uiet-quitting and burnout have spurred conversations about mental well-being, marking a stark departure from the so-called ‘hustle culture’ that’s popular among LinkedIn tech-bros. Given this, there is now a sudden interest in the “soft life.” In the last few months, I have seen hashtag appear haphazardly on various social media pages — it shows, for example, people soaking up the sun or indulging themselves in an elaborate skincare routine. The more I look at these posts on living the “soft life”, the more I realise that it’s often a one-dimensional approach that’s strongly intertwined with privilege.
Soft life took over social media in 2021 with Black women quitting the stressful lifestyle imposed by societal expectations, especially, the ‘strong Black woman’ trope. Brittany James, a fashion, beauty, and lifestyle influencer, said in a viral video last year: “I don’t know who needs to hear this, but that whole ‘strong Black woman narrative’—it doesn’t apply to me. I live a soft life; I am a dainty princess.” This perspective clicked for many across the world and in the recent months, with people questioning the unhealthy work cultures and burden of gendered expectations, soft life has become a movement.
We are living at a time when layoffs are a constant source of anxiety, socio-cultural issues are all-consuming; they are even a threat to well-being for many. In addition to this, the consequences of hustle culture are more prominent than ever. In these times, perhaps we can live a soft life by embracing the basics and not living life in an autopilot mode, or by consciously moving away from the forced ideas of success and happiness, to explore what these concepts truly mean to each of us. We can also live a soft life by not constantly tucking away sensitivity and fragility and dismissing it as a weakness.
While exploring these thoughts, I have been trying to understand what a more practical, inclusive approach to the soft life could be, especially one that goes beyond any ideas of luxury. Here are some of my learnings.
Soft life is about prioritising things that feel peaceful over those that cause stress, letting go of the idea that sacrificing short term happiness is the prerequisite for long term stability, and more importantly of letting yourself define what softness means for you. For instance, why is there almost a reflexive guilt attached to rest? Softness is unlearning such reflexes and pausing without explanation, to self or the world.As author Tricia Hersey wrote in the book, Rest Is Resistance: A Manifesto, “You were not just born to center your entire existence on work and labor. You were born to heal, to grow, to be service to yourself and community, to practice, to experiment, to create, to have space, to dream, and to connect.”
Recently, life has become more about having self-agency, imagining realities that might have seemed inaccessible, and indulging in self-care—be it through expensive skincare or by saying no to extra work. It’s also in learning to not see softness through archaic, misogynistic, and capitalistic self-serving ideas, but as what it truly means for you.
In a world that runs on people sacrificing their time, energy, and space for the comfort of a few, prioritising your needs can feel like rebellion. It could come with rejecting the stereotypical life that is often imposed on anyone who doesn’t have the privilege of caste, class, and gender. It’s about being kinder to yourself, letting yourself drop the ball and not giving yourself a hard time over it, and essentially, taking up space unapologetically.
Softness is also not pretending to have energy when you don’t, and importantly, accessing the version of softness that’s usually limited to those with privilege. In rejecting hustle culture and taking away the over-importance placed on luxury culture, there is a soft life movement that feels more inclusive and accessible.
Soft life can look like different things for people. For instance, it could start with burying the superwoman agenda of doing it all, all the time; it could mean not taking on the burden of expectations of gendered roles and working on life at your pace; it could be about redefining goals after shutting out a whiny patriarchy. It’s also about drawing boundaries, in personal life and work—for many this can look like quiet quitting or ‘bare minimum Mondays’, a trend made viral by content creator Marisa Jo Mayes.
Especially for historically marginalised communities, the difficult road has been normalised as the only road to success. In women, the idea of sacrifice is ingrained so deeply that it takes years of unlearning to let go of it. For those dealing with mental health issues, pushing through it while masking it from others is often an unsaid and expected way of life, because that’s how the world is designed.
A soft life, as I see it, is choosing the way that’s easier for yourself and not for the world. It involves not bending over backwards for others, and leading a life that might not fit into the ideal that’s too often imposed on everyone.
All in all, a soft life comes with unlearning, embracing all emotions instead of labelling them as weak or strong, and existing as you are, and not as supposed to.