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Finding Happiness And Balance In Life

photo by: Phillip Ward


Handling your physical health, mental health, school work, and friendships is basically a superpower. I know that I’m always slacking in one of these areas if I’m thriving in another. I’m a Junior in college and realistically I have a mental breakdown about once a week because I get overwhelmed by trying to be perfect. I don’t think I’m trying to be perfect for myself, but I am worried that other people will look at me and know I don’t have my shit together. I can deny that I give a single crap what anyone thinks about me until the day I die, but we all care about other people's perceptions of our appearance and our lifestyles, me included.

For one, I used to work out like I would die if I missed a single leg day. I was in great shape and I loved all the compliments I would receive about my lifestyle and my appearance that I had obtained through all my crazy workouts. One day I got to the gym and realized I had no desire to be there and I would honestly rather go read a book or hang out with some friends. This was an odd realization for me because I always assumed I was working out for myself, but I was only doing it for the praise I was receiving and to stay “skinny”. Once I realized this, I stopped going to the gym like a crazy person and only went when it seemed beneficial for my mental health or sometimes I would go to yoga to unwind.

My mental health has always been something I struggled with and I have never been very open to talking about it because I wanted to seem “strong”. I grew up with body image issues due to constant bullying for my weight which led to an eating disorder that I sometimes still struggle with as a 21 year old adult. I then fell into a deep depression after my Dad passed away in high school and once again, I still struggle with seasonal depression every year. I’m imperfect in every way and I never really share the burden of my mental struggles with people because I would much rather help people piece their lives back together than my own. A lot of times if I have amazing grades or am in great physical shape, my mental health is suffering.

School was never something I cared about in high school. I was too focused on dance, my friends, or a current Netflix series. Once I got to college, I understood it was time to kick it into high gear and actually start studying for tests and working hard in class. I got amazing grades my first year of college, but my social life was heavily lacking. I had made friends, but never really took a lot of time out of my week to go see friends or go out at night. The library was a fun place for me to go (I know it’s so nerdy that it’s painful). I decided to transfer to Iowa State and I joined a sorority, made a lot of new friends, and finally realized what a fun social college experience could be like. I didn't realize that the only reason I was so excited to have an amazing GPA was because of the praise and approval I was getting from friends and family. I finally felt like I was proving how smart I was, but it didn't change my happiness and everyone still would have been my friend if I hadn't got straight A's. My grades definitely suffered a little after I transferred, but I still made a conscious effort to take time to study and maintain a good GPA.

One of the most up and down areas of my life is my friendships. I have only ever had about 3 constants since I was 15. I have always been outgoing and sometimes too friendly and forgiving, which unfortunately leads to me getting crushed by friendships that weren’t as strong as I initially thought. I tend to associate my friendships with family because I grew up as an only child. I always reach a level of friendship where they go from best friend to family. I always wanted brothers and sisters, but that wasn’t in the cards for my family. I always feel blessed to form such strong friendships with the people around me, but this is what leads to me getting hurt by the people I decide to trust the most.

I wish I had solutions on how to overcome the need to be perfect and how to have an awesome college career, but I’m still figuring it all out for myself. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to feel perfect in every aspect of my life. The only thing I’ve figured out so far is how to let these parts of my life work hand in hand. I work out only if it’s good for my mental health. I talk to my best friends about the things that are bothering me and a lot of times this helps my mental health and strengthens my friendships. I try to meet up with friends to study, not only to stay motivated, but to spend time with the people that mean the most to me. I’m learning to stop trying to please everyone around me. I’m finally realizing that a life where I can make decisions based on my own happiness is the most satisfying and the most fun.


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