"Once I fix my sleep schedule, start eating healthy, get physically fit, beat depression, stop procrastinating, learn how to do taxes, get mentally strong enough to make phone calls…then it’s over for you bitches."
Sound familiar? It’s a meme that’s been knocking around in various different forms since December. It’s also probably your inner monologue for oh, about 90% of your waking life. Alternative versions include "once I... 'stop being antisocial', 'start taking care of my skin', 'become financially stable', 'drink water'" The list goes on. The meme is funny (read: sad and relatable) because we think we’re incomplete. We live our lives thinking that one day, we’re going to get-or-buy-or-achieve this one little thing that will fix it all and transform us, chrysalis-like, into our final, perfect form.
I’m going to have to stop you right there. Because the truth is (and you know this, you do) that there is absolutely not one thing, no "magic key", no fix-all solution that will make you into a perfect person. No amount of morning yoga sessions, no number of wines not drunk, no quantity of healthy food eaten that will remodel you, overnight, into a you without worries. In fact, trying to find that magic key is just going to make you unhappier than ever.
A few years ago, I had a thing about losing weight. It was pre-body positivity and I thought it was going to be the thing that would take me from poor and misguided millennial to… I don’t know what, something really good though. And so I did it. I went to the gym, I stopped eating 17 sandwiches a week (big mistake; huge), and I lost a stone. I got happy from all the endorphins, a few people noticed and said nice things and then…nothing. Life went on exactly as it always had done. There was no fanfare as I stepped on the scales, no balloons dropping from the ceiling, no cheering crowds appearing to carry me off to my mansion in the Cotswolds where my stunning life partner and Labrador puppy awaited my arrival at my new and perfect life. It was kind of a letdown.
In films, the happy ending is always the end. We leave our heroine just as they get their lover or job (usually lover) to live out their happily ever after. My movie (and god what a thrilling cinematic experience it would have been) would have ended in the gym changing rooms as the scales finally displayed my goal weight. And that would have been the end of that. But where’s the movie about what happens afterwards? It doesn’t exist because, like real life, it would have been a letdown.
Flick back, if you will, through the annals of your mind and join me in referring to the last four minutes of oft-overlooked early noughties flick Not Another Teen Movie. After running to catch his high school love at the airport, Chris Evans with Freddie-Prinze-Jr. hair (really) delivers an honest monologue about the potential problems the couple will face once university starts. "Chances are, one night I’m going to get wrecked and have unprotected sex with some girl in my dorm. You’ll find her thong and call me a slut. I’ll call you a cocktease and we’ll break up. So when you think about it, what’s the point?" Condescending and sexist language aside, it was probably the one real conversation about "happily ever afters" we ever got growing up.
Thinking you need to find something to 'fix' yourself is only going to make you sadder because it implies that you’re not whole already.
In more recent times, the wellness industry has thrived (and when I say thrived, I mean THRIVED) on this mentality. Now you can spend money to get that thing which is going to fix your life (hello, £5 turmeric lattes). Influencers exist as real-life examples of the life you could have if you just fixed your diet, got to sleep on time, kept your mental health stable. If you could just… If you could only... If you could finally...do this one tiny thing.
But just because the playing fields have changed, and just because Chris Evans no longer has sideburns like Charlie-from-Busted’s eyebrows, doesn’t mean the sentiment about happily ever after is any truer. In fact it’s more of a lie than ever.
There is no magic wellness cure for how you’re feeling. If scientists had found the antidote for anxiety and depression deep in the Amazonian jungle and made a moisturiser out of it, you would have heard about it. And it wouldn’t have been from Phoebe-The-Wellness-Guru’s Instagram.
In fact, thinking you need to find something to "fix" yourself is only going to make you sadder because it implies that you’re not whole already. Every wellness cure you spend money on which doesn’t work will make you feel like a failure. Why did the moisturiser work for Phoebe? you'll think. Well, it didn’t. Trust me. Phoebe, despite her west London home and inexhaustible wardrobe of effing kaftans, is miserable. Because she’s still trying to find the thing she needs to fix HER. And it doesn’t exist.
Actually, I lie. It does exist. It’s called being kind to yourself. It’s taking a look at yourself and realising that, right now, you’re a pretty excellent person. It’s realising that aiming for that "one day" when your life will be perfect is futile. You will never not have problems. You will never not have reasons to be sad. Embrace it. Take tangible steps to fix what you can (meds or therapy for mental health issues are kind of a great idea) and as for the rest, accept that it’s part of who you are. Sure, in several years you might look back and think, Wow, I was a bit of a mess then, but then again, you might not. You’ll probably have fixed some problems; others will have gone away on their own. Some may still be lingering, but if you’ve lived this long with them, do they really need dealing with when so much good has happened while they've been around?
Drop this idea that Perfect You exists. Leave them to their mansion and their Labrador, and go back to living your haphazard but real and beautiful life. Otherwise you’ll wake up one day and realise that you missed it all, wishing for a better future.
And stop spending money on turmeric lattes. They taste rubbish and anyone who says different is lying out of their arse.
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