Whip It Good

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NOPE!  That’s really not what it’s about.

I see versions of this all over the place–magazine articles, Pinterest, fitness websites, the gym, advertising (of course), and in videos. I’ve seen it modified for running, cycling, rock climbing, weightlifting, team sports, and to my horror I actually found one modified for a creative writing retreat. It’s the yoga application (like the one shown) that bothers me the most but in every application of this maxim IT IS A CROCK.

Firstly, it says that whomever we were yesterday (and whatever we did) wasn’t good enough and still isn’t good enough today. It makes yesterday our new set-point of failure. And every today becomes tomorrow’s yesterday and we are supposed to believe in perpetuity that every day’s effort becomes a failure (not good enough) just as soon as the sun rises again. This perspective is disordered and destructive. It tells us that even if we truly do the best we can today, it’s not good enough. Tomorrow it’ll all be just a measure of how much better we have to be. So it’s never going to be good enough.

Secondly, it says the whole point of today is to improve upon yesterday. If we are given another day we’re supposed to use it looking over our shoulders at the past; as if our time on Earth today had better be spent erasing yesterday’s shortfalls, or we are losers. This means today is actually not a Brand New Day. It’s not a clean slate with a fresh set of chances and opportunities. It’s a stay of execution. And tomorrow we will make up for how awful we were today and on it goes. Applied to the sport or activity in question, it says that today’s yoga practice is not a practice at all, it’s a penance. And if I’m not going to be better than I was yesterday there’s no point in practicing.

My friends, this makes us unwell even as we run the miles, practice the poses, climb the rocks, lift the weights, and eat the kale. We might earn medals, win trophies, break records, crush our goals, but it’s never enough. We wonder why we’re still never happy no matter how much we have, how much we do, or how much we achieve. This is why. We’ve programmed ourselves not to be happy by linking happiness to achievement, and continued happiness to proving it. And it’s not necessarily our faults; we’ve been suckered into it by the “wellness industry.” Not even wellness enthusiasts get to be immune from the pressure to achieve, which translates into revenue for those applying the pressure.

This is big business, ya’ll. From the cottage industry to the Fortune 500, it is more lucrative to keep us unwell than well. Despite all the rah-rah mission statements we are supposed to fail. This built-in failure feature is deliberate and it is now part of our culture. We’re supposed to keep signing up, keep buying, keep trying the next thing, keep working toward the next level. We’re never supposed to get there. Someone (many someones) knows that as long we feel we are under-achieving we will continue spending money. And recruiting buddies. And posting about it.

Ever notice how expert consultants and motivational speakers don’t have answers or solutions? They have methods. Good is never good enough because the idea is to convince us of scarcity and lack so that we stay hungry. A gifted motivator capitalizes on the disordered programming that produces these Better Than Yesterday graphics and makes the pain feel like validation. Makes it sexy. Makes the pressure desirable. Makes us believe that those who can take it are Winners. Or if not Winners today, better than yesterday, achieved by doing more, buying more, knowing more, working harder, and on we grind, motivated by yesterday’s failure rather than any day’s success.

The grunt work is done in–you guessed it–social media. Every day we reinforce the Not Good Enough message by trying so damn hard to be good enough. We post our desperation and defiance and form a personal posse guaranteed to look at it every day. We like and share and shit on ourselves and on each other with faux-spirational posts like the one above but never realize it’s just another crack of the whip. A whip held by a merciless Task Master. Every post that stirs up feelings associated with comparison is another lash upon our well-muscled backs. This pressure gets normalized by using terms such as like and share but it’s still just pressure to achieve and pressure to prove.

Crack!  Prove you have friends—-amazing friends! Post it!

Crack!  Prove you can run—-not yesterday, today!

Crack! Prove you can do yoga—-all the poses!

Crack!  Prove you are working hard at your goals—-flex, sweat, post!

Crack!  Prove you are socially engaged—-I can’t hear you!

Crack! Prove you are busy and involved and relevant—-pictures prove it best!

Crack!  Achieve!  Win!  Crush!  Excel!  More! More! Better! Every damn day!

Especially within healthy pursuits (yoga, running, sports, etc.) images of people proving themselves on a daily basis comes across as harmless, even motivational. Well, I’ve got a beef with motivational now too, mostly because I have used this justification myself. Don’t be fooled. The motivational message in the yoga image above is: be thin, be genetically gifted in the spine and hips, get fabulous tights and a sleek tank, get some sparkly bracelets, get a tan and some highlights, don’t forget a mani/pedi, and then work harder at being not good enough. Crack! Now post yourself working at it!

Before the internet we used to balk at being manipulated by The Media–television, print, radio, and movies. The internet and the smartphone made users the strongest asset of all forms media because it is now an interactive experience. Find any version of the photo above and look at how many times it has been shared or liked. We aren’t just ingesting the information anymore, we’re regurgitating it. We’re doing the work of the motivators for them and applauding ourselves for our “choices.” The moguls behind the media found a brilliant way to teach us to manipulate ourselves and we still think it’s harmless, or worse–healthy.

Opt out, my friends.

Opt out.

I’m opting out (opting out further). After I finish up the Tinas project (on day 366) I am taking at least a year off from posting any images of myself proving anything. Even this practice includes coming here to the blog to prove I’m still working at it. If I’m honest, it’s not about accountability. It’s not about motivation or inspiration. It’s about gratification. I might not be on Facebook anymore but I’m still getting whipped. Quitting social media wasn’t enough. I’m deprogramming.

I will be good enough without needing to proving it, and without the assurance that I’ve provided enough evidence for you to believe it.

Yeah. It only took 301 self-portraits to figure that out. 301 is a good number. Proving the practice was productive will be my last proof of anything. So, I hope you’ve enjoyed the Tinas because in 65 days you’ve seen the last of them. I’m stripping Pharaoh of his whip.  When I was in Egypt’s land, let my Tinas goooo….

Good enough for today? You bet it is.

Gonna be good enough for tomorrow? Without a doubt.

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Not only good enough, there was extra effort, and that’s good enough too.

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This was a hell of a bonus day but it doesn’t compare to today.

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— Vesta Sy Goodfixity

(sixty five days to go)

 

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