Thigh gaps and imperfections

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Gala dinner
I don’t get dressed up that often, but when I do, I take a terrible selfie.

When I first moved to Albury, NSW in January 2016, I knew nothing about the border town, other than I had driven past it during a trip to Melbourne and coming home from Christmas camping one year. Now, almost two years later, I’m proud to call the border home.

As I’ve started getting more involved with the business community in recent months, I am blown away by the vibrancy and diversity of Albury-Wodonga businesses. The Business Women Albury Wodonga Gala Dinner was another ‘ah-ha’ moment for me as I spoke with and listened to some amazing businesswomen who are making their dreams a reality.

The guest speaker for the evening was Mia Freedman, and while I don’t tend to follow, I was interested to hear what she had to say, given the year she’s had with two major media faux pas and the success of her multi-million dollar business. As a writer and content marketer, when Mia said that her site publishes 40 to 50 pieces of content every day, my jaw dropped. Add in podcasts, videos, social media and everything else Mamamia does and I tip my hat (if I wore one) to the staffers who keep the content pumping – even writing this feels like it’s taking far too long.

The theme for her speech on the night was ‘Real is the New Perfect’ and I don’t think it could have come at a better time in my career to hear it. A fair portion of her speech related to parenthood and the trials and tribulations that come with marriage which doesn’t really resonate with me yet, but what I did take away from her speech, I hope to carry with me for a long time.

Work-life balance is like the elusive thigh-gap

On the night, Mia said that while we all want balance, very few of us are able to have it – kind of like the thigh gap. This one I didn’t exactly agree with, but I think it’s still worth noting. I agree with Mia in the sense that yes, sometimes we have to “lean into our work, or lean into our family, or lean into our mental health. And leaning is hard.” But there still has to be balance.

For me, leaning too hard into university and my studies for more than four years, just made me angry and depressed. It actually detracted from my ability to do my best. Because I was all university, all the time, I was so miserable that I couldn’t see the negative effects it was having my on grades, my relationships and my mental health. I leaned into university so much that the thing I was trying to do so well ironically took the biggest hit.

We have to have balance in our lives. Yes, we need to hustle and work hard to get where we want to go. For me, at that point, ‘where I wanted to go’ was getting my degree and by the end instead of feeling like I accomplished something, I felt like a deflated balloon and two years later I am just starting to feel like I’m coming back to life.

If you don’t have the right foundations, everything will crumble

This one resonated so well with me where I am right now in my career. In her talk, Mia recounted how she always wanted to get to places fast. She was editor of Dolly at 24 and always charged full steam ahead. What came next is something that I will probably turn into a mantra of sorts to say to myself whenever I need a reality check – “Like a house, if you don’t have strong foundations, everything will crumble.” She was specifically talking about her relationship with her husband, but I liken this to my journey since going back to uni at 24.

Taking a year off study and a year of TAFE before going back to university technically part-time (3 subjects per semester) meant that I didn’t finish my Bachelors until I was almost 27. Yes, I know in the grand scheme of things, 27 isn’t old, but when there are 22 year-olds graduating with the same degree it’s hard not to feel like you’re behind the eight ball.

I’ve always been very career driven, and not that I exactly know where I thought I would be at this point, I’ve always felt like I’m not far enough. I’m my own biggest critic, so it’s easy to feel like I’m not doing enough, or not trying hard enough. This is where I have to remind myself about the importance of balance. This also brings me to the next point.

Real is the New Perfect

Just because you aren’t on top of your game all of the time, doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Some days we have to eat baked beans out of a can for dinner and go out without makeup on because we overslept and can’t be late for the morning meeting. These days will probably happen more often then we’d like to admit, and unless we have a team of people around us doing our grocery shopping and making all of our appointments, I really don’t see how we can be on top of everything 100% of the time.

For me, this was the most important aspect of the night. I’m somewhat of a perfectionist so when I feel like something hasn’t gone the way I intended it to, I internalise it make it into a much bigger deal than it needs to be. Social media has become such a large part of our lives, and so much of what we see on social media is the carefully curated 5 or 10% that people choose to let us see.

Whether it’s weight loss, perfect hair or even a career win, reality is far more common than perfection.


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