Open Forum: What Does Finding "Balance" Even Mean?

Updated 07/09/19
Mario Testino

As someone who constantly aims to improve herself (to a fault), for me, the term “balance” has always carried a certain kind of pressure—especially as it’s evolved as a buzzword to describe a healthy lifestyle in celebrity interviews, on Instagram, and beyond. Whereas “everything in moderation” has a lower-key connotation to it, “balance” feels delicate and almost precarious, like one wrong move can tip the scales toward complete dissonance. Am I achieving ideal balance by making sure that my meals always have the right array of nutrients and heading to the gym four times a week, rest days in between?

Or is it more balanced to skip the gym one weekend in favor of tacos and margaritas, since I’m weighing both health and indulgence?

A few years ago, I would have probably argued that the first definition was more accurate in my case—I was at a point in my life when I mentally and physically felt my best when my diet was very clean, to the point that I just didn’t want to indulge that often. Now, I’d definitely tend toward the latter. (Mainly because I can’t imagine a world without tacos and french fries.) And I think that this personal evolution proves that maybe balance isn’t such a delicate thing; it’s fluid and personal.

Urban Outfitters

And it’s not just about physical health or diet, of course. I feel off-kilter when I’ve been watching Netflix too much, when I haven’t spent enough time outdoors, or when work gets chaotic. There's work/life balance (another fun buzz phrase) and balancing relationships. And those things are circumstantial, too—at 21, you might need to go out four nights a week to feel like your social life is intact, but by 24, happiness is staying in most nights and getting a solid amount of sleep. (At least for me, anyway.)

So ultimately, the tough part about it being a buzzword is that balance is such a personal thing. When people talk about their version of a balanced lifestyle, our natural tendency is to draw comparisons and even judge ourselves for not matching up, when in reality, we shouldn’t in the first place. But how can we get better acquainted with our own picture of balance?

Byrdie editor Hallie has the great point that it all comes down to taking stock of the things that matter to you, and taking it from there. “If being healthy is my priority, my definition of balanced changes,” she says. The same goes for work, happiness, family, or any variety of the above. When one element becomes more of a priority than it was in the past, our sense of balance has to adjust to accommodate that.

Minimalist Baker

My takeaway is that I need to stop trying to see balance as such a concrete and unchanging aspiration, and instead let it mold itself to my current goals and lifestyle. But what about you?

What are your thoughts on balance, and what does it personally look like for you? Do you think we’re pressured to see balance a certain way and adopt that definition as a goal? Let’s kick off the discussion below. 

Related Stories