Have you noticed formerly normal people now seem intent on telling you they’re living their best life? I can remember when that would’ve been followed immediately by, “And you can, too, if you sell Amway!”
But those were simpler times, when your friends just wanted to coerce you into selling laundry detergent for them in a suspected pyramid scheme. It almost makes me nostalgic!
Today, if someone tells you they’re living their best life, it might mean they’ve succumbed to “Therapy-Speak” or what others derisively call “Instagram Therapy.”
Tara Isabelle Burton, writing in The New York Times, puts it simply in a wonderful essay that questions “the current pursuit of private happiness as the ultimate goal.”
Indeed. What could go wrong?
You may have noticed this Instagram Therapy creeping into your own life but didn’t exactly have a name for it. I’ve been observing it as a weird kind of sanctioned selfishness, permission to wiggle out of anything that might be even the least bit unpleasant by, oddly, claiming a higher, moral ground.
Here’s an example from real life. A friend agrees to go with you to a party where you really need a pal because you won’t know anyone else there. She calls you just a few hours before you’ve planned to meet up and, empowered by some silly quiz she took in a magazine, says she’s not going because she needs “me time.”
I have been thinking something was amiss, but it took Burton’s article to drive home the point: “It’s not self-care when you hurt your friend’s feelings.”
We all know the friend who, brimming with Instagram Therapyspeak, can’t join you for trivia night because he has decided to embrace his “authentic self.” Which more likely means he is tired of being the only one at the table who can’t answer a single question about ‘80s metal bands. Fine. Don’t let the door…
Or the friend who bails on a night out to cheer up another friend who has just been dumped and is devastated. Ugh. So needy. Better to not be around that toxic energy, amiright? Especially when the “Love is Blind” finale is tonight. A simple, earnest text tells the group you can’t join because “Sometimes I get overwhelmed, and I just need to remember to look in the mirror and say I am enough.”
Which is great except now the bar bill must be split 4 ways instead of 5 out here in the real world.
Recently, a friend canceled plans to host brunch, which was absolutely fine. The not so fine part was she felt compelled to share it was because she found the thought of hosting to be “just too much,” and she had decided she needed to “prioritize self-care” and hoped we would respect her need to listen to her “inner dialogue.”
Do what? Well, who’s going to make my eggs now? Kidding! I’m Southern. I can sniff out the nearest Waffle House like a DEA dog at the airport.
While I was mildly irritated at the change of plans, I was extremely irritated at the lack of two lil words: “I’m sorry.” Instead, we, the guests, were made to feel we were the cause of her angst. And now I must journal.
Obviously, anyone should be able to cancel when feeling overwhelmed. It’s not an uncommon emotion these days. Just own it. Don’t coat it in a bunch of New Age mumbo jumbo. A Southerner might put it like this: “I bit off more than I could chew and I’m sorry.”
We’re living in a “You Are Enough” culture, Burton writes. But the truth is, we need each other. If you recognize yourself in any of this, get your head out of your Instagram Therapy and rejoin the group. Because it’s mighty lonely talking to the mirror.