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Hello and welcome to a happy place where we explore the hidden depths in all of us, one chat at a time, I'm Fern Cotton and today we're dialing up writer and journalist Pandor SAIC's.
I think what can be really dangerous about wellness is that there's nothing wrong. And I can't stress that enough. There's nothing wrong with doing yoga. If it makes you feel good going in the chamber, the flotation device or forest bathing or gong bathing, all those things, nothing is wrong with those things. But when they're marketed as something that will make you a better person or make your life better, I think that's really a responsible. Pandora has a brilliant book with a title I think about every day.
It's called How Do We Know We Are Doing It? Right. The spoiler we don't. But it's a lot of fun exploring what that means for a good 40 minutes together. And I really hope that you get something from that, too. Lots of burning questions for me. Now, before we get to Pandora, a big thanks to the brilliant sponsors of this series of happy place and the makers of Very Fine and Nicas. It's Stripe and stare.
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So, Pandora, it's so lovely to talk to you, I think this has been a long time coming and I'm so excited that you're on the podcast.
So welcome. Thank you so much for having me. So your new book. Thank you. So I have it right here. Thank you so much for sending it. I massively enjoyed reading it. And as soon as I saw the covers, I yap.
Okay, there's going to be stuff in here that I definitely need to read. The title of the book is How Do We Know We're Doing It? Right.
And I think like most people out there, I often either say to myself or think, why am I getting it wrong?
And I mean life and why we are and we all feel like that. Why am I getting life wrong? First of all, I'm sure you felt the same, otherwise you wouldn't have written the book. And secondly, why do you think that is?
It came partly from personal experience, but actually more in the conversations I just saw happening generally and culturally. They weren't specifically being talked about in terms of people saying, oh, I'm doing this wrong or I'm not getting life right. It was more just a generalized anxiety about which is the best way to live a life and what is the best option to take. And the book kind of took its form from this idea that we if we're lucky enough, we have a lot of choices now.
But instead of seeing them as options, we've begun to see them as obligations. So we're trying to do everything at once, where full time working and for many of us, full time mothering. And we're seeing a gazillion people a week and then keeping up with everyone on social media and our circles have grown so much wider. So the amount of people you're trying to keep up with is way more than it ever was and in the past. And actually, I think that's what's been so strange and so interesting about this year is the kind of shrinking of your life which has had so many negative benefits, obviously.
But for a lot of people, it's also made them do an evaluation of how they want to live their lives and who they want to be in them. Yeah, so true. I think that sort of collection of people like you say that's grown does cause a subconscious anxiety that I forgot one of my really good mates birthdays last week and I was so mortified. But I just don't feel like I can keep up with everything because we've also got this sort of multifaceted life now where we've got all these means of connecting with people on social media or just text WhatsApp calling people if you can be bothered, maybe meeting them if you're allowed at the moment.
And it does feel overwhelming.
Do you think most of us are just overwhelm all of the time?
I think the birthday things are interesting because I only remember the exact day of birthdays when I was on Facebook and now I'm not anymore. I don't get reminders. I'm sure I could figure out a way for my phone to do that. But as we have previously discussed, that's beyond me and my technical capabilities. I think many people are really overwhelmed. Certainly that's something I've really struggled with since having my children is how to fit them into kind of the bigger picture of my life without feeling overwhelmed.
But, yes, I think that I think that people are particularly overwhelmed right now, obviously, for pandemic specific reasons. It's really rare for you to be engaging in just one thing. You know, you're listening to a podcast while you're driving or you're checking your email while you're watching TV. There's always more than one thing going on. Yeah, women do it more than men like scientifically. They do it more than men. And we're also better at it.
But just because we're more proficient at something doesn't mean it has a positive effect on us. And I think that kind of overwhelm comes very often from not having a clarity of feeling, you know, there's never a singularity in your task. So something I have tried to do in the last couple of years is do one thing at a time and kind of immerse myself more fully in it. And as a result, I am much less present on my phone because there's just only so many hours in the day if you want to get through them in a way where you don't feel like you're going to explode.
Well, this is it.
I think, you know, I hate to point fingers, but I think phones probably are one of the biggest problems in our lives because we can even do several things at one time just on our devices.
You know, if we want to be listening to something, emailing also, then quickly flitting over to to have a quick peek at what our mates are doing. It's just a bombardment of information constantly. And I also, you know, we've got a choice around all of this, of course, but it is difficult to at times.
