The Vagenda

Now You Have The Perfect Body, Here’s How To Get The Perfect Soul


In the wake of her parents’ divorce, Kylie Jenner posted up a quote on Instagram by the poet R M Drake who, from what I can see, seems to specialise in quaint, whimsical nonsense.

A vague, mystical figure, R M Drake supplies anodyne lines to the second cycle of Kardashians and celebrities against whom various ‘wrongs’ have been committed. ‘I discovered that our disconnect was never because of the insecurities we felt, but rather the emptiness we created when we failed to make sense of ourselves.’ I have no idea what this means – neither, I suspect, does Kylie Jenner – but it is written in an artful, old-fashioned font, so I imagine it’s incredibly sage.

This is the trend that will not die. Every day, the internet rests its hand uncomfortably above my knee and breathes: ‘You are something magical.’ Feel-good quotes, falsely attributed and full of lazy sentiment, refuse to disappear – they are a terrifying new world. A world where nothing gets you down, where every grievance is glossed over in six or seven words and any misstep is considered part of ‘the journey’. Grumpiness is disallowed and the slightest hint of irony might get you institutionalised. Each line, every syllable, is a shining example of the perseverance of the human spirit, a testament to the pursuit of innumerable dreams.  Every sunrise or sunset accompanied by generic text written in an effervescent font shows the power of relentless, indefatigable optimism.



Except, of course, it doesn’t. For something apparently so joyful, it is totally joyless, devoid of humour, imagination or any kind of creative input.

As I scroll through these sites, my mind laconically processing mountains of words and images, a thought occurs: these quotes are meant for women and women exclusively. I know this because they are curlicued in delicate icing, decorated in rose petals and pink to the point where it resembles a princess’s nervous breakdown on acid. As they spread across social media, multiplying like a virus, becoming even more saccharine and sentimental with every passing burst of sunshine, I am reminded of advice from a Harry Enfield sketch: ‘Women: in thought be plain and simple, and let your natural sweetness shine through.’

For what do they suggest other than a permanent state of Pollyanna sunniness? They are redolent of the beauty queen’s rictus grin, slightly askew and lipstick-smeared, holding a faint note of hysteria. It is a special type of subservience, where life is just ‘awesome’ and nothing is allowed to be messy or odd. Or worse, it is an extension of the constant competition that drives these sites. I have the perfect body, the perfect face, and now I have the perfect soul, uncorrupted by any self-doubt or cynicism. Come inside. Take a look around.


I used to work in a card and gift shop, a kind of absurd 3D version of Instagram, where each cutesy item was carefully curated and displayed. It was ‘only good vibes allowed’ except we all hated each other in rotation for no discernible reason. I felt there much like I feel on social media, a bit too awkward and clumsy, like if I moved slightly in the wrong direction I might cause the whole enterprise to collapse.

I was broke beyond description, writing a series of furious short stories about people who worked in retail and were rather directionless. I didn’t like my life there and had no idea how to change it. As it was, a card with a hot-air balloon floating tremulously off into the distance urging me that ‘Every day is a second chance’ could do little for my earthly struggles.

If anything this unmitigated good cheer made me feel worse, as if my circumstances were part of an indecipherable design or the result of not ‘dreaming’ hard enough. I turned the more sickening cards upside down, sometimes hiding them for days and denying all knowledge of their existence. For reasons that made no sense whatsoever, I actually voiced a desire for franker depictions of despair and anguish on our shelves. I had hundreds of useless ideas and a short attention span. I was a source of profound disappointment for everyone who worked there.

By the end, I felt like a shyster peddling faulty goods. Because it was all so terribly disingenuous. And worse than that – it was boring. It was no longer just silly, but oddly torturous. It was like life had been watered down, distilled into a few meaningless words, until there was nothing interesting left.


After all, these quotes, for their supposed sincerity, serve the same purpose as a group of officials: they stand around in uniform and tell you how to live your life. No falling down. No failure. Just a constant, wearing sense of go-getterism.

I feel a similar fatigue online now. In the same way we are happy to bleach out our photographs, we are happy to bleach out the world. Ironically enough, the three words Kylie Jenner emphasised and repeated from her post were the ‘emptiness we created.’ And yes, I am available for motivational speeches at parties.



22 thoughts on “Now You Have The Perfect Body, Here’s How To Get The Perfect Soul

  1. Loved reading this! I’ve also reacted to this pressure of having to be so bloody positive all the time (especially on social media), or else you are just a miserable person who deserves all that she gets for failing to be a pure ray of sunshine in the face of social injustice and other obstacles. This attitude presumes that as long as you think positive, things will work out. And that in this sense, you are in charge of your fate and your life. And what’s worse, it diverts our attention away from the social and cultural structures that limit our possibilities – structures that we have very little control over no matter how many affirmations we say each morning to ourselves.

