How The Nigerian Concept of ‘Soft Life’ is Changing Hustle Culture
Amongst all the many phases of life that young people go through - their villain era, their hustle era, their loverboy/girl era - the latest that everyone is talking about is the soft life era that has taken millennials and gen z by storm. Whether you’re eager to enter yours, or you believe the term is ridiculous, you’ve definitely heard of it and you probably have questions about what it actually is. Let’s start here: it originated in Nigeria.
(Photo credit: Monstera)
Derived from the Yoruba slang ‘Jaiye’ meaning ‘enjoy life’, the concept of soft life can be directly translated to easy living. Contrary to popular opinion, it is not about luxury or the West’s obsession with consumerism, and it is not about hard work or the grind. Soft life is about living in comfort and ease, a life without stress, void of mental strain or unnatural pressures of life. A concept well understood by Nigerians living in the unstable economy that is Nigeria, those living in the West have misunderstood the lifestyle for that of reckless spending, long shifts at work for financial elevation, or in some instances, domesticated codependent living. For those individuals who understand the heart of the movement, it is game-changing.
For the first time since the post-wartime American Dream, the world is seeing young adults reject struggle and burnout culture. The world is seeing young adults recognise that their value is inherent and not tied to productivity. The world is seeing young adults realise that they are human beings and not human doings. And with this awakening, we are seeing employees go home at 5pm when they are supposed to so that they might spend some time with loved ones and invest in their lives outside of work. We are seeing employees communicate with their managers that they will not be able to take on that extra task within the current deadline because there simply isn’t enough time. We are seeing employees skillfully negotiate conditions regarding flexible working and fair pay. We are seeing employees leave places that no longer serve them and set up refuge elsewhere. And the world is calling it quitting.
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Well, they are calling it ‘quiet quitting’. And while some have accepted it with open arms, others are not so amused. Negative reactions to soft life have seen words such as ‘lazy’, ‘sacrifice’, and ‘unrealistic’ pushed into the discourse. Parents share their concerns about living in a world where their children don’t learn the value of hard work. Managers share their journeys of struggle and strife and how this led to the ultimate payoff. Even mothers and married couples have come forward to share their stories of sacrifice. It is clear the underlying message is this: you are allowed to be happy. But not without hard work. And the response to this from the followers of soft life?
We will work for our happiness. But we do not, in order to feel like we deserve this happiness, require that work to be painful.
(Photo Credit: Sora Shimazaki)
The soft life movement is quite literally highlighting the difference between those who prefer life hard and those who prefer life soft. Hustle culture has, for years, stated that life must constitute both an endurance of suffering and comfort, and that you cannot have one without the other.
And soft life culture exists simply to say that suffering is not a prerequisite to a happy, wholesome life.
So, now I leave it to you, reader. Soft life or hustle?