And I do wonder if also that is stopping us from trying to do new things or experimenting in a way that perhaps people would have been, you know, more freely willing to do because we're so worried about judgement. And I don't know if judgments got worse or we just are more aware of it because it's visible rather than just people's thoughts in their heads. Individually, we're now seeing thoughts as text. On our phone, seeing people's judgments, people's opinions of things, do you think that's sort of capping our ability to to try new things and experiment in life?
I think the idea of choice is much more loaded now because, of course, we do have choices around all those things. But you have to look at the context within which those choices are made. And when you are receiving a kind of overwhelming barrage of information that this might be the best way to live a life. And we're also subject to kind of more lifestyle trends than we ever have been before. It's why I was so interested to look at the wellness trend, which has kind of metamorphosed into metamorphosed.
Not sure how to say that word is something that women are often using, actually, to make themselves feel bad about themselves. It's a way for them to think, oh, if I do this, I might be a bit better. I think, as you say, about the judgment. Yes, I think we're just more aware of it now because everything's physical. I don't think it's that everyone's become horrible people. And we used to be lovely people.
It's just that a lot of it used to be behind one another's backs. And now you have the ability to connect with anyone without any prior kind of consensus. So you don't have to say, Simon, could we have communication? You can just connect with anyone. So all those boundaries are kind of Nele. And I also think is why we need to look at the medium through that's refracted like, you know, Twitter. Twitter is a business.
It's an algorithm that rewards anger and a lot of social media rewards. It doesn't reward ambiguity. And that's something that I'm really seeking at the moment, is ambiguity, because things certainly do feel like they've become really binary. And that was why I chose that slightly risky tie. So it makes it sound like a self-help book. And it's not there are no answers, just a lot of questions. Is this kind of binary idea of am I doing life right or wrong?
Of course you're doing it neither. You're just doing it one way. Yeah.
And of course, like historically, people have not thought like this. This is such a new concept that we could be living life in a good way or a bad way. You know, if you look back as near as 100 years ago, people were just surviving. People just wanted to not die of, you know, a common illness or or die of starvation in many parts of the world. And in the UK, you know, looking at Victorian times, they weren't looking to live their best life.
So it is such a strange concept that we've now not only, you know, we understand that notion, we now put pressure on ourselves because of it. And that is, I think, mainly exhausting.
I think it is. And it isn't new. It's this idea of what is a good life is actually eternal. Ancient philosophers were looking at, you know, what is what is a good life. And funnily enough, busyness isn't new either. In Victorian literature, there was a lot of that. And every time there's a new advent in communication, whether that's the telegraph, the telephone, the television, people freak out because it's another thing to navigate.
What I do thinks new is this constant anxiety over and a very widespread anxiety and not and not just because obviously this is a privileged conversation to have, because if you're worrying about the life you're leading and you're not worrying about paying your bills or having a roof over your head, if you're able to then kind of worry one step further. But I would say that it's much more people are doing it than ever have been doing it before. Yeah, I think that's absolutely true, isn't it?
Because before it probably would be, you know, the upper classes or the upper middle classes that would sort of have these concerns. Whereas these days it feels like, you know, en mass, everybody's looking to have the best experience, the best life.
And all we know in terms of that then stunting our own growth, because, you know, from personal experience, what I've been through particularly tough times or have been had setbacks or big challenges, we all know this is fundamentally where we grow.
It's where we learn. It's where we have a deeper understanding of ourselves, of of life, of those around us to, you know, cultivate empathy, compassion for others, et cetera, by only looking for the best. Are we not stunting our growth in some way?
Definitely, because also it places an emphasis on the end product. The goal and we know that, you know, there's that ridiculous term that we sort of laugh about, about goals, but there is quite an insidious and damaging message to those because it values the last part of the journey. It doesn't value the process at all. And it's the process where you learn the most, where you get the most enjoyment or is or is where you do the hardest bits.
But the actual final goal is not necessarily a particularly rewarding moment. And that's what that's led to, something called a rival fallacy, which is a. Psychological talk about how you're like, oh, if I just get to this point, then, like we all know that, you know, if I can buy that dress, I'll look like.
The person I've always wanted to look like or if I can get that job, I will be the professional I've always wanted to. If I go on a holiday, you know, it goes on and on, but then you get to that and you think, oh, because you're expecting kind of violins and cymbals and rainbows and a pot of gold. And that's just not the way life works. And also, it's it's never been how it's meant to work.
