Hello THM Fam! I’m so excited to welcome our newest member of Team Maven to the blog today. Nicole reached out a few months ago about gaining some experience within the blogging space and I was thrilled to be able to offer her this experience. Truly I think I’m learning more from her than she is from me. Nicole is helping with some of the THM events happening on the east coast and some Instagram content. She’s also sharing her words of wisdom here on the blog today. As you’ll soon discover, she is wise beyond her years and has a VERY big future ahead of her. But I’ll let her take it from here. Here’s Nicole!
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Hi everyone! I am so excited to be posting here today. I’ve been following Davida since I was a wee tot of just 16, and she has been a huge role model for me through the process of beating my disordered eating habits and learning to treat my body and mind with kindness and compassion.
I am now 20 years old and studying Psychology and Business at Georgetown University, which I like to refer to as my personal Hogwarts. I am a born and raised New Yorker and am currently soaking up all the NYC vibes and doing all the exploring and adventuring I can before I’m back in DC. A few things that make me super happy are really good coffee a great journaling sesh, long deep talks with friends, and Harry Potter. 🙂
Now that we’ve got the introductions out of the way, I wanted to write this post on a topic that is near and dear to my heart and that I have been ruminating on since I first stepped foot at Georgetown 2 years ago— unrealistic pressures and striving for perfection. It’s something no one in our society is immune to. In the world of Instagram and social media and our insane work culture, comparison is unavoidable and external pressures can be debilitating.
I see women and men all the time falling prey to these unrealistic expectations that society often puts on us, and I just want to scream, “You’re perfect just the way you are. Why do you want to be like someone else anyway?” Having gone through the hours of scrolling through feeds of people I wanted to become, I know what it’s like to feel so unworthy, so absolutely lost and alone, and feeling that if only I had this person’s body or life, I would be happy.
It took several years of hard work, training myself to reverse my thought patterns, to accept that I am on my own journey that has nothing to do with anyone else’s. I had to convince myself over and over again that perfection was not worth wasting my time or my life for. Slowly, the message began to sink in. I began to believe it and live it, loosening the rigid rules I lived by and letting myself relax into the unknown.
Interestingly, the moment I made the choice to be more self-compassionate, I became aware of how pervasive this drive toward perfection and success was among my peers and how starkly my own new self-love stood against what was obviously the norm— this belief that we are never good enough as we are.
While I do think it’s so important to want to always be pushing yourself to be the best you can be, I think there is a difference between understanding your own limitations and using others’ successes as some sort of marker to measure up to.
The moment I stepped foot on campus, all I heard was comparison and self-deprecation. It seemed that everyone was aspiring to some arbitrary standard they had decided was to rule their college life.
It was as if everyone looked at college as one big Instagram feed, one that had to be as colorful and put-together and perfect as could be. And while everyone knows that the others’ feeds are nothing more than a highlight reel, they still find themselves wrought with self-doubt and jealousy when pondering another’s account, wondering how they too can be so successful.
Two things that stood out to me right away in college were the intense preoccupation with physical appearance, particularly the size of one’s body, and academic success.
I would see it in the dining hall, when three identically tiny blonde girls walked past me with just a plate of lettuce and some sad tomatoes for their dinner.
I saw it in the gym, where the same girls would be sprinting on the treadmill, no matter what day or time I would enter.
I heard the conversations, the self-deprecating comments— “I can’t believe I ate that entire burger today. I feel so fat.”
“I have to do two hours of cardio on the weekends to burn off all the alcohol I drink; otherwise I’d be 1000 pounds.”
“ I never eat bread because it makes me gain weight like crazy.”
And the one that never fails to make my right eye twitch uncontrollably…
“Isn’t peanut butter, like, really bad for you?”
Honestly, I always get irritated when I hear people say these things, but the truth is, I’m not mad at them. It’s not their fault they haven’t been introduced to intuitive eating or the HAES movement or body positivity. It’s not their fault that they probably come from families and friend groups where dieting was always normalized. But it makes me so angry at the institutions that normalize this, without taking action to educate and inform.
Georgetown has a substantial percentage of eating disorders and an alarming amount of general disordered eating habits among its student body, but I am sure it’s not the only college with such staggering statistics.
It’s the sad reality that putting a bunch of young people together breeds comparison and self-inflicted pressure.
I’m thankful to be far enough removed from my old disordered tendencies that behaviors and comments such as these no longer affect me. I value my mental sanity and joy over wearing the smallest size jeans. I learned the hard way that being tiny does not gain me friends or happiness or success, but only made me miserable and withdrawn. A shell of myself. Even worse, I see how these girls add to their already hefty stress levels from our vigorous coursework with these unrealistic eating and exercise goals.
We go to a school where in addition to the perfect appearance, one must maintain as close as possible to a perfect GPA. Freshmen get internships at the Hilltop and spend hours there between classes, just to build up a formidable resume and wide network. Students often choose to spend hours toiling over an essay or studying for an exam in favor of hanging out with friends or watching Netflix. Having a free summer is both rare and highly frowned upon; we are all encouraged to be working, interning, or volunteering abroad.
And look, on the one hand, I think it’s great that Georgetown creates such a strong work ethic. We’re all ambitious, hard-working, and eager to succeed. We know we’re in school to learn, and we take our education seriously. But it scares me that at the young ages of 18-22 we are being taught that it is more important to be at home with the books than out with friends or just taking some time for our hobbies.
It bothers me that after a tremendously difficult year, I feel mounting pressure to be doing at least 3 “impressive” things this summer because otherwise I’ll have wasted it.
The truth is, this is a battle I am still fighting. I need to constantly remind myself that ten years from now, it will likely make little difference how many internships I had or how close to a 4.0 my GPA got.
What will matter are the relationships I am able to cultivate and grow and the values I choose to live my life by. What will matter is whether I am living my truth or playing some sad imitation game.
For a recovering perfectionist, it is hard to even consider setting aside my work to stay up all night with friends, or allowing myself to get a B in a class where I know I could easily get an A if I spent more hours studying.
But then, years ago, I couldn’t imagine not doing an intense hour-long workout every day or allowing myself to eat ice cream for dessert on a random Tuesday.
It took years to accept that these patterns were not serving me, to let them go, and to be my full authentic fearless self again. I refuse to once again fall prey to this idea that being successful means running myself into the ground and forfeiting all the things that make life fun.
Because to me, having a great college experience is about building friendships that will last forever, eating ice cream on the stoop of our dorm building as we talk about life, and learning from some of the most amazing and inspirational people that I am lucky enough to be surrounded by on a daily basis.
So if you are currently lucky enough to be at college, take this time to explore, to find the things that truly light your soul on fire, to make memories that will last you a lifetime. Don’t waste time on trying to be someone else or reaching for an arbitrary standard that someone else decided was a good goal. Just be you, and I promise that is where the magic happens.
Thank you again to Davida for sharing this wonderful space with me today. It is blogs like hers that remind me every day that I am worthy and more than enough exactly as I am.
If you would like to connect with me further, I blog over at Laughing My Abs Off about all things college, NYC, wellness, and living my best, most authentic, and most magical life.
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Huge thanks to Nicole for sharing her experience so vulnerably and openly. I feel so lucky to have her on Team Maven this summer!
College students – does this resonate with you? How about those of you post-college – did you feel this way? I know I did…
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