10 April 2018

Let Go of #LiveYourBestLife - Let Yourself Be

Hello my lovely ones, I hope that today is beeing kind to you and that you are living your better life. If these final four words sound familiar, it's likely due to the 560,000 hashtaggers of  #liveyourbestlife on Instagram. However, I deliberately changed 'best' to 'better', because #unpopular opinion... I don't buy the "best life" label. (or labels in general, but that's a story for another post - aka this one.) 

If someone asked me to describe my own 'best' life, I may as well hold up a  a blank slate, because I don't believe it exists. Alternatively, I could start playing  Blank Space on my phone and really speak now to the hashtaggers. That being said, I'm going to stay true to "my best literature life" and reveal what I really think when I "blank space": Exit Red, enter Rousseauthe 18th Century Swiss philosopher, who talked about "noble savages" and a tabula rasa - aka, a blank slate. See what I did there?

... and on that note, Sophie lost 99% of new readers. Whoops. Please stay stay stay with me, dear reader, and I solemenly swear I will explain (and try to stop mixing my Reds with my Rowlings. 

Once upon an ancient time - for all those millennials out there -  JJ Abrams Rousseau concluded that "man is born free and everywhere he is in chains"; in other words, we enter the world in magical ignorance, only to realise that the Hogwarts letter isn't coming and that mankind is the muggliest of "muggles"; in other words, Rousseau was either light-years ahead of his time, or developed a time machine before Dr Who and telephone boxes existed

Perhaps the "chains" part is a bit extreme. For what it's worth, I don't picture myself in chains as I'm rambling through the meadows with my Millie moo. That being said, we can't deny the fact that life happens. Just look at Ms Swift. 2016 Taylor was "living her best life" with Tom and the Girl Squad on Instagram;  fast-forward a year and her Instagram feed is, well, dead. The snakes came out and suddenly everything changed. Life happened. Like I said, it may not be as literal as chains, but it's still an external force that we can't control. 
Either way, can we conclude that Rousseau 'got' 2018, more than 99% of 2018. For at the risk of being a negative Nancy - or a jaded Jean-Jacques - can any of us actually live our best life? From beach yoga to sunset cocktails, with a sunshine filter for good measure, the idea of 'living your best life' is a bit, well... it's not really 'life', is it? In the words of my other main guy, Mr M.Webster, best means "excelling all others"It's a superlative or, to quote my recent essay on romantic poets, the "summit of earthly experience'. 

Fun fact #1 
Jean-Jacques was cordially invited to this particular tea degree party. 

Perhaps I am reading too much into this hashtag. After all, it isn't the best life - it is "my best life'. In this sense, it is subjective; it isn't directly competing with anyone else... except yourself. If we're saying the present is really 'as good as it gets',  where do we go from there? Where do we walk, if there's no ground between between our dream and where we actually stand? 

What's more, it's almost inevitable that we will fall into the comparison trap. For the mere mortals among us, #instagoal flat-white-lays, aesthetically pleasing porridge bowls and mountaintop views are the summit by which we reflect on our own lives. As a lifelong perfectionist, I hear "live your best life" and I lose myself in panicI think about how I can't possibly achieve that. Something will always tarnish the picture - stain the blank slate - and I will fall flat white

Fun Fact #2 
I spilt a flat white over my notebook last week and attempted to dry it on the coffee shop radiator. 

It certainly wasn't a #liveyourbestlife moment. However, I do feel that #thehonestlens would have been fitting, along with #liveyourbetterlife. I may not have "got the gram", but I did at save my dissertation references and lived to tell the tale - without encountering a single mountain troll. It wasn't perfect, but in that moment it was life. Nothing more, nothing less. No filter, no explanation, or #instavalidation needed. 
By the same token, I don't need to kid myself that life will always be "the best." Some days, I have to accept that it's okay not to be okay. Allowing myself to have a bad day - without guilt or shame - is the best thing I can do for my mental health

By dressing my mind in a filter, I am only denying how things truly are. The world and his/her instagram may go to bed, with the image of a golden carriage in their head, but once the clock strikes midnight the screen goes dark. The filter fades and, like Cinderella, the carriage is a pumpkin once more. The hashtags may sleep, but my mind lies awake and my eyes will not shut.

When I browsed #liveyourbestlife on IG, I saw the following quote: "if you realised how powerful your thoughts are, you wouldn't think a negative thought again." This clickbait mantra is, in itself, a lovely thought, but it's just that - a thought. It will go away with the flash of a screen, but it won't leave the filter behind. It does not realise that some thoughts can't be silenced by a hashtag. 

As I said, I'm not trying to be a negative Nancy I'm not suggesting that you can't have amazing experiences! For what it's worth, I truly believe we can all  live a wonderful life; it's why I wrote Sock it and Set Yourself Free for Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Yet anyone who has seen It's a Wonderful life will know that it doesn't mean "excelling all others." George Bailey would not describe his "best life" as standing on a bridge. What he does describe is the sound of a bell ringing - a man who says "I want to live again. Please God, let me live again."

And he does. Life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful. On those days when you feel okay, or good, or even wonderful, live it. Whether you are buzzing through the world, or simply trying to bumble along,  live your BEst life. Let it be.

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