Inside the 'anti-healing' trend that says goodbye to working on yourself

Social media, for a long time, has been telling us to heal.

Some think that creators promoting this message are beginning to flog a dead horse – and that we should move on, to a post-healing world of sorts.

Wellbeing, mental health and psychology accounts niftily pack helpful tips together in sort form content – such as an image or video – all around depression, anxiety, trauma, shadow work, self-care and toxic traits, for the sake of healing ourselves of the past, so we are better people for the present and future.

That conversation is still very much alive, and has fed into the normalcy of ‘therapy speak’ in day to day life.

But some people are turning their back on this, tired of the never-ending healing story, instead embracing exactly who they are, as they are.

Patrizia, a woman living in London, believes the ‘balance has been tipped’ too far in wellness and ‘healing’ conversations, while Gemma, a supply manager, says: ‘TikTok has everyone diagnosing themselves and the excessive use of the word trauma from people who haven’t had that level of an experience is tiring’.

Many of us are a bit miffed by the incessant wellness chat. Sam Byers’ acclaimed book of last year, Come Join Our Disease, begins with two women vandalizing wellness and beauty billboards – an image that captures this sentiment quite aptly.

Emma Lume, a retreat leader and artist, recently shared on her Instagram: ‘You could spend the rest of your life trying to heal, or you could accept yourself as you are.’

She shared: ‘There is so much that is possible for us when we stop trying to fix ourselves and instead choose to simply love and accept what’s in front of and inside us.

‘To use the cards we were dealt as fuel to create magical, enchanting and exciting lives instead of something that limits us. […] god forbid we heal all our sh*t away and have no art to create from the madness.’

What do we lose when we stop healing?

Caroline Plumer, a psychotherapist and founder of CPPC London, thinks this mindset comes with its own costs – and reveals a little about our capacity to deal with our past.

She says: ‘Radical self-love and acceptance are hugely important to developing confidence and resilience, and they also help us to accept others as they are.

‘However, there is a big difference between self-acceptance/love, and refusing to look at and work on our flaws.

‘Some people may not be ready to do the healing work – and that’s ok, they should still be encouraged to love themselves as they are – but there is a certain danger and rigidity in creating an entire movement that is predicated on an unwillingness to grow or change.

‘Healing work is a huge undertaking, and can often require huge emotional, financial and time investment.

‘It is perfectly understandable that many people may not be ready to do the work or may feel very intimidated by it.

‘However, whilst staying as we are and doing what comes more naturally to us might feel easier in the moment, the long-term consequences may be catastrophic.

‘Often, we will find we are swapping long term development and contentment for what might feel like happiness in the short term, but it is often just the path of least resistance.’

Self-love is fundamental

Even Rosie Leach, a self-love coach, has her concerns, believing the anti-healing movement to be a step in the ‘wrong direction’.

It’s very possible to work on healing and self-growth, all while loving and accepting yourself. The latter doesn’t have to come at the expense of the former.

She says: ‘The two must go hand in hand. Self-love is as much about self-acceptance as it is healing and self-improvement.

‘Understanding and accepting who you are at a core level requires you to work through the painful experiences that have shaped you.

‘Further, the more you build self-love, the more you will find a natural desire to grow and become the best version of yourself, because you know that you deserve to live to your potential.

‘Self-improvement is about growing and changing not because you don’t think you’re good enough as you are, but because you know you deserve the very best in life.

‘Being comfortable with who you are whilst also seeking out self-growth is actually the perfect demonstration of self-acceptance.’

She recommends getting very clear on who you are as a person, while being honest with yourself about your weaknesses – this is how to strike the balance, so that healing doesn’t feel like a punishment or way to find copious amounts of fault.

The reality is, we all have things we could look to improve.

Freedom from healing

According to a Self Love Index carried out by The Body Shop in 2020, nearly one in two people feel more self-doubt than self-love.

Feeling as though you need to heal a plentitude of aspects of your personality is only going to fuel more self-doubt.

Letting go of the shackles of healing culture can therefore be freeing and create room for more self-acceptance.

Amerley Ollennu, a 38-year-old editor who writes a newsletter on this issue, agrees, sharing: ‘The sheer amount of posts on self-healing and self-improvement can feel overwhelming, and while there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a better person, or feeling better about yourself and your life, so much of it screams toxic positivity and implies that there is something wrong with us all – that is until we’ve done all the work and reached this illusive “enlightened status”.

‘So, I’ve decided to trust myself more, and trust that over time I will learn what I need to learn, and change what I need to change when needed.

‘I refuse to approach life like it’s an experience that needs fixing.

‘I’m giving myself some grace and a break from striving for perfection (in all its forms) – which feels like the opposite of true wellness anyway.

‘This shift inspired me to start a weekly newsletter on Substack – How to be healthy… and not hate your life – because physical and emotional health shouldn’t feel like hard work.’

Rosie admits rejecting healing can, in the short-term, make us happier, given how hard it is to do the work.

When going through a particularly difficult time, it can be particularly wise to minimise any painful mental work to get through – but only temporarily.

Caroline adds this approach does have some benefits: ‘As counterintuitive as it sounds, self-acceptance is a powerful step in the journey of change.

‘By not being overly hard on ourselves, we actually make changing and developing feel more achievable, and it feels like less of a disaster if we don’t always get it completely right.

‘But, if we choose to continue to operate from unhealthy or toxic emotional patterns and beliefs and refuse to make changes, we run the risk of staying in a cycle of unhealthy relationships – with family, friends, partners and even colleagues.’

At worst, we may lose ’emotional depth’.

‘Whilst the process of healing can be frightening, with the right support the end result is often powerful and invaluable to an emotionally healthier and happier life.’

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