Disclaimer – I am publishing this as part of our mental health awareness week but I want to make clear that this is focussed on those of us who don’t have a serious diagnosed mental health condition. This is aimed at anyone and everyone. We all need to take time to ensure our mental well-being.

Social media portrays the lifestyle you want others to see – we all know that. We also know that the perpetuation of perfect family lives puts undue pressure on parents to re-create the standards they perceive on Facebook, Instagram, twitter. No-one should bow to that pressure.

However, there has been a recent backlash of people posting the realities of life under the # of #keepingitreal. Mums in Pjs whilst kids run riot, messy houses, excessive day drinking and “my kids have screens, so what” posts.

Are these any better? Are we, in recognising that perfection is unattainable, settling for less than we are capable of? Do these extremes need to be so polarised?

As a parent of 4 kids, a manager of my own business, a mum struggling with lockdown, home-schooling and dealing with a furloughed, quite frankly messy and mildly irritating husband (love him really); I REALLY understand the PJ and gin posts. My kids watch A LOT of TV, I frequently wander about in my Pjs and I am partial to a gin. Do I advocate this as a lifestyle – no, not really.

I fear that negativity, or settling for a life less than lived is becoming the trend. That our bent towards “the reality of life” may be an excuse for not striving for the best?

Ok so before you lynch me, remember I am a struggling mum of 4 in her Pjs drinking gin and fantasising about mildly injuring her husband. But that’s not who I want to be! I want to get up, get fit, educate my kids, eat healthily, drink less gin. Maybe I should beat myself up a little bit about it because although I know I’m never going to be Mary Poppins, I’m not ready to give up on being the best that I can be just yet.

Many a time I have achieved something with my kids and thought twice about posting it because people will perceive me as “little miss perfect”. So many times people have called me “supermum” because I have 4 kids and run a business. No, I’m not, but I do work hard and I am proud of that. I make sacrifices, so do my kids but what they gain is more that what they loose (Oh, I hope so anyway).

In thinking about kindness this Mental Health Awareness week, please can we all go back to being less judgemental, less intimated but rather inspired. Less geared towards perfection and its unattainable realities but more striving to achieve our best.

To get to this position, I think that we need to take care of our own mental well-being, to be assured and confident that we are doing our best. To be able to “filter” appropriately and see the likely struggles and hard work behind a “perfectly portrayed scenario”, resonate with that and celebrate accomplishment as well as effort.

It has taken me 40 odd years to get to this place so its definitely NOT an easy feat. But I believe that there are many ways that we can build up our mental resilience, mindfulness, coaching, meditation, awareness of who we are, our limits and achievements DISTINCT from societal approval. It comes down to identity. Who we are, whether we know this and whether we are happy with this.

When it comes to social media; you are portraying yourself to the world, and it is a normal human reaction to want to share happiness and success and funny stories. I say be proud (but also humble) when you post your home schooling win (without the need to quantify it with ‘we have had lots of hard days too’). Share your successes but feel free to ask for support. If we all start with an awareness of: “none of us are perfect but all of us are capable of great things”, we might be able to genuinely support others in their successes without a huge inferiority complex or a need to bring them down.

A very good friend of mine on reading a draft of this article said:

“I think it does become someone else’s business if someone is striving for perfection to the point that they are mentally unwell and the opposite too. They are living in pjs and borderline alcoholic. That is the time where I would want my friends to step in and help.”

This is where community comes in. We are all individuals, with similar yet distinct struggles. An awareness of ourselves and an objective perspective on other’s posts, may help us to recognise the hidden struggles and support were necessary but we should equally want to share in our friend’s achievements and successes and build each other up.

#nooneisperfect #weareallcapable #beyourbest #beproud #theowltreechildrenscafe #mentalhealthawareness #supportinparenting #bekind #support #friends #socialmedialives