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The Impossible Balancing Act

By Selin Odman

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There are certain things that we expect from college. We leave our hometown bubble, eager for new responsibilities and opportunities that drive us to move out of our comfort zone. All of a sudden, we become adults. And I don’t just mean cooking, cleaning and applying for jobs. We’re building complicated relationships and testing our intellectual limits. We’re budgeting our money while trying to keep up an image of wealth and generosity.

This is where the balancing act begins. We try to sign up for upper-level classes and major in subjects that sound prestigious. That’s one weight on our left hand. We decide to join Greek life and sign up for 6 clubs, determined to hold executive positions in all of them. That’s the weight on the right. One humid morning, we realize that we’re more out of breath than the girl next to us going up the Chemistry steps. Time to hit the gym 5 times a week and add – literally – more weight on our shoulders. While getting our mid-afternoon kale smoothie, we run into the person of our college dreams. Suddenly, we find ourselves on dates, spending more money and time than we probably have to spare, cementing those final ankle weights on both legs.

Mix all of these stressors and add a sleep-deprived haze of dizziness. This is what I call an impossible balancing act.

What is making us condemn ourselves to a life of disappointment and anxiety?

Modern culture and technology has brought us deeper into each other’s lives than we ever wanted. Before Snapchat and Instagram, you only knew what other people were doing if you were a part of it or heard a story about it after the fact.  

Today, our phones are exhausted with notifications about the exciting backpacking trip Jane took, or the mouthwatering filet mignon that John ate. Between watching episodes on Netflix, our newsfeed showcases professional engagement pictures and close-ups of designer bags. Every morning we wake up to videos from a party or a concert that didn’t sound appealing, but now you regret missing. During lunch, you’re scrolling through a fitness blog and wondering how people stomach “green juice.”

And it’s destroying us.

We used to be content with ourselves. Eventually, we found our niche and thrived, proud of our few unique strengths.

Now we want it all. We want to be smart, successful, social, beautiful, athletic, savvy and committed. Why? We’re under the delusion that everyone else around us is all of these things based on the rose-colored view we see online. So what are we missing?

Nothing. And we need to realize this, sooner rather than later.

We’re simply victims to a technological trap of never-ending emotional turmoil. Our self-esteem and self-worth are constantly being questioned by false representation of everyone else’s worth around us. Think about the last time someone made us feel envious of them through social media. Their life probably seems effortlessly crafted into perfection. But it’s never that way. No one is willing to showcase their worst days, or even their most average days, on the Internet, where everything we post is permanent and timeless. We hide our negative thoughts and experiences while holding a spotlight up to the moments that we were the happiest.

Logically, we understand that everyone must go through periods of joy and sadness. However, if only 100 of our 400 Facebook friends posted something positive that day, it produces the illusion that everyone must be having a good day. But what about the other 300? The next time we feel underwhelmed with our own lives, remember that everyone around us is participating in the same balancing act. And how do we overcome the challenge? Well, it’s probably the days where we put down a few of the weights. If we lower just 1 or 2 of our expectations to a more reasonable standard, we can suddenly succeed in the 5 other expectations we still hold.

Don’t be afraid to balance out your life according to what you find the most enjoyable and valuable. It’s healthy to let go of the delusions of being an over-worked, marathon-running lawyer-doctor who tours the US playing the ukulele to settle for becoming a happy, 5k-running physician who attends ukulele concerts.  

Once we can realize that everyone’s hyperbolized perfect Instagram account is merely a fabrication, we can begin to embrace our individual happiness and put down the extra weight in our lives.