There's a Czech philosopher that I'm very fond of with the world's most complicated surname. He's called it's spelt extraordinary is called Cheek Sent Mehi, but it is not spelt like that. And he I don't love everything he says because he's a big proponent of positive psychology, which dictates that, you know, you can be kind of happy if you turn inwards.
Whereas actually I think there are political and social structures that mean that not just anyone can find happiness within themselves, but something he did say, which I think a lot about, is that the world I'm paraphrasing here, but the world was not constructed with human comfort in mind. And I think because life has become very friction free for a lot of us. Now, if you think how easy it is to get our groceries on you clothes, you don't need to go to the cinema anymore.
You can stream it. You can talk to multiple friends online at the same time. You can book a flight and viena an hour later, you know, all these things which mean that those pockets of friction or setbacks in life just have become smaller and smaller. And what that does is it means that when something comes along an obstacle where we find it harder to deal with, we, we don't see that as part of our path or our journey.
We see that as something unwelcome that's going to throw us completely off. And I include myself in that. Like, you know, I I think the way the world is geared now means that for control freaks, you can feel like you've got everything just so. And then, you know, a pandemic happens, worst case scenario or other things happen and you feel like I don't have a clue what's going on. I don't know what I'm doing. Yeah, I know that resonates so much because I am a massive control freak and, you know, even down to sort of having my house tied before I can even begin to work or do something.
Otherwise, I just feel like I'm free falling.
And, you know, that can be quite so destructive and also time consuming and boring. And I think going back to your earlier point about looking at this end goal, and I'm thinking that that's going to for me, it means I think I'm going to reach this place of peace, which never quite arrived. So I even if I this week, because I've had this really manic weekend, I worked all weekend and I kept thinking, right. You know, as long as I can get to Thursday this week, and then then I'll be I'll feel great.
I'll feel happy, I'll rest. I know what the hell is going to happen on Thursday. Well, I do actually. There's going to be a second lockdown.
But but outside of that, I don't know what's going to, you know, mentally and cognitively be, you know, what was happening in my head. I have no clue. But, you know, we all still have these goals and these assumptions that we're then going to feel okay. And I and I worry about this a lot, you know, what am I running from there?
What what am I trying to distract myself from? I'm not wanting to be in the.
Now, what do you think that is? I think what we do now is that we expect to feel things. I think it comes back to this binary world we live and we expect to feel things completely and wholly. So happiness to us now is kind of perfection, seamless perfection. And actually it's a contrast of state. It doesn't exist without sadness and stress and all those other things. And it should be something that we experience at the peak of joy rather than all the time.
So something I think I mean, God, what do I know? But something I think that would be useful is if we try and focus on having those pockets of happiness or those pockets of contentment. And largely I think that's what we should be striving more for, is not happiness or joy. There's a debate over, you know, which is which and what means what is is a sense of contentment, as a Buddhist saying attracts here, which just means kind of without.
Massive struggle. So just this kind of like level, and that's what I most strive for, actually, is just feeling, as you say, not even feeling necessarily superspy like peaceful, but just a sense of peace in who you are that you're doing what you're doing is good enough and that the life you've created is good enough. And that is definitely a key message of the book is the good enough, because I think that tempers this idea of the best quite well.
No, it absolutely does. And I think it boils down to acceptance, you know, whether you're going through something brilliant or not. So there is a level of acceptance and also, I think, normalizing emotions because we have categorized emotions to sort of think there are good emotions in, there are bad emotions, whereas, you know, we're not going to be able to avoid any of them. We're all at some point going to feel all of them.
And I think normalizing them is is so important and also seeing value in them.
You know, I now at the point I am in life and, you know, the experience, the life experience that I've had, although there are parts of my life I would like to have not have to have lived through, I can see so much value in them.
And I wouldn't be doing this bloody podcast. I wouldn't be writing the books I'm doing unless I felt those feelings and experience those things. And I'm still trying to work them out and still trying to find ways to not have panic attacks, etc.. So I think it's and I don't know, again, if that's worsened because of how we communicate with each other. And again, I don't want to point fingers, but, you know, social media is a sort of arena where you don't really see much varied contrast with emotionally what's going on.
It tends to be the extreme joy, happiness, even if it's just on the surface level. So, yeah, I guess it's just about that normalization of, you know, you're going to feel sad, you're going to feel angry.
