Effortlessly excelling is a virtue that is aggressively glorified in popular culture. If there existed a hierarchy of achievements, effortless excellence would be at the very top. The idea that some people are extremely intelligent, good-looking, and sociable without trying hard is a problematic façade that needs to be discredited immediately.
The word effortlessly is defined as- “in a manner requiring no physical or mental exertion.” The word ‘effortlessly’ and its relevance, usage, and impact in on our daily life has increased significantly in the last decade. Social media and television have contributed to making “effortlessness” an extremely desirable virtue. Today we are connected to everyone, from our favourite celebrity and the Prime Minister to distant relatives and close friends on various social media platforms. This has resulted in greater knowledge including copious details about how most of us lead our lives. This means that a range of emotions, especially our joys and achievements are greatly talked about on the aforementioned platforms. This has accentuated the desire to seek effortlessness. Suddenly, doing amazing things is not good enough — doing amazing things effortlessly is what is most sought after.
And while this trend of effortlessness has become even more prominent in recent times, it can trace roots to centuries ago. Sprezzatura is an Italian word originating from Baldassare Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier, where it is defined by the author as “a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it.” Sprezzatura, or studied carelessness, has something that has been socially desirable for a long time, but its impact now is greater than it has ever been.
Effortlessness or doing things effortlessly has become a virtue and this can be confirmed by looking at current trends. Effortless chic, slouchy clothing, a relaxation in everyday language along the rise of athleisure, all signify one thing- that “trying” to look, act or sound a certain way is no more aspirational. Examples of the myth of effortlessness are- that bedhead selfie from your favourite movie star, a perfect boomerang of your friend blowing bubbles, or those stories your class topper puts a day before the exam claiming to be horribly unprepared. These are ways of making one look carefree and unbothered. The idea behind making oneself look carefree is that by looking like we don’t care for much, we automatically make our achievements even more impressive. This could be a reason why people who always score well claim to have not have studied. Projecting the idea that “this is no big deal” has become a huge problem. People are prone to perceive things on surface value. When someone appears to be effortlessly perfect, we are prone to be harsh on ourselves. We then assume that the internal mechanisms of our life are not as fabulous and interesting as those of others. The truth is things require effort, especially if they need to be remarkably good. No matter what others say, scoring a good CGPA, possessing a good physique or having a healthy social life are all activities that require time, effort, and dedication. Effortlessness is a myth, a lie that has been glorified to the extent that we have begun to chase it even if it costs us our peace of mind.
By claiming to be naturally perfect and accomplishing extraordinary feats without trying much, we set up both ourselves and those around us to ridiculously unattainable parameters. As a consequence, it impacts not just our self-image negatively, but also that of others.
Sprezzatura or effortlessness with effort is a practice that needs to be avoided like the plague. Sprezzatura strokes our ego and appeals to our vanity but it is a slippery slope to walk on. It compels us to constantly discredit our conscious effort and toil simply to look cooler. “Trying” or working is not portrayed as glamourous and that is also a part of the problem. Television and popular culture will never be completely honest about the number of weeks’ work from dozens of people that took to make Blake Lively look like Serena Van Der Woodsen, but that does not mean we can’t play a role in being breaking this myth of effortlessness. By being forthcoming about our achievements and taking into account the work that we put in anything — be it our outfit or our final exams — we will set realistic and attainable goals for all those who look up to us and admire us. We will, therefore, through our honesty and lack of pretension, contribute to someone else’s success and peace of mind.
Feature Image Credits: ASOS