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Pandemic Productivity Guilt Is Real and You Are Not Failing

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at OK State chapter.

A year ago I didn’t believe the spread of Covid-19 would be something that would majorly impact our lives for the foreseeable future. A couple of months later I believed that I was going to have a lot of free time since I would be staying at home and unable to leave the house. Then not long after that, it seemed like the world was starting to go back to normal. Businesses were opening back up and school was starting soon. Surely the spread of the virus was slowing down, right? I had a lot of expectations about how this past year would go and yet I was never prepared for the course of events that would follow. While most of it was out of my control, the way I spent my time was not.

I ordered some books I wanted to read. I bought a new instrument I wanted to learn. I started studying a new language. I bought more art supplies and made plans for all of the paintings I would make. I planned on practicing my graphic design programs and learning more about design. A year has passed and I feel like I’m in the same position I was when I planned all of these things. Time has passed so slowly and so quickly at the same time. It felt like 2020 would never end and yet I accomplished none of the things I set out to.

Every time I got on Instagram I saw friends posting their crafts they made or the bread they baked. Some posted their before and after body pics from their at-home workout routines. However, some people continued going on as if nothing changed for them. While I had to reschedule my wedding because of the virus (my grandmother even got it the week we would have had the wedding) others were having large weddings and posting pictures all over social media. It was so odd to me that while I was experiencing one thing, their realities were entirely different. Why did I feel like the world was ending if other people were having the time of their lives? Are they actually worried too and just ignoring it? Are they having things in their life turn upside down because of the pandemic but they just aren’t posting about it? Why do I feel like I’m wasting my life doing nothing? Why haven’t I started that painting?

Every time I thought about doing the things I wanted to I felt the energy being sucked out of me from the stress of the world around me. I would just get on my phone and then start the whole cycle of pressure and guilt all over again. What I had to realize was that no one was posting their struggles on their main Instagram accounts so I was only seeing the best parts of their lives. It’s wonderful that they were able to accomplish things while in quarantine, but that doesn’t mean they were being productive every single day. The world was burning me out and my energy was low from being locked inside all day. I was stressed out. This is not to mention the stress I was under due to the political climate and the 2020 election. I was exhausted and it’s okay I did whatever I could to rest and make myself happy. 

While I am so happy we have social media to stay in touch with each other during this time, we need to use it in moderation. We must stop comparing ourselves to the versions of our peers we observe online. Comparison is the thief of joy. You set yourself up when you compare your whole, unperfect, but human self to an idealized version of your friends online. It’s okay I didn’t master a skill during a global pandemic. You are doing the best you can and have the rest of your life to finish that painting.

Former President of Her Campus at Oklahoma State University.  Laney is a senior Graphic Design major.  Laney is passionate about philanthropy, activism, education, and art.  When she isn't writing articles for Her Campus she is painting, playing video games, or volunteering.