And it's totally right.
I feel quite torn on this because I agree that social media does only show the best bits. But I also like I'm not one that when I'm at my lowest ebb, I would want to share that publicly, not because I'm ashamed, just because I don't think it would be good for me. I don't think that sharing is always an act of catharsis can be for some people, but not for everyone. So I would always prefer to keep those things private.
I think for the most part, and I know a lot of people do feel like that way. And I also think as well, with the social media showing good stuff, is we've always used those mediums of expression is kind of a highlight reel. You know, when you make up your photograph albums, your family photograph albums, you don't put in. This was Grandma the day she wanted to kill Grandpa. You put and this is grandma and Grandpa on their eighth wedding anniversary or whatever.
It is a natural inclination to present the best bits of ourselves. And I do sometimes worry about the pressure on women to be externalising all that good stuff on all the bad stuff, because I think it can have ramifications as well. On the other hand, I think that something that we are really struggling with in general is that we now externalize so many things. And I think that is brilliant in so many ways. You know, the way our generation is able to talk about how we're feeling and have conversations about stuff that my parents would just never talk.
Yeah. On the other hand, it does mean that we are concerned, externalising how we're feeling and labelling those feelings. And sometimes I think it stops us from moving through them so easily. And I do not want to be an advocate for bottling things up. I really don't. But I do think there's interesting conversations to be had. I don't think it's like a net good to talk and a net bad to not talk. I think it's more complicated than that.
There's two things I'd like to pick up on that. The first being perhaps, you know, because I don't want to vilify social media because I really enjoy it all the time.
And I think it's a great way of connecting to other people. So there, of course, will always be a responsibility if you're of influence to to post in a way that you know is right for you and that you feel is going to be hopefully helpful to other people if that's your job.
But probably the responsibility lies more for all of us in how we choose to process and digest what we see.
So rather than taking it all as complete reality and and we are all guilty of this and thinking that we should therefore compare ourselves to those images.
That's the I guess what we need to take responsibility. And and then secondly, you just said something so brilliant now, which I know you talk about in the book as well, which is this sort of visibility.
And the if we're not sharing what we're eating, wearing, experiencing and that isn't visible to other people, then then it lacks in value. And I wonder if that is reversible, Camilla.
We start to see more meaning in just the experience rather than the sharing of it. I think what's really scary is that there is now an opinion with some people that if you can't see evidence of someone having done something, then they're not doing something or they're not doing meaningful work. And that was something particular interesting, I think, that emerged from the time of the protests were Black Lives Matter is there was a lot of stuff happening online that was being posted and charity links and petitions and books and things.
But then it also put an emphasis just on what was happening online and obviously the most important action. Most of the time, I think the most important action happens offline. And there was that tension between, well, if you need to go, if you want to go off and you should be going off and doing the offline stuff, you don't also have time to be on the online stuff as well. And I think we need to allow people to choose to pick their poison.
Sometimes not everyone's going to be naturally inclined to be sharing everything about their lives online or the meaningful acts they're making towards society. And that's definitely something that I've experienced myself and also just witnessed from scrolling through social media or seeing discussions we've had. So on a personal level, something that is kind of I set myself, which I find quite interesting, is I thought, OK, well, if I'm not going to post the worst bits online, I'm going to try and resist posting the best bits as well.
So now often when I have something, I'm like, oh, you know, I don't know, I love this picture or that was a really special moment. I think, OK, I'm not going to get it online. And it's quite an interesting exercise sitting with it and not sharing it. And what I've realized I just do instead is I just text a few friends instead and tell them about it, which is I think probably for me, more meaningful, though as such, I have there's such beauty in something being, you know, absolutely.
Just for you, you know, and I say that being someone that is a big sharer. I really like to talk about stuff. And some parts I still find deeply uncomfortable, but I do on the whole, enjoy sharing. But then when there is something when it felt either really special or actually is something that I'm personally just still working through, which there are big things, I think it feels really sacred to have things that are just for you.
And I guess it's about getting that balance. There's a phrase that you write about in the book, and it's something that I probably only learned about a year ago from watching the Google up, and that is optimization of s.
But when I first heard that, I was like, what the fuck is that? I don't know what that means.
It sort of transpires I don't like that phrase very much because I don't know what you believe the meaning to be. The take over I have on that phrase is that it's all about you getting the best experience out of life, you know, getting what you cut out of the biggest and the best experiences, which, again, I think feels perhaps a little two dimensional.
