Aesthetics + Archetypes
and how they can support your goals
This is a concept I learned about recently and have been very excited to write about: aesthetics + archetypes.
Before I dive into these concepts, I wanted to share their definitions:
Aesthetic: a collection of visual schema that creates a ‘mood'
Example: “this tiny mug will fit my garden fairy tea party aesthetic perfectly!”
Archetype: an original model after which other similar things are patterned
Example: “The main character of my book is modeled after the hero archetype – like Harry Potter, Katniss, or literally any Marvel character”
We’re currently in the age of aesthetics. Everything is a ~vibe~ these days. Gen Z has been hard at work digging up cringe-y trends and turning them into aesthetics that capture the essence of the 2000's in a way that I was certainly never aware of when growing up. There is even an entire community dedicated to cataloging these aesthetics in a wiki library.
Aesthetics can be the visual representation of archetypes. But archetypes are not ephemeral trends. They are ancient cultural sign posts that we see reflected over and over again in fictional characters – and also ourselves.
A few quick facts on archetypes:
They go as far back as Plato, who called them “Forms” and defined them as “abstract, perfect, unchanging concepts or ideals that transcend time and space” (Theory of Forms).
This idea was developed further by psychologist Carl Jung who identified four main archetypes that make up the human personality. He theorized that they were “a result of collective, shared ancestral memories that may persist in art, literature and religion but aren’t obvious to the eye" (Theory of Archetypes)
Modern usage of archetypes can be found everywhere in the characters of books, TV, movies, etc. Caroline Myss is an author known for her interpretation and furthering of Jung’s theories, as well as her own comprehensive list of archetypes.
We could easily go down a rabbit hole on Plato, Jung, Myss, and their theories. But these concepts can be applied to our daily lives in a way that is much more simple, and actually very fun.
What if instead of trying to distill our personality into the most “authentic” version of ourselves at all times, we acknowledged the multitudes we contain and honored them by embodying archetypes to achieve specific goals or embrace different facets of our personality?
For example, this quarter I set a goal of wanting to take my writing more seriously. To support this goal, I created a “cultural commentator” archetype to embody and help me take myself more seriously.
MY VISION: a grown-up Harriet the Spy meets NYT culture writer Taylor Lorenz who wears black turtlenecks and tailored pants and always has a notebook on hand to jot down a passing thought or idea.
MY REALITY: boyfriend asks me if I’m “going for the Steve Jobs look today” when I put on a black turtleneck before heading to the coffeeshop to write. And my notes app is filled with half-baked thoughts.
But is it working? It sure is! Channeling the energy of this archetype is allowing me to take bigger swings when it comes to both crafting and sharing my writing. And it’s fun to create an aesthetic to go along with it and play dress up accordingly.
Next week I’ll share a quick exercise on how to craft an archetype + aesthetic of your own.
But if you’ve already got one in mind - drop a comment to share or ask any questions you might have!
Until next time,
📚 Things to Read
Should we bring back shame? An interesting argument (Gawker)
Another meditation trend: quantum jumping (Vice)
If you feel like you've run out of things to discuss in therapy, don't worry there's always more! (Mel Magazine)
Motivational content? (@regian24)
Grocery shopping has been an invigorating experience ever since the pandemic started. Here are the trends for 2022 (The Kitchn)
Something I've been wondering about: how to practice astrology in an ethical way (Wired)
Books I've recently read & can recommend:
🍴 Things to Cook
Crispy Tomato Herb Cheese Pan Pizza – got a cast-iron skillet for Christmas and broke it in with this bad boy. Best homemade pizza I've ever had.
Salted Tahini Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies – haven't baked in YEARS but these were so easy and tasty!
Beef with String Beans – got my boyfriend a wok for Christmas and have been working our way through the Woks of Life recipe catalogue
Weeknight Thai Chicken Meatball Khao Soi – this is just a Half Baked Harvest appreciation post now. But seriously how is everything she makes so good??