the “happily ever after” so many of us seek. I have often tried to explain to the friends who envy my dating life that I would trade all of it in to avoid some of the experiences I have had, but for the most part this falls upon deaf ears. Attention doesn’t make someone immune to heartbreak and while I’ve had my fair share of compliments I have had my fair share of hurt too. A few years ago I went to a warehouse party in Brooklyn with a guy I was dating – our relationship was on its way out but we were foolishly attempting to resuscitate it. That night, as the boy I loved became a stranger, guys lined up to try to buy me a drink to the point where another girl took notice and remarked to her friend “she thinks she’s so great, doesn’t she?” To this random girl it appeared like I was having a great time and why wouldn’t it? I spent the night forcing laughter and dancing in a pink spandex American Apparel dress, surrounded by endless company – I was a vision of happiness. However, inside I knew that my relationship was ending and so I felt more lonely and insecure than ever. While it appeared that I would be going to go to bed that night wrapped up in my own ego, the reality of it is that I cried myself to sleep.
We no longer apply filters only to our photos, but to our entire lives – painting our friendships, relationships and even our self-image as something impossibly perfect without flaws or mishaps. We highlight the positive and cast shadows on the negative so that all that is left is what we want others to see. Yet sometimes it is still difficult to sleep at night because while we have mastered the exterior, the interior is falling apart at the seams. We can’t cast the Valencia filter on our minds and hearts, on our thoughts and feelings, and at the end of the day this is really what we are left with.
I have friends get into fights with boyfriends only to post a couple selfie ten minutes later with #love and #myoneandonly in the captions. I know guys who post endless photos of themselves with their girlfriends – meeting the parents, kissing on vacation, going out to dinner on Valentine’s day – only to check my phone and see that these same guys have texted me asking if I want to meet up. The only life whose truth we know is our own, and that is the life we should be focusing on.
On the reverse side, rather than tailoring our own lives to be the envy of everyone’s conversations and social media streams, we need to focus on what we see in ourselves and how it makes us feel. Who cares if a selfie gets 100 likes if the person who took it looks in the mirror and criticizes what they see? Who cares if a relationship gets deemed #couplegoals if one half of that couple is cheating and hurting the other half? We should seek to be authentic in our feelings and experiences – to be the best version of ourselves that we can be.