Why You Should Smile When Everything Goes Wrong

Why You Should Smile When Everything Goes Wrong

We love to hate on social media for making our lives look inadequate; blaming it for all the feels we feel when scrolling through pictures of pretty people at perfect parties that we are not invited to.

However, social media is not that bad. Or rather: those happy-go-lucky selfies freely floating on our feed are part of a co-created conspiracy that makes us want to show off how well we’re doing even when we’re not. I mean, that’s definitely worse than temporarily feeling like you’re the only one who spends their Saturdays burritoing; aka rolled up in a blanket nibbling on a burrito. Yes, social media provides us with the tools, but it’s not the actual mastermind catalysing our inner turmoil when missing the invite to a party (or seeing someone eat a burrito while you’re, scandalously, burrotoing burrito-less). In other words: the world does not suddenly become a better place just because we gazed up from our screen. IRL is just as sh*tty as URL (if not sh*ttier). Our perfectly themed feeds with #livingmybestlife only proofs it.

So, you want to fail…

Now you might think, ‘Yeah, yeah, I know, Insta life is not real life. We’re all done and dusted, regardless of the filter we use on our latest selfies, but, [reading the title of this post again] why would I want to fail? Let alone, be happy about it?’. Well, first of all, you don’t. You don’t want to fail and I’m not saying that from now on you should sabotage yourself so you won’t receive an invite to any party ever again.

Second of all, obviously this need for a good feed goes beyond pictures of pretty people at perfect parties. Or boisterous burritos during blissful brunches. It’s about the fine line between failing and succeeding, and the way this line has been set-up in Western society as something you should fear. So instead of thinking about ways you could banish yourself from your own birthday bash (I mean, a party is a party), ask yourself this: why do I fear to fail? And – for bonus points – why is it so bad to be bad at something?

Why is it so bad to be bad at something? Sure, my existence is valued through the things I produce; but money isn’t everything, right? Right? By embracing our incompetences we can perhaps *finally* redefine what it means to be successful. - Doctor Martens, Dr Martens or simply Docs lying abandoned on the sand on the beach near the sea at Katwijk aan Zee in the Netherlands | The So and So

Recipe for success: be rich, have kids & stuff to show for it

As any psychologist, psychoanalyst or psycho-enthusiast will tell you, fear for failure is a result of needing to be appreciated. Being good at something gives us a reason to exist. Although this need for appreciation doesn’t automatically equate success with being the best, being better than the rest does provide us with extra appreciation points. And money. Which is important. Especially in the Western world where success has become synonymous to specific *coughs* heteronormative capitalistic *coughs* forms of accumulating and reproducing wealth; i.e. your existence is valued through your ability to produce and, most of all, reproduce.

From money to (white, because racism) kids and a house filled to the brim with belongings: your success gets measured through their presence. Even though this idea of success is unsustainable – hello, increased financial instability, rising divorce rates and housing shortage – the logic of ‘more, more, more’ still frames our perception of success. (Or ‘more from this, less from that’, because racism). And without a whiff of this success surrounding you, the value of your existence is called into question.

Failing to fail

So success drives existence. To fail, then, is to (temporarily) not exist. Even though most people fail at most things (and we’re still here), our social media feeds tend to skip this part. Instead we rather show each other a strict ‘success’ rate, because we tend to prefer to live unquestioned ‘successful’ lives. But times are changing. More people are sharing their before ‘burritoing burrito-less’ pictures, without the redeeming after ‘pretty people at perfect party’ pictures. Although it’s still a rarity, showing our less successful sides can turn the tables. Finally calling into question this idea of success. As Meghan Nesmith writes in an article for Man Repeller:

“Our culture pathologizes success. We pay people to photoshop our kids’ heads onto the bodies of athletes to get them into better colleges; we life-hack our way through meticulously-calligraphed bullet journals. I’m sure this has always been true, to some degree — no epics were written about “that 467th foot soldier who stepped on a scorpion and died on the way to Troy” — but social media has compounded our obsession for perfection. [So], what would life feel like if we changed our definition of success?”

Why is it so bad to be bad at something? Sure, my existence is valued through the things I produce; but money isn’t everything, right? Right? By embracing our incompetences we can perhaps *finally* redefine what it means to be successful. - Multiple pictures of a girl wearing a green checkered dress with a black sweater on top of it standing in the sea at Katwijk aan Zee in the Netherlands | The So and So

The radical act of being bad

Nesmith realised that being bad at something and doing it anyway (because you enjoy doing it), is a radical act. Especially in a society where “we’re told to turn our hobbies into side hustles”. And so, doing something that does not – in the *coughs* heteronormative capitalistic *coughs* sense – ‘add value’ to (y)our life suddenly becomes an anti-performance; performed not for the applause of others, but performed merely for yourself.

Which is nice, for once, to do something that makes you (and others) feel good; to do something that helps you get through the sh*tty everyday that does not add to the sh*t. As Nesmith gleefully writes: “Accepting your own mediocrity […] opens a window to something arguably better: the soft, warm bath of ease, the freedom to do a thing just because you really like it. Just because it feels good.” So instead of looking at successful people to see how we could recreate their ‘success’ in our everyday, why not focus more on this feel good energy. Perhaps then IRL and URL will be less sh*tty for us unsuccessful sods.

So smile when everything goes wrong!

We all define our own success. Or, as a post on Pinterest will say, “success is just a collection of well curated failures”. However, it’s easy to forget this when being bombarded with a continuous stream of happy-go-lucky selfies during your self-imposed hibernation, not looking or feeling your best. But instead of putting pressure on performing a one-trick pony created by a *coughs* heteronormative capitalistic *coughs* society – where success simply means ‘outdoing others’ – isn’t it better to explore and to fail? To do something (inevitably) ‘wrong’ and smile while doing it? Because when success is #livingyourbestlife, why should it only be reserved for pictures of pretty people at perfect parties? Because being good at something – or looking good, for that matter – does not automatically mean that you feel good too.



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