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Goblin Mode, the Word of 2022, Is What We Felt All Year

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Confession: Lately I tend to eat ice cream, straight out of the container, at 2 p.m. Also, my hair doesn’t get washed that often (although this may not be such a bad thing). And I couldn’t tell you the last time I cleaned my yoga mat. (Yeah, I know.)  According to Oxford University Press, I’m operating in “goblin mode,” the dictionary’s word of the year for 2022. 

What is “goblin mode”?

Oxford defines “goblin mode” as “a type of behaviour which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.” In a year of change and uncertainty, this slang term seems to encapsulate the general feeling of “I just can’t today.”

“Seemingly, it captured the prevailing mood of individuals who rejected the idea of returning to ‘normal life’, or rebelled against the increasingly unattainable aesthetic standards and unsustainable lifestyles exhibited on social media,” the organization said in press release this week.

It makes sense. People are burned out, exhausted, and looking to live a different life than the ones they were pre-pandemic. But some of us may not know exactly what that “different life” looks like.

Why was “goblin mode” chosen?

This year, for the first time, Oxford allowed the public to vote on the word of the year. According to the organization’s press release, more than 300,000 people voted during a two-week period. Goblin mode beat out the two other contenders—”metaverse” and “#IStandWith”—for the linguistic prize.

Is this a good thing?

So, should we all be acting like goblins? As with most things, it’s nuanced. The past year, I’ve found myself leaning into the anti-aesthetic. BeReal, a new social media app focused on capturing the “real moments of your day,” helped contribute to this ethos. But it goes beyond my social profiles. I’ve stopped operating on autopilot, instead trying to lean into the things that make me feel good, including that midday ice cream.

However, as seen in the definition of goblin mode, there’s a flip side to this, a self-indulgence that takes you out of the world around you, instead of placing you more authentically in it. For example, choosing to not clean my yoga mat isn’t a sign of me “living my truth.” It’s just laziness.

Ultimately, it’s about finding balance between the two. So, yes, I may be saying no more frequently to the things that don’t serve me (ahem, a daily hair wash), but I’m also trying to show up where I can—both for others and myself. That may mean taking 10 minutes out of my day for a restorative yoga practice or finally (finally!) giving my mat a good scrub. (I know the people in my hot yoga class will be grateful.)

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