“The person inside has experienced the most change…”: The labour of fitness, positivity and narratives of suffering

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This chapter analyses influencer Alice Liveing’s Instagram account in the context of a heightened exercise and fitness culture, a shift from self-help to self-health, and the emotional labours of positivity. This shift creates a number of contradictions, including (1) a need to engage in constant forms of work on the body and on the self while extorting the benefits of loving yourself just the way you are (Gill, Rosalind and Ana Sofia Elias. “‘Awaken Your Incredible’: Love Your Body Discourses and Postfeminist Contradictions.” International Journal of Media and Cultural Politics 10, no.2 (2014): 179–188.), (2) the careful governance of negative emotions and affects, expressed in constant calls to ultimate happiness—either in the present (“I am happy now”) or the future (“I am working on my happiness”) and (3) the way these contradictions necessitate a blurring of public and private, through which all elements of intimate, private life become part of an entrepreneurial practice of self-branding (Banet-Weiser,.Authentic: The Politics of Ambivalence in a Brand Culture, University of New York Press, New York, 2012). These contradictions are discussed through (Illouz,.Saving the Modern Soul: Therapy, Emotions, and the Culture of Self-Help, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2008) concept of ‘triumphant suffering’. In Liveing’s social media presence, the triumph in having overcome, among other things, eating disorders, body insecurity and an abusive relationship, provides the hook through which she is able to present her life work as the outcome of a positive mental attitude and herself as the ambassador of her own self-transformation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWorking Women on Screen
Subtitle of host publicationPaid Labour and Fourth Wave Feminism
EditorsEllie Tomsett, Nathalie Weidhase, Poppy Wilde
Place of PublicationBasingstoke
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-031-49576-2
ISBN (Print)978-3-031-49575-5, 978-3-031-49578-6
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2024

Publication series

NamePalgrave Studies in (Re)Presenting Gender
ISSN (Print)2662-9364
ISSN (Electronic)2662-9372

Bibliographical note

© 2024 The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG


  • Fitness culture
  • Narrative of suffering
  • Postfeminist healthism
  • Influencer culture
  • Emotional labour


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