    I felt so nauseous by the 100 days happy challenge earlier this year, that I actually started my own 30 days angry challenge. I tried to promote it on social medias but no one joined me (What!?). I possibly lost some friends. But you know what, it was actually a lot of fun. Somehow liberating to be able to make fun of the fact that sometimes I am imperfect and grumpy. It’s #30daysangrychallenge on Twitter if anyone is up for it.

    And yes, I would hire you as a motivational speaker! If ever I throw a party, that is.

  2. Kylie Jenner is 17 and if these words comfort her so what, they are not negative. I think this article is either so badly written I am not getting the point or the author is just miserable and is looking for all the bad in the slightest things in life. I am really surprised to find it here on what is normally a fantastic site with topics that matter.

  3. These banal and meaningless quotes irritate the hell out of me. There happens to be a lot of unpleasantness in my life at the moment and every time I see one of them I feel even worse because I haven’t managed to rise above my pain or learn from the experience or whatever it is I’m meant to be doing this week. 30 angry days is a great idea!

  4. I agree with this, definitely. Those pointless inspirational quotes bore the hell out of me. I find people who tend to post them on social media tend to be younger (like the aforementioned Kylie Jenner) and yes, they probably understand them even less than we do, but I remember being 15 and posting song lyrics on my Bebo page so I’ll let them off for that one.

    That said, I dunno, I like them sometimes. There’s a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote that’s pretty long, but I always remember it and think of it fondly. It’s along the lines of ‘yeah, some stupid things happen every day, but just forget them and carry on, you’ll be fine’. Paraphrasing massively, I might add. But I like it. When something really dumb happens, like if I fall over in public or say something stupid that makes everyone laugh at me, instead of agonising over it for days I remember that quote and I think ‘oh yeah.’ I get that as humans, we’re allowed to be complex beings and be grumpy as hell one day just as we can be positive and inspired the next. But I tend to find the latter far more enjoyable, so if remembering a silly quote helps me with that, that’s fine.

  5. The ‘Church of Positivity’ that has sprung up really scares me in some ways. People putting blind faith in a comment made by Marilyn Monroe or some cutsie picture of a cat is just extremely odd and frightening to me.
    Some times the lows are enjoyable as they make the highs more worthwhile- I find a constantly positive, colourful, Stepford Wives type world is not only ridiculous in theory but even more ridiculous in practice.

    It more or less excuses people from the acceptance of bad things happening and the responsibility of having to rectify situations through actions- nah sure forget doing something about it, someone sent me a ‘Never stop dreaming’ picture on Instagram.

  6. Just popping in to add in response to Nic’s comment that I am a young 20 years old and I find those “inspirational quote” posts so unbelievably irritating. A girl I used to be friends with is overflowing with them on social media and they annoyed me so much I had to follow her on twitter and instagram. I don’t need your cheesy inspirational quotes to know that life can be shit sometimes but you just have to deal with it! I cope just fine with my quote-free instagram.

  7. While I can see how these quotes can be annoying, I really don’t see the need to be take personal insult from them. Far from suggesting we should all live our lives smiling from ear to ear no matter what life throws at us, most (even the really cringy ones) emphasise that shit things happen in life but life goes on.

    I used to roll my eyes at them admittedly. However the biggest culprits on my news feed are two lovely women very close to me, one suffering from depression and one from anxiety. Both have told me that their reason for posting them isnt even for their own benefit, but in the hope that it will brighten someone else’s day. Really there are so many shit, terrible things going around social media, to find fault with something positive in a non satirical way just seems to be clutching at straws.

  8. The quotes are mildly annoying. How did you come to the idea that they are meant for “women and women exclusively” though? never perceived them so. I have mostly experienced men posting them and I don’t think they did it to mentor the women around them.

  9. Agreed. I think the comfort provided for some far outweighs the mild irritation for others.

    It’s sad this author can’t see past themselves in this case.