I don't know what you think about that.
I think it's completely exhausting. And I think it's really dangerous when it's self optimization, which is all about making your body better almost beyond is kind of biological capabilities, which is why you see a lot of these kind of Silicon Valley signs like Jack Dorsey, who's co-founder of Twitter, or Peter Thiel, who invented PayPal. You know, Jack Dorsey does all sorts of weird, kind of he basically believes in stoicism. So he'll do like one man a day or he'll do this fast.
You know, he's got his cryo chambers. He hangs upside down in the morning. I mean, there's so many things that he does. And then Peter Thiel wants to live till he's 120 and is working on a lot of these Silicon Valley guys. They want to live forever. And I think that whilst not everyone who is kind of you know, I'm not saying everyone who works at Google believes that the self betterment is all about kind of. Becoming stronger and more efficient.
And there's also a really big aesthetic element to that as well, which I think we need to be kind of aware or we think, oh, we don't have the beauty ideals we used. Heroin chic isn't cool anymore. We've finally become more diverse in terms of the kind of imagery you see in the fashion industry, for example. But that comes then with its own its own issues, you know, with something like the Kardashians, which in one way is this very different beauty idea, become the they have a much more kind of ambiguous beauty to them.
But then there's also a lot of plastic surgery involved. It's no easier a beauty aesthetic to achieve than it is when it was like the Sweet Valley High ideal of being white, skinny with blonde hair. And all of that is kind of, I think, connected to wellness.
I totally know what you're saying because happy place often gets lumped into the the wellness thing because people go, what is there? Oh, let's just say it's wellness and, you know, maybe parts of it are. But I don't 100 percent are lying to what the modern day notion of wellness supposedly means, which, as you say, is really vague and nebulous and could mean buying a pair of yoga leggings, or it could mean, you know, drinking a mushroom drink that makes you, you know, spin off your head or whatever.
It's just it doesn't seem to be one thing.
And I think all I'm trying to do with certainly the podcast and this sort of ongoing conversation that will unfurl in hopefully lots of different ways with the album and different things we've done. It's just to me like wellness means just feeling OK. And that isn't something that you can always buy, like it might help in terms of if you need therapy, etc. But it's it's more than that to me.
It's just about feeling OK.
I think what can be really dangerous about wellness is that there's nothing wrong. And I can't stress that enough. There's nothing wrong with doing yoga. If it makes you feel good or examine that reality, if it makes you feel good or going in the chamber, the flotation device or forest bathing or gong bathing or all those things, nothing is wrong with those things. But when they're marketed, a lot of it is how it's marketed, and that's marketed as something that will make you a better person or make your life better.
I think that's really irresponsible. And there is a lot of quackery around the wellness industry. You know, one of the examples I gave is my best friend is a dietician, which requires a four year degree. But dietitians are often confused with nutritionists, which requires a two week certificate. And it's just stuff like that that makes me really, really nervous because there's just so much nutrition as James Wong, you know, all of this raw diarrhea, eating alkaline water, all of these so many of those kind of food trends actually can be debunked.
And the other thing about wellness as well, I think we need to remember, and a writer called Amanda Moore puts it really well, is it is the wealthiest among us that have access to wellness because it is more often than not, unless we're talking very basic self care. And there are some great people like Nadia and Katie and Lorraine Phillips do their self care advice. I love because it's about like sitting in the bar for five minutes or lighting a candle in the morning.
Small things that some people might sneer at, but that can be really transformative. But most of it is really expensive and all that means is it's just yet another privileged activity. And wellness was actually created in the sixties by this man. How that done to be something that had political and social tentacles to it. It wasn't just about the individual self. It was about keeping society well. And we've become, I think, completely detached from that, because obviously we live in a very neoliberal society where it's just all about the self now.
And that was never how it was designed.
No. And you can see that because I think especially during this pandemic, for me, wellness or just feeling okay is fundamentally about connection to other people. That's how I certainly got myself out of a hole, you know, years ago now is talking to other people and feel like I was an isolated and alone. I think the pandemic, again, has really hit home that connection community, knowing what you know, if your neighbours are okay, like, you know, shamefully, the pandemic has been the first time we've really worried about our elderly neighbor.
