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New Year is a time when many of us feel the pressure to upgrade – a myth that California-based therapist Lisa Olivera beautifully unpicks in a post on Instagram this week. 

It’s all too easy to put our ambitions in life on the backburner until we pass some imaginary hurdle. We tell ourselves we’ll be happy if we change jobs. We’ll sign up to a fitness class when we’re feeling more motivated. That plan to write a book will come about at some point in the future, as soon as we have more time and the requisite headspace. 

In other words, we feel like we have to be in the “perfect” space to announce and follow through on our dreams. It’s a belief that’s misleading, and it’s especially prominent over the New Year period. Somehow, we imagine, we must be ready like “lean teenage greyhounds”, as Bridget Jones once said, to see in a fresh year and declare our goals.

It’s a tendency that California-based writer and therapist Lisa Olivera unpacked this week, in a poignant message on Instagram. Olivera, children taking seroquel who is also a new mum, explains that she had been yearning for “a scenic, professional, bright-eyed photo of myself” for the first day of 2022 that would “tell you how put together I am, how at peace I feel, how ready I am to take on a new year with all the confidence in the world”. 

Instead, she says, “here I am, in my raggedy old sweater, hair unbrushed, trying to stay awake”. At first, she went on, this inability to look “professional” made her feel like a failure. But then she realised that, in trying to meet that expectation, she was conforming to an unrealistic narrative of what it looks like to “have it all together”.

“Part of unlearning that narrative is accepting who I am right now – accepting the messiness – accepting the lack of free time to plan bigger or look brighter or do more – accepting that I can show up as myself and still be taken seriously, still be worth the space I occupy, still be successful, still be enough,” she writes.

At a time when we are all more stressed and overwhelmed by life pressures than before, Olivera’s post strikes a chord. 

Ironically, the less time we have (women are especially hard hit) and the more demands we face – at work, in caring for loved ones and beyond – the greater the impulse is to appear “together”. As we compare and despair on channels such as Instagram, we also feel an overwhelming need to look and behave in a certain way. 

This pressure alone is toxic, but it becomes more problematic still when we cannot show up, take up space or talk about what it is that we want from life without adhering to some pre-conditioned image of “success” or “togetherness”. 

The truth is, if you’re waiting for a time when you’re somehow less “messy” to talk and explore your goals (in the New Year or beyond), you might be waiting forever. Because that messiness is you, and it’s integral to your achievements; far more than any imposed notions of what success should look like. 

As Olivera says: “You don’t need to wait until you’re an upgraded version of yourself to be seen, to talk about your creations, to be of service, or to do what you’re here to do. And when you’re in seasons of showing up a little more messy, I hope you can meet yourself there and remember how even that version of you gets to take up space.”

Here’s to a New Year, new goals and the same you – in all your glorious messiness.

Images: Getty, Instagram

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