Remembering the person behind the Instagram
Successful women are often portrayed in the media as being able to juggle everything seamlessly. They work tirelessly at full-time jobs, rising to positions of authority while also maintaining fulfilling relationships and raising beautiful, smart and kind children.
For me, this is sometimes hard to watch. From my own life experiences, I’ve come to doubt that anyone can really handle all of those things as seamlessly as Hollywood makes it seem. After all, I’m a college student without a spouse or children to worry about, and I still know I could never map out the time in my day to accomplish everything I plan to do.
Given the impracticality of the woman-who-can-do-it-all trope, I’m left wondering: Can anyone really do it all? Because, in my mind, Washington University students do nearly everything.
They make the most of their college experiences on every possible front. They have high GPAs, despite double majoring in biomedical engineering and finance. They’re heavily involved in several clubs and student groups. They have impressive internships lined up for the summer at places like Goldman Sachs and Bain Capital. They have time (somehow) to lead fulfilling social lives, filling their weekends with brunches and parties.
When I look out at the impressive student body, sometimes I feel like I don’t measure up. I’ve devoted the past few years mostly to Student Life. In order to keep my grades up (and to compensate for my Sundays spent fully in the newspaper office) I’ve spent a lot of weekend nights holed up in my dorm room, frantically typing out papers and catching up on readings I put off the week before. And while I ended up with a great internship last summer, I sat through multiple unsuccessful interviews before finally landing the gig.
I’ve been stressed out—about extracurriculars, schoolwork and career plans—since first semester of freshman year; and sometimes, I feel alone in that experience.
My isolation is amplified when I mindlessly scroll through Instagram and see photograph after photograph of students posing red Solo Cup in-hand, or turn to LinkedIn and see the exclusive internships my classmates have obtained. Everyone else’s lives look so well-managed, while mine is far from perfect.
But whenever I let someone else in and explain my concern, I discover that I’m not alone. People channel their anxiety in different ways, but everyone I’ve spoken with expresses some kind of worry, whether it be uncertainty about life post-college or fear over an upcoming exam they haven’t properly studied for. And for those that say everything’s fine: Remember, some people are better at painting over their problems, sharing only the good and keeping the bad hidden to themselves.
When we look at other people’s lives, we need to keep in mind that no one’s life is really perfect, no matter how it may seem on social media. When we look to empathetically approach others, we need to remember that everyone goes through rough patches sometimes—and some people are really good at concealing those difficulties.
We’re all constantly making tradeoffs. Everything we do comes at the cost of something else.
Do I make the right choice every time? Probably not. I’m routinely making decisions that pit my schoolwork against my extracurriculars, or my career prospects against my social life, and there’s no dream outcome which would result in the perfect life—every option has its unique consequences. No matter how I fit the pieces together, I’m never going to create a fully perfect picture.
So, no. I can’t do it all. None of us can.
But we shouldn’t blame ourselves for never being able to achieve the idealized versions of our lives.