When he quit smoking, Gaëtan gained 30 kilos. A slap for this former amateur athlete of volleyball and martial arts.
“Injured in the back and several times operated, I could no longer do the sports I had always practicedhe recalls today. Getting fat was terrible for me. I felt like I had become out of the ordinary.”
A feeling he has felt for a long time, he who describes himself as a big guy of 1m93 for 100 kilos. “In fact, my size is not in the norm“, he breathes.
“It is by looking at social networks that I feel an embarrassment especiallyconfides today this lawyer from Nice. Seeing people there with perfect lives, always well dressed, fit, toned, makes me anxious.”
He pursues : “I went to eat in a fast food last week… Well, for the first time, I felt very bad, I felt a lot of guilt even though I only go there once every two months.”
Difficulty accepting flaws
Nothing surprising in all this, notes the Nice psychoanalyst Christine Ganneval. “We are in a society of image, of perfection, of performance enhanced by the mirror of social networks.”
The latter are also regularly singled out by scientific studies. In 2016, a study carried out in Denmark revealed the harmful effects of Facebook on the well-being of its users. The more they stayed away from the social network, the more their feeling of satisfaction and their positive emotions increased.
In her office, Christine Ganneval sees patients in difficulty pass by: “They are in control. It can be anyone, like this mother who arrives at school every morning with her child and who is always smiling while she is going through a divorce.
Or a patient who is a little physiologically round and fights against himself to give another image of himself on social networks.”
The psychoanalyst describes patients under pressure “who find it difficult to say that they are unhappy“.
“Some create a character for themselves and then one day, the tension of too much arrives and it cracks.”
Well-being race decried
Faced with the rise of these books on personal development, of these coaches of all kinds who populate youtube and chant the perfect rhythm of life, voices are raised.
In its latest issue, the journal Society headlined: “The great illusion, how personal development has ruined their lives” warning of the dangers of self-fulfillment at all costs and the spiral in which its aficionados found themselves.
Last April, Thierry Jobard, bookseller in Strasbourg parachuted into the personal development department, published a book with the eloquent title: “Against personal development“, denouncing the lack of nuances of works advocating well-being at all costs.
“It’s an exasperation with this rhetoric of comfort and well-being that drips on all the walls” which thus prompted Benoît Heilbrunn, professor at ESCP Business School, to publish “L’Obsession du bien-être” in 2019. “As if the existence had to be declined indefinitely on the mode of the spa“, comments the professor.
Individualistic drifts to the detriment of the collective
For Benoît Heilbrunn, we have to go back to the 18th century to find the origins of the phenomenon. When the idea of comfort first appeared to be exact. “This race for well-being was reinforced in the 1970s, by an orientalization of the world, as evidenced by the development in the West of practices such as yoga, martial arts, the fact of eating sushi.“
The limit, he explains, is that “by ideologizing and valuing to such an extent the sensory state of well-being which sends the individual back to himself and disconnects him from others, we evacuate any idea of a political project and of living together. It is therefore an important factor in the disintegration of social ties..”
However, mental health, “it’s when you feel good in your being in relation to individuals“, recalled Boris Cyrulnik at the beginning of our file on mental health.
Another drift, believes Benoît Heilbrunn, the “rise of a new market category called wellness lifestyle in a wide range of industries. ranging from spas, alternative medicine, nutrition, beauty, behavioral therapies, spirituality, fitness. So much so that well-being now invades screens, advertising messages, corporate speeches and the shelves of bookstores.”
Proof of this is, for example, with the publishing figures, as noted by Les Echos in an article published in 2017 and qualifying general public psychology works as “new vein“. The article reported as proof the figures of the GfK institute estimating at 45.3 million euros this “psycho pop market“, up 8%.
An economy of well-being that relies on people’s ill-being to grow. Others have looked into the matter, such as sociologist Eva Illouz who published a book in 2018 on how the happiness industry has taken control over our lives, called “happycracy“.
“People should be able to accept their real and imaginary faultsnotes Christine Ganneval. Accept that life heckles them and turn to imperfect things.”
“We must remember that well-being and comfort are not life projects”, emphasizes Benoît Heilbrunn. Before continuing:So let’s beware of all those wellness charlatans who sell us happiness in the form of cooking recipes. It is inside ourselves that it is possible to find meaning in everything we decide to do or not to do.“.
Gaëtan, he put his laptop away. He now prefers to take a book, see friends, chat “in truth“.”And all the while the phone stays deep in my pocket.”