“We didn’t get rid of narratives completely, but we sold our faith in the grand narratives to buy into the much smaller stories of the self and self-improvement. If the image of the era of grand narratives is the image of the mass of mankind marching behind a flag, then the image of the post-grand-narrative human is that of the solitary jogger with their headphones on, focused on the story of self-empowerment, pushed on by the narrative of self-improvement and by the texts of self-help.
Until the COVID-19 pandemic, we’d been living through the ‘believe in yourself’ and ‘be all you can be’ narrative for two decades. The story-of-the-better-self is really individuals living without any greater or more abstract “stories to live by” deciding to make their idea of a future self the story they will tell themselves. A new self, a younger-looking self, a more attractive self, a healthier self, a self with a new ‘identity,’ a more driven self, a new style, a new sexuality, a new diet, a more ecological and self-sustaining self, a self that believes in itself. We have privatised stories to live for: the story of promotion, of artistic achievement, of higher sexual market value, of the better home, of admiration in the eyes of others, of being seen to be the most eco-savvy, of having the latest tech innovation, of striving to be more positive and optimistic, of discovering some deep essential source of ‘self-worth.”