Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Beauty Guru Life: Popping the "Perfect" Illusion

Recently I was reading a Q and A session on reddit with youtube beauty guru, Sssamanthaa. One of the questions was how she managed to stay so grounded. Her answer: She didn't. She mentioned that she regularly relied on a loved one for a shoulder to cry on and talked to a therapist to cope.

I really appreciated her honesty and wanted to take a minute to talk about this subject a little more. Many of us struggle to stay grounded and cope with daily life at times - and it's completely normal. But it can be even harder when it feels like everyone else has it all together and we don't.

I know I'm not the only one who goes through this occasionally when browsing through photos posted by beauty gurus:

"Why can't I be impeccably gorgeous and have perfect winged liner? *scrolls further down the page*

"Why can't I be the one with the perfect bikini body glancing nonchalantly at a gorgeous ocean sunset..." *scrolls faster*

"I wish I had perfect outfits, shoes, hair and nails every day... too bad I am too broke/busy/tired/suck at it... *scrolls angrily*

"Seriously, how is her winged liner perfect. every. single. time?!" *flips a table*

Our logical thought processes shut down which causes us to believe that a beauty guru's life is composed solely of the things we are shown - especially if they post frequently. They look the way we want to look and have the things we want to have and they never seem to be dealing with anything dramatically difficult. Sometimes we look at these seemingly perfect lives and wonder how these gurus seem to have everything together when we just don't.

It's human nature to compare ourselves and our lives to the things we see. You may find yourself admiring a beauty guru's talent and their ability to consistently create gorgeous content, then find yourself feeling that they are just "better at life" than you are. It becomes easy to develop unrealistic expectations about life when you start thinking like this.

But what we need to remember is that we can only see what a guru wants us to see - the perfect photo chosen from dozens, shot at the perfect angle with perfect lighting, and then further perfected with filters and editing where deemed necessary. [And I'm not saying that's bad! (At least not minor photo editing.) As a beauty junky, I truly appreciate the thought, effort, and artistry that goes in to creating these images.]

It's a very unfortunate situation when we fall in to the trap of comparison. Maybe we experience feelings of guilt when we realize we're lacking the motivation, refined artistic skill, a million followers, or an outgoing personality that an established guru has developed. Maybe we feel ugly for having imperfections or think we're untalented if we can't perfectly reproduce a look on the first try. It starts to feel like the gurus have all the things we don't. And some may even feel like a failure if they struggle to keep it together day to day while our favorite gurus are so visibly happy and successful.

But frankly, nobody's life or coping skills can measure up to the meticulously curated content you will find online.

Everyone has or will have incredibly difficult struggles in their life. We will never know every struggle a guru faces and it's important to remember that everyone has terrible days sometimes, even gurus. Everybody feels like running away from their problems sometimes or exploding with tears and anger. Everyone feels like a failure at some point - usually at many points.

We must stop comparing our lives to those of people we know so little about. Everyone has struggles, they just don't show them to the world.

You may never guess it by looking at the beautiful photos and videos your favorite beauty gurus create, but sometimes even gurus struggle to cope with life's hardships - tremendously at times. This may seem obvious when you think about it, I mean everyone struggles sometimes right? But when all you see is a smiling face and fantastic makeup its easy to assume everything is ok. That's not always true.

In the early days of youtube, one of the first beauty gurus was panacea81, aka Lauren Luke. She was the first beauty guru I ever subscribed to. She always seemed so sweet and genuine, and had a big smile to share. You would go away from her videos feeling happier. Then one day she just stopped creating content without any explanation. Afterwards she would post sporadically on other social media sites but she no longer created videos.

While Lauren never explicitly explained why she stopped creating, it became obvious by reading some of her social media comments much later that she had struggled with her mental health and the pressure she was under as a beauty guru. It's really sad that the pressure became too much for her and she needed to step away from something she clearly loved doing without explaining why.

The fact is that people don't talk about their struggles with mental health and may even hide them for various reasons including shame, feelings of isolation, or a desire to not be a burden.