And we'd been out shopping from a couple of times before that. It had crossed our minds. And I think that is wellness that, you know, and knowing that you're part of something like is I don't think there's anything more grounding and nourishing than feeling like you're part of a gang or a collective.
And that goes for even when you're a teenager and you align with a certain band or or genre of music and you feel part of something that is wellness.
So I think the problem with it is perhaps, you know, since. It was sort of devised and people started having the conversation around that word wellness, we've we've gone from thinking it's something that where we can all feel collectively great. Now, how can I feel OK on my own? How am I going to feel the best? And again, you know, you just said something a moment ago about the word clean.
And there's all these words are like clean and pure. So you've got to have, like, clean food, clean or clean thoughts.
And it's like we're humans.
We're all a bit clean and a bit dirty, mostly dirty, dirty, so dirty. I like what you were talking about there about because that's community, isn't it? And we definitely all need to feel a bit more rooted in community, I think.
Yeah, but then that is that online I feel like has become something of its Garrick's has made us tribal.
And then something you were saying earlier about like where do you do your learning is human beings are really inconsistent. We're always in a state of flux and where a group of selves, not just one's self, but on social media, we kind of expect this seamlessness otherwise we think, oh, that person's not being true to themselves. That's their own brand. That's not authentic. So it does take away the ability to experiment, I think, a bit, because you've got not only doing this own sort of self surveillance, which is where we now kind of try and see ourselves through everyone else's eyes before we do something.
But we're also then receiving feedback the whole time. And obviously that depends on what kind of person you are and what kind of job you do.
But I think a lot of people now worry about what people will say online before they try something new or do something that they're not so known for or even just have this, like, big shift in their emotional education and start behaving a little bit differently, start talking a little bit differently. And I think that's really scary is that it might stop us from being actually our full selves. Oh, no, absolutely.
I think that is completely the case. And and and has there ever been a time where people are more keen to show and you talk about this in the book, their authenticity? You know, everybody wants to be authentic, talk authentic, talk authentically and and demonstrate their world in the most authentic way. And and then it becomes about trying to be authentic, attempting to be authentic.
Then words that, you know, compared with authenticity, but surely authenticity. It just is it's you. And like you say, that's not that's never going to be one thing that's that's going to be fluidity there, that you're going to change and morph and mould. And and that's where the problems arise in the modern world, is that there's so little acceptance of that. People want you to be one thing only. And, you know, I've I've experienced that in my career.
Well, what are you doing all this stuff now? You used to just be on the telly and the radio's changed my mind, quite frankly. Just change your mind. Yes. Yes. No, me too. I was a fashion editor for, I think, three or four years that that was it in the last decade. But I will always I think when I do something, you get to go back to writing about shoes.
People I think, you know, we're all guilty of it as well. But we all kind of see somebody is as one thing. And when there's that fluidity or all that change, we sort of struggle, oh, I can't put you in that box anymore. It doesn't make sense. And that's that's the strange thing. Also something that you that you talk about in the book is fashion. And I like you've just talked about, you know, where your that was your background.
That's where you came from.
And I I'd sort of forgotten how crazy fashion got until I read that chapter of your book that it's become so fast, so ever changing. Nobody can keep up with it. And if you look back to your childhood, I'm older than you, but you look back to my childhood.
I think like like really, really wasn't like that.
You know, there were there weren't new clothes in the shops, even month to month. And it's it's gotten out of control.
And we all know, environmentally speaking, that's a huge problem. Do you think enough is being done to combat that?
We've been talking a lot, although not necessarily taking action, have we? You know, the government rejected the the last idea, which was, I think, adding one penny to everything sold to go to the kind of sustainable disposal of it. But we have been talking about the environmental impact for for a little while. And obviously, Stacey, Dooley's documentary kind of opens a lot of people's eyes. So I was less keen to write about that because I just thought, as I can't add anything more valuable, I think that conversation that so many people are already making really meaningful comments on and moves to better.
What I want to look at is the kind of psychology that had brought us to that. Yeah. To that point where we felt like we needed something new in order to feel new and where we now live in a time where there's not even just trends, there's micro trends and a time when people are buying clothing, taking pictures of it and sending it back.
And I found that a lot of it stemmed that was kind of a confluence of things that happened, is it was obviously the Internet and then it was social shopping where you were seeing what someone was wearing on social media and shopping. And I know now every time I look into Instagram, I want to buy something.
