Today I’m going to tell you about someone. You don’t know her, and I know her both very well and not at all. The not at all part is because she doesn’t exist. She is the person I always wanted to be, and the person I thought that I would be able to become, at some point, if I just worked hard enough and was motivated enough and had enough self-discipline.
When I describe her, you’ll probably see where the problem lies with that way of thinking. She is slim, with elegant tanned limbs. She has long blonde hair that falls in the most perfectly imperfect way, clear skin, and straight white teeth. She looks pretty even when she’s pulling a stupid face…she looks pretty even when she looks ugly. The camera always captures her best side because even the most candid of candids is modelesque. She is eloquent. She is witty, and sharp, and also kind. She’s definitely cool, and very effortless, at ease in her own skin. She’s excellent with people; confident, but easygoing and modest. She’s successful, and happy – how could she not be, when she’s all of these other wonderful things?
So I can tell you a lot about her – and maybe you have your own version of the girl that you could tell me a lot about too. The issue with this is that it allows us to pin our hopes for the future on something that doesn’t and may never exist, and gives us this idea that if we can just do this, or just do that, then we’ll be there. We’ll have made it. We’ll be the person we want to be. If we just lose a bit of weight, then we’ll be happy. If we just change this thing we don’t like about our teeth or our face, then we’ll be happy. If we just get to the next Instagram milestone, we’ll be happy. We’ll be the insta-goals girl and that’s the path to contentment and achievement, right?
The thing is, though, that none of these things that we may or may not be able to change are a fast track to happiness or success. Those things we want to be might be totally unrealistic and harmful to chase; or if we do achieve them, the likelihood is there’ll be a new change we want to make at the end of it. And while I think it’s great to embrace change and will never give up on the idea of self-improvement, more often than not, we’d be better off letting the idea of being this fantasy girl go. I’ve written before about getting to know yourself as you get older, and one part of that has been realising that it’s time to stop assuming that the magical happiness tree lies in wait when I somehow become the person I described in the second paragraph; I nearly called her the ‘other Soph’, but that’s not right, because the point is that she isn’t me, and I’ll never be her.
I used to think that if I just went to the gym enough or ate less carbs or dyed my hair the right colour or acted a certain way, then I would somehow have everything I wanted, and then I would be happy. So I went to the gym enough (perhaps too much) and I treated my dear friend bread like it’d been laced with poison (we’re bffs again now). I didn’t become the girl. I selected clothes based on whether they made me look slimmer over those that I really loved. I still didn’t become the girl. I try to work on being less socially awkward, more at ease in a group of new or unfamiliar people, the type of person who can ‘mingle’, and – yep, you guessed it – I am still somehow yet to become her.
These efforts are pointless, which makes them unnecessary. I am socially awkward and kind of a control freak and the opposite of cool and effortless. My hair is so fine it always looks flat, I hate my teeth and yes, I will always have big thighs, even when I’m at my smallest. When a camera is pointed at me it mostly picks up on my eyes being different levels of shut, extra chins, and my mouth doing something weird. I can’t articulate things in the way I want to when I’m speaking to someone so I always end up saying something I have to agonise over later. I’m not particularly funny, so I can’t charm everyone with a sharp and coveted wit, and when I pull an ugly face it’s very firmly ugly ugly and not pretty ugly.
Even having started to come to terms a couple of years ago with the fact that, newsflash, I probably wont ever be a size 6 or the kind of person who can easily or enjoyably do the ‘mingling’ thing, I’ve noticed that I still have a tendency to lean towards her. When I look at photos of myself to choose which ones to use, for example, I will choose the ones that look most like they could be the girl. Where some trick of the camera has hidden has miraculously elongated my legs, or where you can’t see my teeth. And there’s nothing wrong with choosing your best angles – we all do it, obviously – but it seems a shame that looking less like myself and more like someone else has been to some extent my goal.
As you can probably tell, this hasn’t really been about wanting to be the best version of me, although I told myself for years that that’s what it was. It’s not uncommon to hear the phrase ‘You can be whatever you want to be’, and this is very nice in principle, but the fact remains that actually, that depends what it is you want to be and where you are now. Letting go of the desire to be this person is not doubting my abilities, it’s realising that my abilities can be put to better use than chasing that which I so obviously am not.
Because being this girl doesn’t mean I can’t do what she can. The fact that I’m not a hashtag goals girl doesn’t mean I can’t be a blogger (although let’s not pretend that being the generally accepted version of ‘beautiful’ can get you far in an industry so consumed with aesthetics and ‘goals’). The fact that I don’t look like a bikini model doesn’t mean I can’t feel totally carefree, wearing swimwear in a far flung location from my bucket list. And the fact that I’m not her doesn’t stop me from being happy – it’s constantly trying to become something I never will be that will do that.
So this is my promise to myself; to make this the year I finish letting go of the idea of being that girl. This gal’s got some carbs to eat, some non-appearance related things to achieve and an unhealthy case of perfectionism to overcome, for which I’ll probably need to be happy with just being me.
Coat – Primark | Shirt – Zara | Jeans – H&M | Bag – Zara | Boots – New Look | Necklace – Lisa Angel
Photography: Thom Law Photography