How Do We Know We're Doing It Right? by Pandora Sykes
+ Soufflé Souls
"How Do We Know We're Doing It Right?" is a collection of essays on modern life by Pandora Sykes. She covers loads of topics: authenticity, fast fashion, the internet and religion. The first essay is about *bing bing bing* you guessed correctly, wellness. Pandora speaks about the wellness industry and asks what the heck does wellness even mean? Is it health but for the wealthy? Can you be 'healthy' but not 'well'? She speaks about how diet culture has been rebranded as wellness - for example 'Weight Watchers' is no longer, but instead simply, 'WW' with the tagline 'Wellness that Works'. “We are savvier and more cynical than ever – with a meticulous eye for wrongdoing and injustice – but we are also incredibly naïve. We are desperate to believe that there is a universal cure for the incurable human condition.”
BUT ANYWAYS GUYS I am going to get straight to the bit that hit me right on the head because it’s just so true and sometimes can be oh so tough. Ok, I digress. Here’s the final paragraph of the essay:
In her 1961 essay ‘On Self-Respect’, Joan Didion writes that, ‘there is a common superstition that “self-respect” is a kind of charm against snakes, something that keeps those who have it locked in some unblighted Eden, out of strange beds, ambivalent conversations, and trouble in general. It does not at all. It has nothing to do with the face of things, but concerns instead a separate peace, a private reconciliation.’ It strikes me that what we should be seeking is not self-care, but self-respect. Dignity and faith in ourselves which is more than skin-deep. Something that does not offer a dream catcher – a false protection against ambivalence or trouble – but that seeks a sense of peace and private reconciliation.
Another bit I enjoyed was the term ‘pancake people’ (coined by Richard Foreman). Yeah doesn’t sound good does it? Richard Foreman defines it – ‘Spread wide and thin as we connect with that vast network of information accessed by the mere touch of a button.’ During lockdown this year, I found myself alone a lot of the time and I acquired quite an intense habit of needed some form of podcast on during all the ‘in-between’ moments. For a while, I was enjoying it so fully. I liked having access to different opinions and points of view. But after a while, I realised I was forgoing things I really needed, like calling a friend for a chat or finishing the book beside my bed. My brain was in this weird trance, and I’m not even sure I was even enjoying the experience anymore. I think a lot of us are like this with social media as well. PANCAKE PEOPLE. Trying so hard to get all the information we can, while simultaneously not actually ingesting any of it. So instead, I’m aiming for the term I have just coined – souffle souls – light and airy and bouncy. Let’s dip in and out of what can bring great joy to our lives, and leave the rest on the internet.