  10. ..Go on..Have a rant..Hiding cards that were annoying. YES. Good on you! Just like the Virtual media present so often in ‘cringy’ quotes. Many cards are PLONK, but in a Democracy people can and do choose – Freedom to choose…Male and Female. Many quotes are also bloody annoying BUT to some people they are their only window to an otherwise ‘DARK’ world as you state…Right or Wrong…True or False. C’est le vie ! The conclusion is epic and so honest…well done and thank you, as we often, inadvertently do things which MAY WELL make a positive difference…just like the two lovely women close to you. Looking forward to more epic , honest journalism like this.. Bring it on…BUT…these quotes are not just for les femmes….Men of the 21 Century have a heart-beat also lol…

  11. Reminds me of the old ‘Motivational posters’. All that remains from them now is their parody version ‘Demotivational’:)

  12. They follow from the very self centred idea that every ‘feeling’ , every emotion matters, it’s all about ME, how I feel, notice ME, Me, Me…. Sorry, it isn’t like that- stop wallowing, just get on with it. It is annoying because we are saturated with the notion that WE matter, then of course the fact that we really, really don’t matter can be quite depressing.

  13. I thought the article was actually really insightful. Whereas some people might get joy from these quotes (someone as privileged as Kylie Jenner, for example), I’d never even noticed the female-only marketing or the implications of a “everything is positive” mindset combined with it…I thought it was really interesting.

  14. Spot on, Ann & CF. They are trite, ersatz and probably American in spirit if not in reality. A symptom of a sick culture, and yes, sadly. mostly perpetrated by women in my experience.

  15. YES! Very dry, I totally get where you are coming from. Total superficial shite aimed at women that tells them it’s okay we know you live in a superficial world, surrounded by superficial crap, you’re having yet another crappy day but hey here’s a superficial image accompanied by a superficial quote to tell you tomorrow’s another day, be cheerful and chirpy like women are supposed to be. What’s worse is that it is usually women who are sharing this benign twoddle. I would much rather look at a blank space and mutter the words ‘shit happens constantly, why the fuck should I be cheerful about it’. But then I’m no Pollyanna ;)

  16. I’m so glad I read this!! I’m sick of the lot of them. They do my effin head in. They make me depressed. I’ve stopped going on Instagram because I can’t bear the beautifully styled houses and clothes that make me feel inferior AND the stupid motivational quotes that make me feel like shit because i’m not ‘reaching for the stars’ or some such twaddle.

  17. This article is my favorite article I have ever read on the vagenda. I have actually had these exact same thoughts and opinions with which the authors describe the phenomenon for a long time. There’s nothing I hate more than the positive attitude police. Always felt like victim blaming to me. It’s also a highly offensive to those of us who suffer from depression or emotional illnesses. Thank you for writing this article, it made me feel far better than any inspirational quote ever could. I am so glad to know I am not alone! How’s that for being positive?

  18. And by the way, I AM an American and I still find this shyte. Then again, I am quite unpopular among Americans. I have these weird ideas about no materialism and living off the grid and social justice that probably had me on some terror watch list

  19. How exactly does posting trite, motivational images translate into a form of Instagram positivity police, that “stand around in uniform and tell you how to live your life”? Although I hate the flowery mis-attributed quotes just as much as the next dour netizen, I do not get the impression that they form some kind of cult of positivity that forces people to paint on a fake smile, nor that they are “perpetuating the idea that every woman CAN and SHOULD try to be a MANIC PIXIE DREAMGIRL at all costs”, as one commenter wrote. What some people post on social media, on their own pages, does not constitute an attack on the emotional messiness of other people’s lives. I’d wager that few people post pictures with depressing text overlaid because: 1) our culture down-plays negative emotions because they are, y’know, negative, and scrolling through petty optimism is better than petty misery; 2) the OP might be seen as an emo-esque attention whore, or some variation thereof; 3) if the poster does go through rough patches, like we all do, they probably don’t want to showcase it on the internet, instead preferring to deal with life’s shittiest moments in private and without a global audience. This is not to say that conversations about more serious topics should not occur, just that social media is hardly a warm and welcoming place for that kind of personal detail (if rape threats are any indication). My point is that let the shallow stuff abound on Instagram, because honestly, I love this kind of sugar-coated cute-porn if only because it provides fodder for damn good ‘demotivational’ parodies, and save the more important conversation about mental health, self esteem, etc for blogs and websites like this one, where the main form of communication is actual well thought out comments and not 140 characters. Rather than interpreting these images as mandated good-vibes, it might be more helpful to see them as optional therapy, for when the ugliness of the real world drives women to refresh themselves with vistas of gorgeous sunsets, flowers, and flowery words.

    Here’s to hoping all the Thoreau quotes will inspire the Jenners’ to actually read his books.

  20. Thank you for this. I honestly feel like rm drake is a sign of the end of real humanity, and true emotional empathy. His nonsense ‘poetry’ is full of emptiness and to stupidity in its deepest form. Perhaps stupidity in its darkest form, it’s stupidity disguised as a sense of self worth and it brings vindication for living a selfish empty life.

    If rm drake or one of his counterparts don’t bring on the end of humanity, then one of their followers will.