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I've Been Thinking About How the Home Industry is Perpetuating Perfectionism
I’ve been thinking about how the home design industry can be as toxic for women as the fashion, beauty and health industry can be. Lately I’ve seen these other industries get called out for their toxic perfectionistic, shame-based messages more and more, which makes me really happy, but what I’ve been wondering is why haven’t more people pointed out how detrimental the interior design industry can be as well? At least when Vogue tells you your skinny jeans are “out” you are only donating a $50 pair of jeans to Goodwill, whereas when Architectural Digest tells you white kitchens are “out” you are hiring a painter for $8,000 to repaint your kitchen cabinets.
But it’s not just the trends that are used to shame us into buying new things that are toxic. It’s the message that is being sold to women that the key to being a successful homemaker, hostess, and homeowner is having a beautiful home.
It seems to be particular to women because I have had many female clients tell me that they have “no clue” how to design and that “they are horrible” at it and they need my help, but I have never had a male client say it in the same way. Sure they’ve said they don’t know a lot about design, but it’s never been with shame, more just a statement of fact. I know that a lot of men feel very passionate about the design of their home and honestly I would say men are as involved if not often more involved than their wives when it comes to the architecture and build of their home, so the shame isn’t based on interest and therefore feeling inadequate, I believe it’s based in the expectation and pressure that is put on women by marketers, publishers, and our social circles.
Historically this pressure to “do it all” has always been there. The “perfect woman” who keeps a nice home, cooks a warm delicious meal, all while looking her best is nothing new (just read any women’s magazine from the ‘50s), it’s just morphed into a bigger beast with social media. It’s common to see designers/influencers who perfection-layer by showing their picture-perfect homes while also promoting their stylish clothes, travel-guide worthy vacations, age-defying beauty routines, and their fancy yet effortless go-to recipes. Often these influencers and the media are trying to make money off of us, so the content can be very disingenuous. Basically they create the disease of making people feel inadequate and then sell them the cure of buying what they have so we can be as happy and successful as they are too.
Of course not everyone who posts picture-perfect homes, recipes, clothing and beauty recommendations are toxic (hopefully we are included in this group). It all comes down to the intentions behind the content. Are they trying to be a resource and empower us, or are they trying to shame and sell us?
I have a real issue when it comes to trying to shame people in their most sacred space - their home. It is an absolute gift to have a place to call home, whether it’s newly remodeled or hasn’t been updated for 30 years.
Our homes are not a reflection of our success or our worth as women. Our homes are a reflection of where we are at in our lives from the toys scattered on the floor of a young family to the tidy living room of an empty nester. Our homes say so much about those who inhabit the home (not just the woman of the house), but homes should never be used as a measuring stick.
I encourage all of us, and especially myself, to not give in to the seemingly invisible (but very present) pressure the interior design industry and social media can put on us to have “perfect” homes. I have to be so careful in how I market my own business and services as an interior designer. It is the most delicate balance and I try my hardest to keep our intentions pure, and I know I have failed at times. Please forgive me, and let me know if you find me selling or shaming on social media or anywhere you interact with us.
I want us all to accept our homes (and ourselves) as they are. There is also no shame in wanting to improve them as well - I obviously encourage that in design, but also in our personal lives too. Acceptance and progress are a powerful combination. Overall, I want for myself, for my daughters, and for my fellow women to be more free to just be and to not be bogged down by the pressures of perfectionism.
I want to be part of the empowerment movement we need in the interior design realm where everyone can know that the only requirement needed to be the designer of their own home is simply the desire to be. I want you to know you don’t need money and a professional designer to have a home worthy of guests and praise. If it reflects you and those who live there, you have succeeded.
All we want at the end of the day is to feel seen and valued for who we are without judgment. I see you, my design loving friends. I see how fulfilling having a nice home is for you - I feel the same. I feel how hard it can be when we don’t have the budget or ability to carry out the vision we have in our head or the improvements we do make don’t quite turn out like we were hoping for. I’m here for you. I can help, I want to inspire, but the last thing I want to do is make you feel like you didn’t do it “right”. It’s enough, we are enough. I know what I’m saying is a bit over the top and cheesy, but it’s truly how I feel, and I think it’s important to know, and that’s why I’ve been thinking about it lately.