I will: ‘Purge flat of all extraneous matter…Eat more pulses…Get up straight away when wake up in mornings…Put photographs in photograph albums’.
This list reads so much like my own to-do list at any given moment that I laughed out loud. The examples are not actually my own, but from the New Year’s resolutions list in Bridget Jones’s Diary, which I recently bought from a charity shop. I hadn’t read this in years & had forgotten how funny & identifiable it is. I think I abandoned my love of Bridget when the second film came out as I get so annoyed by media debates about her & what she represents. It always seemed clear to me that she is not an icon to whom we all aspire or want to emulate; on the contrary, women seem to identify with her because she is like all our weaknesses, foibles & neuroses in one condensed package – all the things we think but never dare to admit because we are too busy trying to be modern, successful superwomen with perfect lives.
On Saturday, I went for breakfast with a friend (an event with more overtones of Sex & the City than Bridget Jones). At one point, my friend mentioned a comment her boyfriend had made, asking her why she beats herself up so much over most of the things that she does. At the time I didn’t think much of it, but afterwards it struck me that this comment rang so true with a number of my recent blog posts: I am clearly not alone in pressurising myself about many (or indeed all) aspects of my life.
The socio-cultural factors behind this enormous pressure to be some kind of superwoman are manifold. I also know that my quest to create a life of my own adds a further pressure. I spend a lot of time – perhaps too much – thinking about life & what I want to achieve, how I want to live etc. Most of the time the effects of all this ruminating are wholly positive, helping me to achieve my best, fulfil my potential & live a happier & more authentic life. But it is a very fine line between aspiring to my best life & aspiring to a perfect life.
Perfect is impossible. It doesn’t exist & striving for perfection only leaves me disappointed & feeling like a failure. As my four-year old nephew once lamented, ‘It’s hard to be good all the time’, & when I don’t live up to my own admittedly high standards & expectations, my sense of self-worth takes a real bruising. Like on Saturday: I had a really lovely evening with some friends that I hadn’t seen in a long time & ended up drinking a bit too much wine. The remorse & even guilt that I am left with because I drank more than I would have ideally liked is totally disproportionate to the event in question. I feel I have let myself down. Down from what? Being perfect, I suppose.
But at least, unlike Bridget Jones, I already have all my photographs in albums.