I have been meaning to write this piece for a while. The words have sat jumbled up in my head for over a week, however I haven’t quite summed up the courage to unpick the many heavy strands of thought and translate them into something intelligible.
I sometimes feel that as a business owner and occasional blogger, I’m not really supposed to talk about what happens when my life doesn’t quite work out the way I want it to. If I were to be completely honest and paint the portrait of my daily life, it would probably look like a curious mixture of mundane routines, wonderful moments and crushing disappointments.
We have a strange cult surrounding “positivity” in our society, one which is intensified and codified by countless bright and perfect Instagram photos. I get the impression that many people feel trapped by this performative positivity – I look happy, therefore I am happy. Aren’t I?
Like all performative identities, this happy persona must be played out in front of an audience, which must view the performance in order to reinforce and enforce the identity being performed. In this case, it is the identity of a happy and fulfilled individual, a character which we see played out over our social media feeds again and again, with pictures of inspirational quotes, perfect bodies in perfect locations and a curious mixture of gluttonous and virtuous food tableaux.
Recently I have suffered a series of disappointments, all which dealt quite a personal blow and are not exactly synonymous with the image of a “successful business woman” (whatever that actually means?!) Despite not feeling particularly good about myself, I feel the pressure to uphold an image of myself which in reality bears little resemblance to the trials and tribulations of my actual self.
This is the self which is normal, which experiences disappointment, fatigue, doubt, loneliness and all the emotions which are not deemed acceptable in the sphere of public social performance. Yet these are the emotions which directly relate to the experiences which have placed me where I am today, and help shape my life, for better and worse.
When I started out on my business ventures, I imagined that life would become a series of upward moves played out in some kind of meta scale game of snakes and ladders. I wanted to believe that every decision and action I took would magically propel me forwards into more money, a better life and increased satisfaction.
I suspect due to being exposed to so many “positive” and “inspirational” messages through my consumption of social and mainstream media, I had internalised the idea that success comes easy to everyone.
The reality has been somewhat different… For every “good” move I have made, I probably have made around ten “bad” ones. I have made numerous mistakes, suffered more than a few setbacks and have had to start off at the beginning again on more than one occasion.
When I placed my reality of trial and mostly error against the social media ideal, it didn’t stack up. What was I doing wrong? Why wasn’t it coming easy?
The second question there is the real giveaway isn’t it.
They say that anything worth doing is going to be hard. In my experience, it’s more like “anything worth doing is going to feel bloody impossible and will make you cry, shout, rage and curse yourself for ever starting.”
What really strikes me is that the majority take part in the performance of happiness and feel compelled to live up to the standards of other performers, despite being fully aware that their own lives are filled many modes of being.
I highly doubt that we will see an instant shift in the culture of social media. However I do believe that we can realign our own perceptions of how these performances relate to our daily lives and come to understand that it is merely a portrait of one aspect of an individual’s life, not a representation of the entirety of their being.
I am slowly beginning to see that my self-worth is not measured through the gaze of others. I do not need to be viewed as happy or successful in order to become those things.
My life is rich and complex, a series of highs and lows, as are all other lives. We are no less for being more.