Throughout my twenties, I have been active on social media, most predominantly Instagram. The initial pull of showcasing snippets of my life and seeing likeminded people share their’s has stayed with me. However, I have increasingly become aware of how, as many people have previously pondered, Instagram has changed over the course of the years since I joined in 2012. I wanted to therefore discuss my changing relationship, not only with Instagram, but with the notion that we need to curate a perfect aesthetic of our lives.
The ways in which social media is used is fascinating, in a multitude of ways. It’s a tool that, back in the late noughties, had the potential for incredible untapped power. Social media has most certainly, in my humble opinion, evolved into this machine of money-making, and although a lot of people still use it for personal reasons, we all seem to post only the good parts of our existence. Yes, I would agree with you, if you’re thinking, “Why on earth would I want to share my pitfalls, my messy home, my moments of grief? Why would I want to share this with the world and reveal my vulnerability?” And I do empathise with that notion completely, I mean, I like to share uplifting words and photographs I am proud of and equally I like to see this in other people’s lives as I find it inspiring. Although I am not saying that we should document every single thought and moment of our lives online, I do think it’s interesting to note that there is an increasing pressure to fit into a particular aesthetic.
Within the slow living movement I have noticed that there is a particular aesthetic that is being commercialised and, although like I’ve previously iterated, I enjoy a well-curated photograph, I do find it troubling how, if too much time is spent on social media, I begin to pressure myself into thinking that I need to fit into this particular category. Is that just me? Or am I not alone in this feeling? I suppose I am not as many of my personal friends and individuals on social media do herald the positive impact a digital detox has. Additionally, through all of these ‘That Girl’ or ‘That Woman’ YouTube videos, the same message is being pushed: to live a calm life, you must practise the following rituals in the morning: meditation, journaling, skincare routine, a work out, a healthy, nutritious breakfast and time to get fresh air all before the hour of 9am (I may be exaggerating with the exact time but you get my gist). I do recognise that this is unfeasible for me personally with a young child and currently being pregnant, but I do contemplate whether these people are actually happier because they have been able to cram so much into their mornings. While I have no qualms about others sharing their morning routines as a beacon on inspiration, I do sense that this puts incredible pressure on us as a society to live more slowly and intentionally, all while doing so much more.
I personally believe that slow living is a movement that can be interpreted in a plethora of different ways and that, ultimately, there is no ‘one size that fits all’ approach. No, rather, slow living is all about cultivating moments and pockets of time where you are able to appreciate the present and live intentionally. To achieve slow living, I believe that you ultimately need to assess what is important to you and prioritise those things. For me, I wish to live in a way where I can spend quality time with my husband, our daughter Olivia and soon our second daughter. I want to ensure that I have an hour a day to myself to pursue my oil painting hobby as well as the ability to provide wholesome, nutritious food for my family. I also want to fulfil my calling as a Catholic woman, intertwining my faith into my very essence through prayer, how I treat others and conduct myself. I think that to keep a clear mind of the fact that what others share is beautiful, it is not reality, it is not your reality. It’s important to not compare yourself to the lives of others and thus always keep your priorities close to you in everything you do. Something I would wholeheartedly recommend to you, if you’re pondering how to actualise the slow living existence that you want, is possibly take up a few of these steps (in no particular order):
- Make a list of what values are essential to you, in essence, a manifesto.
- Write down a rough timetable of how you currently spend your time and assess what is working and what is not. Your values will fall into play nicely here as you will then see how to meaningfully fulfil your values by changing how you utilise your time.
- If you’re searching for a creative pursuit but feel lost, pop into your local library or purchase from your local bookstore The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I cannot begin to tell you how incredible this has made me feel and ensuring I write three handwritten unabridged pages every morning clears my mind.
- In the style of the wonderful Marie Kondo, have a good ol’ declutter! Organising and decluttering your space really will allow you to think more clearly. What’s that saying? “Tidy space, tidy mind” or something like that.
- Take up a practise that fits your sense of self, whether it’s prayer, Bible journaling, meditating, yoga or a form of exercise; taking the time to invest in your well-being and even spirituality is so healing and uplifting. Again, I can’t remember the exact quote but I remember once reading that the person you live with for the whole of your life is yourself and therefore cultivate practises that make your mind a happy place to be – whatever that means for you.
Although without sounding like a hypocrite by listing methods to elevate and alleviate societal pressures in your life, you need to do what is best for you. Some of my recommendations might suit you perfectly, whilst others may seem totally left field. Like I first said at the beginning of this article, you need to live an authentic life, cultivate your own aesthetic because that is the most beautiful. Life is a journey, a culmination of highs and lows, sometimes immense joy whilst at other points incredible suffering. Through slowing down, being mindful and recognising your current context, whether it be uplifting or saddening, you will be able to achieve a sense of peace throughout the good and the bad. A Biblical quote which really speaks to me personally is:
For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the LORD—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. Jeremiah 29:11
So as long as you are being true to yourself through your actions, words and thoughts, you will have peace at the end of each day, in each passing moment.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic and whether you have any recommendations for how to cultivate a slow, authentic life.