So it's a pretty it's a pretty clear link that and also there being now so much choice, which I think makes people feel like they have to be shopping. It's now so easy to do that. It becomes just this lunchtime hobby. You do it unconsciously. You can check out in under a minutes flat. You have to go hunting for something. It's just all there online. And something I found particularly interesting was this, this kind of emergence of online only faster than fast fashion, which can be turned around, really turned around really quickly.
They don't have any stores that just retail websites. They are aimed at young women and they normally come with different payment options like Kloner. So you don't have to pay straight away, which again, I think creates this whole idea of this life is just yours. If you can just grab it, who cares if you don't have enough money? Who cares if you don't have a party to go to buy that, you know, ridiculously formal dress? Because that's another slightly odd thing is all these clothes are so like they're going out clothes and people are not going out in the most of the time.
Not that. And of the stores that really struggled have struggled this year during the pandemic. The only ones that have not seen a drop in sales are these retail websites, because it's not really making any difference to why those girls bought them. They bought them. They took a picture, they put it on Instagram and they sent it back. It wasn't necessarily even for the real world, it was full kind of just this again. I think that can be tracked quite a lot back to the Kardashians and reality television.
And that's not specifically to blame any one person, but reality. Yeah, reality TV, like the Internet and social shopping, was a huge part of the way we shop.
And also this notion that we can get that right or wrong, you know, that's really strange.
I'm sure it's always been present in in terms of sort of fashions historically. You know, we've we can see looking through different historic eras, there's been a real silhouette and the most have sort of followed that. But it does feel like, again, that can get. Quite nasty now, and maybe that's because we are reading comments rather than them just being thoughts in people's heads, but the fact that you could possibly get fashion wrong or right is bizarre because surely that is simply about self-expression.
Do you remember when and they don't do it now. It's like we're much more kind of aware of stuff like that. So that doesn't mean it doesn't happen other places online. But you remember when Heat used to have what was their version of, like, hot or not. So they would like surface someone's can full of shame.
I remember I think I've been on that many a time in and around the Oscars as well.
Every single website would have you know, these are the worst. These are the worst at best dressed worst dress that was you don't read many worse. Jessner and. I think it's something I found very interesting when I was the facial features editor, Sun Times, I had a column called Wardrobe Mistress where people would write in to me and ask me to solve their fashion dilemmas. And what I found so interesting and actually valuable about that time is either people writing to me from the age of 15 to 75 and the specifics and the budgets would change.
You know, they'd be looking for something for their son's wedding and they didn't want to look frumpy or they'd be going to their high school graduation. High school graduation. Listen to me. What is the NBA OK? I mean, none of this existed when I was at school, so I barely went to school, Pandor Secondary School leaving day, whatever it was the book. And they'd say, you know, I want to look like, cool, I don't have any boobs and all that stuff.
But what came through most of the time, all of the time was that it wasn't really about what they were wearing. It was about feeling like they got it right. And there was such a fear and getting it wrong. And people, friends and family would ask me all the time, like, is this okay?
Like, have I got this right? And I, I, I've never which is one of the reasons actually why I was found a little bit tricky work in fashion is I've never believed in roles. I've never been snobby about fashion. I truly do not care what people wear if they feel great in it. Where I'm interested in what people wear is when they don't feel like themselves and they don't feel comfortable. And that's what I found fascinating about it.
And I also think clothes are brilliant way of self-expression. My relationship with them has changed a lot since ten years ago. I shop a lot less and I try and buy a lot more second hand, but I absolutely don't see any shame in shopping. I think it can be really fun. It's more just that I think we're doing it at a terrifying rate culture. That is terrific.
I let's talk about happiness for a moment. Obviously, this podcast is called Happy Place, which I know is quite low self, which I don't mind at all because it is something that everybody will have a different take on. Often we think of it like we've already discussed is this sort of final destination, which we all know doesn't exist, but it's that kind of just has this undercurrent through life.
And you put an interesting stat that I had never read before in there.
And it's from a psychologist called Daniel Levitin, and he says, happiness declines in your 30s, creeps back up in your fifties and peaks are 82. I'd never seen this sort of research before.
And I and I must make total sense when you look at experiencing and also how we're imbibing in in life and also, I guess at the point early thirties.
Right. Am I right? Yes. That's a three year. Thirty three. I'm forty next year. So in our thirties we have such high expectations because there's so much going on.
It might be perhaps when you start a family, it might be perhaps when you really get your teeth into a career that you've always lusted after.