The World Health Organization published an article stating that 1 out of 4 people will be afflicted with mental disorders at some point in their lives. This means that even if you do not suffer with a mental health disorder it is likely that you will still be affected by them at some point, at least in an indirect way, by knowing someone who does - perhaps even a loved one.

Mental health is a topic I believe our society desperately needs to be more open and honest about. Personally, I have struggled tremendously with anxiety and depression over the years. I still struggle sometimes but thankfully I have managed to move on from the darkest times in my life.

But the process of getting better was so much more difficult and drawn out than it had to be. Nobody wants to talk about mental health issues and they are still so stigmatized by many of us. Those who don't struggle in this area sometimes believe that you just need to pull yourself by your bootstraps and get on with life. But it just isn't that simple.

Mental health embodies a set of extremely complex issues that we do not yet fully understand. However we do know that issues like depression and anxiety are a result of the body not functioning in a healthy manner. In anxious or depressed individuals the "happy hormone", serotonin, can be measured at lower than normal levels. Clearly, this isn't a result of someone just deciding to be a "debbie downer". There is a legitimate and measurable medical reason they are struggling. 

But the sad truth is that two-thirds of those struggling with mental health never seek the help they desperately need. Why? Usually because they are ashamed, afraid of how others would react, or harbor a false belief that treatment might change who they are or that it won't work. Instead of getting treatment they choose to suffer in silence. And although this couldn't be further from the truth, the decision to forego treatment seems easier and safer than facing social stigmas or the possibility of being ostracized/rejected, or being seen as defective. It is because of this that many who are at risk of suicide never receive the treatment they need.

But I have to ask this question: How should we see anything differently between someone who receives cancer treatment and someone who is given antidepressants or therapy? 

Nobody wants to have cancer and likewise no one wants to feel depressed or suicidal. We don't shame someone for needing cancer treatment, so why do so many people with mental health issues find themselves feeling shamed for needing treatment? Why do they feel the need to hide the problem from those who still attach stigmas to mental health issues?

There should never be shame in needing treatment for any type of illness, whether it's in your brain or anywhere else in your body. 

I couldn't agree more with this quote from the article: "Mental illness is not a personal failure. In fact, if there is failure, it is to be found in the way we have responded to people with mental and brain disorders." So lets change the way we see and respond to mental health issues. Lets support each other in our darkest hours.

And lets stop allowing ourselves believe that beauty gurus, or anyone else we may compare ourselves to have perfect lives. The pictures and smiles may look perfect but nobody's life ever is.

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If you are having difficulty with mental health please get help, don't wait. There is a list of resources at the bottom of this post. Finding the right medication and/or therapist may be a little difficult for some but don't be afraid - but you will know if something doesn't work for you or is making you act like someone you are not - and it can be changed. If one medication or medical professional doesn't seem right for you there are always others to try.   

Never give up trying to find a treatment plan that works for you. Ignoring the problem, self medicating with alcohol or drugs, or trying one of the thousands of snake oil "instant depression cure" scams you can find on the internet, isn't going to be the answer. We only want a skilled and licensed surgeon to operate on our bodies, and we should seek out the same level of care for our mental health. Don't allow what anyone else may think stop you, you deserve the same level of support and treatment as everyone else and there is no shame in that whatsoever.

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Resources
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1‑800‑273‑TALK (8255) or Live Online Chat 
    • If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, contact the  National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your confidential and toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals.
  • Find a Therapist near you - Luckily we live in a time where it's pretty easy to search for therapists and doctors online. This link is just a quick search for therapists in whatever location you plug in. If you live in a more isolated area or outside of the USA and this site doesn't pull up anything for you then just search google for Therapist and your location.
  • Online and offline Support Groups - another benefit of living toay is that we have easy access to support groups no matter where we are in the world via a simple google search. There are support groups for those dealing with issues related to depression, anxiety, grief, divorce, addiction, sexuality, illness, finances and everything in between. Look up support groups relating to whatever you're struggling with and you'll be sure to find tons to chose from. If you don't feel comfortable meeting with a group face to face then you can select from thousands of online support groups in the form of chat rooms, forums, popular social media sites, and more. Pick whatever appeals most to you.

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