Self Talk: It’s ok to not be ok



A few weeks ago I was in San Francisco for work. I had dinner with a few of my female coworkers (whom I also consider great friends) and as we discussed different stories we’d heard about lately in the news, I learned for the first time about the story of Madison Holleran. Without explaining in full detail, my friends told me how this beautiful and accomplished college freshman at UPenn had committed suicide by jumping off the top of a parking garage. She was a student athlete, a perfectionist, a real girl. And the part that caught my attention the most? Her tragic story seemed to have something to do with her perception of her friends on social media. Specifically, on Instagram.

To keep the mood light at dinner, we didn’t discuss it much further, but my friend promised to send me the link to the recent story about Madison written by Kate Fagan for ESPN. When I returned to my hotel room, I immediately read her story and watched the accompanying video. It was so honest. I struggled with my own emotions for a while afterward because there were so many things I could relate to. Moments of my life have been consumed by what I’ve found in the photos of those I follow on Instagram and the Internet. A perfectionist and former student athlete myself, and a girl who battles with wanting to be real, but sometimes fearing that real isn’t good enough, I could see pieces of myself in Madison. I could relate to the downward spiral of negative self talk that comes from constant comparison. Comparison of something real to something that isn’t (but seems to be) real.

I recalled a thought from Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, a leader in the LDS church, that said…

“And yet we spend so much time and energy comparing ourselves to others—usually comparing our weaknesses to their strengths. This drives us to create expectations for ourselves that are impossible to meet. As a result, we never celebrate our good efforts because they seem to be less than what someone else does.

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses.

It’s wonderful that you have strengths.

And it is part of your mortal experience that you do have weaknesses.”

(Watch the full video here – then watch it again and again)

The next morning, I continued to think about Madison. I had already found her on Instagram and swallowed the knot in my throat and a few tears of sympathy for her and her family the night before. Looking at her Instagram account, you would never know she was fighting such a painful internal battle behind the scenes. How could someone so beautiful and seemingly perfect herself be so so sad? In my own way, I knew exactly how.

The power of an idea.

An idea had crept into her mind that what she perceived to be real representations of happiness and success of those she watched on Instagram, was in fact real. When it actually wasn’t.

This is why Inception is my favorite movie. “An idea is like a virus; resilient, highly contagious. The smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define or destroy you.”

The thing that makes my heart ache the most for Madison Holleran is that I feel like I’ve shared her idea before. I’ve experienced deep depression and feelings of lack of control over my emotions and my life. Obviously, just because I think I can relate, doesn’t mean I actually can. I really don’t know everything she was going through or what she was feeling. But what I’ve taken away from this, is that I’ve always been able to eventually identify when my ideas are built on false perceptions. And I think Madison had gone too deep to remember what she once knew: that this image of perfection she had created in her mind was not real.

Ever since I read her story, I’ve had a different desire for what I want my life to be about. I want every girl out there who has also experienced the confusing and demanding idea of perfection to know that she’s not alone and that she is strong enough to know the difference between what’s real and what is not real. I want the people I connect with through pictures and social media to know that I am a real girl with some wonderful strengths and lots of weaknesses, and I’m okay with that. But if ever I forget, or if those who are like me also forget, I hope Madison’s story can be a reminder for us that it’s ok to not be perfect. It’s ok to not be ok. It’s ok to show people you’re not ok.


Photo source: Madison Holleran Foundation



Leave a Reply

  1. Rae says:

    This post of yours truly designated with me. I am all too familiar with the comparison game that comes from social media, and often times I feel very down and sad based off of what I see on Instagram. Thank you for your wonderful words


    Posted Jun. 21, 2015 | Reply
  2. What a beautiful tribute to Madison. Her story touched me as well. <3

    Her Heartland Soul

    Posted Jun. 21, 2015 | Reply
  3. Chelsea W says:

    I think something that I have trouble opening up to people about, and actually doing, is exactly what is said here–letting people know I’m not ok. When they ask how I’m doing, I say GOOD. Because that’s how I was raised. I don’t say, “Oh yeah, you know, my illness is kicking me down to the ground and sometimes I don’t think I’ll ever get up.” Because I was taught people don’t want to be around sad people. People don’t like Debbie Downers. I just need to get out of that habit and open up. Let the people who need to be in my life know when I need their support. Because that’s ok. <3

    Posted Jun. 21, 2015 | Reply
  4. Katy says:

    Thank you for sharing this story. I love it when bloggers I read get a little more real and personal with their posts. And it’s OK to fail, something that we forget about too often, I think. If we can accept that failure is not the end of the world, we can alleviate so much anxiety and stress in our lives. I’ve been that “perfect girl” before and it was too much. Now I try to be perfectly real and it makes life so much happier!

    Posted Jun. 22, 2015 | Reply
  5. jacque says:

    Thank you for sharing this! Comparison really is the thief of joy and as women we need to remember to occasionally turn off our social media and focus on all the good we have around us and in ourselves. I loved this post!


    Posted Jun. 22, 2015 | Reply
  6. megan says:

    Amanda!! Beautifully said, keep on inspiring others.

    Posted Jun. 22, 2015 | Reply
  7. Christie says:

    What a nice post! I definitely think this is something that needs to be discussed more. It’s a tough balance because we want to keep our social media positive. There’s nothing that annoys me more than logging into FB and seeing people’s rants! But at the same time when it’s ALL positive, it can sure feel like ‘wow, my friends have got it going on and I just don’t measure up.’ The grass is always greener. We should perceive it as, ‘we’re all different. I’m me and they’re them. We all have great things going on but it’s just different.’ That’s easier said than done!

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention! Mental health is something that really gets swept under the rug and it’s so important that we talk about it.

    The Closet by Christie

    Posted Jun. 22, 2015 | Reply
  8. Sarah says:

    Beautiful post. Thank you for sharing.
    Peace, Sarah

    Posted Jun. 23, 2015 | Reply
  9. Julia says:

    I think about this girl and her story constantly. I had a similar phase when I moved away from home for the first time in my life last year. Now, a year later things have gotten so much better, so good even. Just makes me wish that she had stuck around. May she rest in peace, and so many people can learn from her story.


    Posted Jun. 23, 2015 | Reply
  10. Prudence Yeo says:

    So sorry to hear about the tragic story of Madison, I am deeply saddened by it. I think it’s so important to realize that most people only present the best of themselves and their lives on social media so whatever we see is just part of the story…everyone face their own set of challenges that are unknown to us so we have to learn not to take things at face value. Definitely agree 100% that it’s ok not to be perfect, thanks for sharing!


    Posted Jun. 23, 2015 | Reply
  11. carly says:

    It is devastating the impact that social media has on some people. It’s a hard topic to talk about but I like that you tried to tackle it today.
    Dresses & Denim

    Posted Jun. 23, 2015 | Reply
  12. I LOVED every single word of this, Amanda!! THANK YOU for sharing. Your words are so eloquent and beautiful, and something that every single person can relate to. Love you beautiful heart!

    Posted Jun. 23, 2015 | Reply
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  14. Love this post so much. Your words are so encouraging!

    Posted Jun. 25, 2015 | Reply
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  17. Krissy says:

    Wow! All I can say is wow! Thank you so much for writing this!

    Posted Jun. 13, 2016 | Reply
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