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Improving Ourselves To Death

Alexandra Schwartz, Improving Ourselves to Death, The New Yorker, January 15, 2018

Perfectly Average

All told, this is a bleak picture. If the ideal of the optimized self isn’t simply a fad, or even a preference, but an economic necessity, how can any of us choose to live otherwise? Storr insists that there is a way. “This isn’t a message of hopelessness,” he writes. “On the contrary, what it actually leads us towards is a better way of finding happiness. Once you realize that it’s all just an act of coercion, that it’s your culture trying to turn you into someone you can’t really be, you can begin to free yourself from your demands.”

This sounds suspiciously like self-help-speak, Storr acknowledges. He is quick to say that he isn’t encouraging anything quite as clichéd as self-acceptance.

 

 

 

Through the WI Lens

A whole industry is booming around the theme of self-improvement, but we posit, like the author of this article, that we’ll just get fed up with celebrities, apps and other devices telling us how we can learn to be more efficient, more focused, more effective in the pursuit of happiness and productivity. The constant desire to improve is stressful and can become a source of anxiety (it’s no coincidence that the epidemics of anxiety is the highest in the countries most obsessed with ‘personal optimization’: the US and the UK). At one stage, the self-improvement business and the billions of dollars of revenues it generates will flounder. Simplicity will prevail again: we’ll stop counting and analyzing the data to enjoy life as it is. From a business perspective, this doesn’t mean that the companies helping us to live a better life (clinics, high-end wellness resorts, etc.) will disappear, far from it. What it means is this: average will be just fine. This may be the underlying trend propelling affordable luxury to new heights.

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