It might be perhaps when you have your first home and the expectations, I don't know, but from my point of view, seem to be getting higher for people.
Would you say that's accurate? I think the expectations for everything to be of order at the same time is higher. Rather than say, okay, well, that thing's great at the moment, that things are not great. I'm actually a bit suspicious of Daniel Levy since theory. So it's the theory of U. Shaped happiness, which is that you're happiest at the beginning and near the end of your lives. I can definitely see why your happiest at the beginning.
My two year old is I mean, what does she have to worry about? You know, she's living her best life. But I think where that theory again, I think this theory doesn't really hold up when you think about ambiguity, because basically what that theory says is that your thirties and forties are most stressful because that's the time when most people, obviously not all, but most people have the highest mortgage. They have young children. They are busy at their job.
You know, they in the best years of their job, they have elderly parents. So just the amount on them stress wise is really, really high. But I don't think that necessarily being the most stressed means that you are the least happy. I think that I think we need to stop seeing those things as separate things. I think you can feel I mean, stress is also that has been so overextended. It means a lot of different things, different people.
But just because it's a time when you have the most obligations, I don't think necessarily has to mean it's the time when you're least happy. So I'm not I'm not convinced by that theory, especially because I think definitely I wonder what he'd have to say about now, because I think in the pandemic, people who are older in the vulnerable category definition living that time. Yeah, my parents are definitely not like wus the decade of our lives.
I mean, maybe he's. Alluding more towards contentment as kind of just used the word happiness, because it's something that people, I guess, treasure slightly more, but maybe there's a correlation between that contentment in your younger life and older life, because we've kind of we've been through it all.
We've done it.
We care less, I think totally. I think that's absolutely part of it. And also security and responsibility as you are less. But obviously, you're not responsible for anything when you're tiny and you tend to have fewer responsibilities when you're in, say, your 80s and you have kind of a physical security. Most people hopefully, and also a mental peace of mind, as you say, you know, those those years are done where you're striving for jobs or worrying about education or all of those years ahead of you.
But maybe I just personally disagree with that because I don't really want to think that this period of my life is just going to be worrying about the future. I want to I think I'd like to think that we can have those pockets, those those happy places along the journey. Like, I think if I have my happy place as well, this is my happy place. It's like a particular time on a Sunday, a particular place I am with my family rather than a happy place being like static.
So, oh, I'll get my happy place when I'm 80.
All right. Doesn't exist. You know, I don't think that is never a fixed thing, is it? You know, it comes and goes. It's it's moments of unexpected joy of just looking out the window for it could be two seconds of happiness. I think that's where we get it wrong as we think that it is even we are someone.
Are you happy now? You could say yes.
And then ten seconds later, if you like, share or you know, I think most of the stories we read about depression or whatever, you know, when people have thoughts about me, the headlines always end up being I was really depressed and now I'm happy. And it's like, well, I might have been happy for five minutes yesterday, but I feel not great today.
So I think it's just how we frame happiness and we look at it in such a weird fixed way. It's it's so bizarre. But, um, but again, maybe maybe we've old Daniel Levitin comment, 82 is a place where we are worrying less about if we have got it right or not.
I think it's quite interesting about the fact that 25 percent of babies born now are going to live to 100. So maybe eighty two. They'll still feel in fine fettle, like, yeah, they've got ages and ages to go. So maybe they'll still be worrying about whether or not they're doing it right. Maybe he'll have to change his theory to 101. You will worry for us all in the future. Has always been so lovely to used up. And so looking forward, Sereana is such a wonderful book to, you know, to pick through these different subjects and to just take a real acute look at modern day life.
I find it really interesting. Read. So thank you so much and take care.
Thank you so much for our Pandora is always a stimulating, rewarding conversation. Thank you so much. If you're thirsty for more, Pandora does a great podcast called The Hielo, which I know a lot of you love with Dolly Alderton, who's been on this free podcast. So you could also go back and listen to that in our archives if you fancy it. But the Hielo, go check it out. Have an awesome pair. The link is in the show notes.
Now, we've got a couple more episodes in this series before we take a short break. They are two phenomenal guests. You're going to love them. I'm saying no more, but you can get them first when you subscribe. You can do that on Spotify, Apple podcast or any number of free podcast apps. Thanks again to Pandora, to our sponsors stripe, instead to my producer, my rethink audio.
And yes, of course, always you love lol.
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