Welcome to the new you: Self-improvement and subjectivity

Well, here we are, nearly at the end of January. The fun (and not so fun) holiday memories are a couple of weeks away, and the reality of another long, cold winter has set in – especially at -30 degrees. Have you made and already broken your New Year’s Resolutions? I sure have. Don’t worry, you’re not alone!

While writing about New Year’s resolutions is almost as pointless as trying to keep them, there’s a lot to think about in the way we try to become “better” people. After all, you can try to improve your fitness, finances, homemaking skills, tidiness, or education any day of the year. And there’s lots to think about when it comes to how our we create, curate, and develop ourselves, our very subjectivities – conscious and unconscious – in the online self-improvement industry.

For everything you think you can improve about yourself, there’s someone – usually a whole Instagram hashtag full of someones – with something you can buy, or at least buy into, to get there. So join me over the next few months while we explore how everyone from online personal trainers, financial planning apps, meal prep services, and Marie Kondo-wannabees wants to fix you and life, while shaping who you think you are – and pay handsomely them for the privilege.

A woman with poofy hair leads an exercise class for poodles.

I have no idea what this is but it’s the kind of workout program I can get behind

According to Christopher Bollas in “Meaning and Melancholia; Life in the Age of Bewilderment”:
             Contemporary selves live several steps removed from engagements in the real, retreating from the anxiety of the unmediated to seek sanctuary in technology that promises a reliable, comfortable, anodyne environment.

Bearing this in mind, what does this mean to “improve” a self – yourself – in this safe, artificial environment? What kind of self-growth can we experience in a world we’ve carefully created to protect ourselves from thought and from thinking about how we have constructed ourselves? How do we seek out others to help us – or to prevent us from having to really continue to know and change that self?

Next time: Rachel Katz explores the strangeness and seductions of the Instagram fitness world and what that might mean for who we think we are.

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