Books and blogs are constantly offering us the seductive and powerful promise of a more productive life: the end of procrastination, frustration, and incompetence. But our hunger to find out the perfect productivity system reveals something more profound going on in our hearts.
Unemployment sounds great in theory. Imagine pyjama days every day, no alarm clock jackhammering into your mornings, and time to re-evaluate your entire life priorities whilst catching up on Loose Women. Except, as I recently discovered, it also forces you into deep crisis. Say hello to frozen pizzas and a blossoming relationship with your recruitment agent.
There are many ways in which the gender divide still wounds women: from unequal pay to the prohibitive cost of childcare, from unshatterable glass ceilings to unrealistic expectations of beauty, performance and achievement. We may say we value women equally, but in reality there are still many disparities to be overcome, both practically and in our own thought processes. So, how can I know who I am as a woman? Is there a rest from this treadmill?
Why have we seen an explosion in self-improvement literature in recent years? If increased ambition and our tendency to compare ourselves are behind this trend, where does this leave us? How do we cope with being increasingly dissatisfied with ourselves?
Whitney Houston was shot from small-town obscurity to worldwide fame, all apparently on a ticket to self-dependence. However, after years of abusive relationships, drugs and a failing voice she finally reached a point where she had to throw her hands up and admit that her methods weren’t working. What, or rather who, was she missing?
The world of dating is changing faster now than at any time in history, and hookup culture has become pretty much the norm. This isn’t likely to slow down or stop, but we need to pause and think about the consequences.
In a society that has rejected many of the roots that gave meaning to past generations, more and more people are seeking to cultivate the inner life, and to experience a sense of purpose that is deeper than the superficialities of our age.
Our carefully curated social media profiles rarely match up with our real lives. So why do we persist in presenting a cropped and edited version of ourselves? And what does this basic longing for acceptance say about us?
For years I’d only heard ‘no one likes you’, ‘you’re not good enough’, ‘you don’t belong here’. These seemed so obviously true to life I had thought that they were statements of fact. No amount of compliments or self-love could shift them. I needed something deeper.
We have become so disillusioned by fictional happy endings that don’t translate to real life. Perhaps we’ve told ourselves we’d rather face life head-on and see things as they really are. But don’t we secretly long for more than that?
Without a doubt, the Second World War had a galvanising effect on people, the likes of which have never been seen before or since. Yet many of our veterans returned with feelings of guilt or meaninglessness that weren’t acknowledged or understood for years to come, if at all. Victory had left so many floundering in a vacuum of purposelessness. It was hard to face the idea that so little had actually changed postwar, and even harder for many to admit that if ‘this’ is all they fought for, it didn’t seem worth it.
The primary way we understand someone to be trustworthy is not by what they say, but how they live. We’ve all met people who might claim to be whiter than white, but when you dig beneath the surface and see into the nooks and crannies of their life, they’re just as imperfect as the rest of us. So simply claiming to be trustworthy isn’t enough — we need to see it in someone’s behaviour.
In the past few years, the study and practice of mindfulness has exploded in Western culture. Originally deriving from Buddhism, it’s now utilised as a form of treatment for both mental and physical illness. But does it really possess the answer to the problems we face in life?
The very same attitude that makes us first to cry, ‘That’s neither fair nor true, because it’s just a social construct!’ is itself a social construction, a product of specific cultural conditioning. Relativism cancels itself out. Still, we often assume present norms are innately right because we’re entrenched; we haven’t known any other reality. It’s an easy trap to fall into, but the spell breaks when we realise the norm itself is always shifting.