I don’t care if they smoke, I adore their baggy fashion and edgy look. The Olsen twins transitioned well from child stars to profitable designers. Despite hiding from public life, their “flaws” – those pesky negative lifestyle habits, manage to reach press. And against the lemon cleanness and mirrored gym walls and pastel yoga mats, I find their image curiously admirable. A breath of reality in positivity culture.
We’re not robots
Joining the IG fitness community, I knew my figure didn’t compare to the ab-defining, post-gym workout selfies we’ve learnt to expect. I breathed in, posted my progress and captured salads, smoothies and fruit platters. The more weight lost – the more cause for celebration. I wanted to tone up and embrace the health message. This I achieved, my dress size has stayed down and I live relatively “clean”.
I’ve declared self-love and shared inspirational quotes. Blog posts on how to achieve goals and move past excuses. “Our lives are a journey and it’s about continually growing”, I’ve said something of the sort. But I’m tired of the relentless positivity culture ejecting no end result. I love my figure – both morning and post-food. I don’t have to make my butt bigger and arms leaner. Neither do I need to create a vision board, chant wisdom in the morning and write gratitude in a journal.
Positivity culture doesn’t make us happier. Verily Mag spoke to happiness researcher Emily Esfahani Smith who discussed how most of us are missing “a lack of meaning in life.” We can go online and soak in motivating “you’ve got this” ideals, spend an hour reading in bed and snacking on veg, reach goals and not feel satisfied. We could freeze on a merry-go-round not noticing success, because we’ve already set another target. And another.
24 Hours of happiness is unrealistic
A study reported in The Guardian, suggests some young people are receiving backlash for sharing emotional posts on social media. Known as ‘sadfishing’, the term relates to people posting sad things online in an attempt to gain sympathetic attention. A classic example is Kendall Jenner’s campaign for Proactiv. Aiming to look brave and strong, Kendall spoke openly to the camera about the normalcy of spots, recognising how she now has a platform to reach out to others suffering.
Queue public outcry after realising the star was advertising a skincare product – one she didn’t use to treat her complexion. Many people are copying celebrities who post “relatable” content to appeal to their obsessed fans. But in copying without fandom, they’re sometimes left with trolls who mock their vulnerable captions. I don’t think sadfishing is an issue – granted annoying when someone writes about their troubles and conceals explanation. Classic F.B posts like: “I can’t believe they did that”…did what?
Most of us experience a burst of pain somewhere in our week or month, yet we don’t all have relationships to lean on. Instagram may be the only place someone has ability to express thoughts. More than that, if the sad stuff goes, we’re left reading unhelpful motivational quotes. The Huffington Post explains why they’re often damaging, usually reflecting “Black and white thinking” – perceiving “situations only in extreme”, in addition to establishing “inflexible rules”. Those quotes that say you have the same number of hours as Beyoncé – is that really uplifting? What about our voices, income and team of experts? Is that quote meant to drive us to work till 3am and make us feel lazy?
Positivity culture damages productivity
Constant self-improvement, physical change and ‘inspirational’ words – how productive do they make us? Ideally, a productive person is one content, happy and able to focus, aware of what they’re doing. A person not feeling good enough doesn’t seem efficient. Think of an office – one worker happily completing a task, another frantically running around trying to tick-off everything, asking others for good advice.
Harvard Business Review published a piece on the amount of work linked to self-care. The article mentioned a study from the American Psychiatric Association, reporting “39% of U.S adults feel more anxious than they did a year ago”. The publication suggests we’re glamorising busyness and linking self-optimisation to workaholic culture, commodifying things like meditation which don’t always work for people. The piece also notes how Instagram self-care doesn’t increase “our well-being”.
I think of positivity culture as a platform preaching you always do your best, be your best and keep looking ahead. On the platform, a tree branching tips for self-improvement, self-care and daily utilisation. It’s about always looking on the bright side and seeing one flower in a field of weeds. It sounds beautiful enough, shamely just not realistic. To me, positivity is about acceptance and recognising at times, you’re going to hit a brick wall and it’s going to hurt for a minute, or an hour, day, week, year…
I’m not advocating we stop positivity culture all together
Quotes can inspire and strong messages can act as a friendly coach. It’s about managing balance and realising you’re not negative for giving up on a goal – you’re human. Quitting doesn’t always make you a failure – I’ve quit things before which I realised weren’t beneficial. And the whole “life is too short to waste thing” – you have to waste some life to grasp what wasting time is.
Rather than make excuses or feel guilt for not rising at 5am, why not plan what’s actually going to develop your happiness and not the happiness of others who share what they do. Ultimately, positivity should make us better, and that decides the time you spend on indulging in positivity culture.