Love Island aphorisms that you should apply to everyday life

We all love a catchphrase, turns out Love Islands’ are as helpful as they are iconic

Hero image in post
photo: Love Island, 2023, ITV Studios
Hero image in post
photo: Love Island, 2023, ITV Studios

We all love a catchphrase, turns out Love Islands’ are as helpful as they are iconic

By Tom Ford26 Jun 2023
9 mins read time
9 mins read time

In a self-help industry expected to be worth $14 billion by 2025, there are more answers to our problems than we know what to do with. Every week seems to welcome a book, podcast, or social media prophet promising a new panacea. And yet, the real solutions are far simpler (and they were here all along.) They don't necessarily come from life coaches, or wrapped up in a 350-page autobiography. They’re on ITV2 at 9pm on weeknights (and Sundays).

Wrapped up within the trials and tribulations of Love Island are some of life’s most important and relatable lessons. After all, what is the villa if not a neon-signed, straight-talking distillation of the modern human condition? Love, loss, friendship – the starkest strands of a life well-lived are all authentically navigated, so there is little surprise that some viewers use the show as a self-care companion.

With this in mind, we teased out some of the most well-known aphorisms Love Islanders use to chart their course – you do you, it is what it is, good vibes only – and talked to some wellness professionals to learn how full of wisdom these straight forward phrases really are.

“Good vibes only!”

The 1st century Greek philosopher Epictetus said it first, probably to a pal on a particularly relaxed afternoon in the Agora. Specifically he said; ‘The thing that upsets people is not so much what happens, but what they think about what happens.’ It was written in Shakespeare's Hamlet, too; ‘There is no good or bad, only thinking makes it so.’ Today, this positive thinking sentiment lives on, via the captions of the Love Island official Instagram. This is a good thing (if you want to be happy.)

“This phrase generally would suggest bringing a positive energy to situations,” says Dr Sheri Jacobson, a retired BACP senior therapist who co-founded Harley Therapy. “One of the [CBT] techniques is to adopt a lens of positivity to help counter our natural tendency towards negative thinking. The result is that we end up with a more balanced perspective which in turn can improve our mood,” she says.

To put that into practice Dr Jacobson has some solid pointers. “We use the technique ‘thought balancing’ to address cognitive distortions that regularly occur in our thinking." She also adds that we should ask the following questions: “What unhelpful thinking patterns (cognitive distortions) are at play? What is the evidence that this thought is true or not true? How will I be thinking about this in six or 12 months’ time? What would I tell a friend if they had the same thought? What are the costs and benefits of thinking this way? What is the worst that could happen?”

“Go with the flow”

“I’m definitely fun and a very go-with-the-flow type of girl," are the words used by one of this year's Love Islanders to describe herself. And while "going with the flow" generally suggests a chill, laid-back disposition, it can also be something more profound: a kind of life philosophy.

In fact, the idea of going with the flow is central to the 12-Step programme, which was founded by members of The Oxford Group - a Christian organisation that believed the secret to contentment was to “surrender one’s life over to God’s plan.” From AA to SLAA - today, 12-step fellowships help individuals struggling with addiction by using the idea of a higher spiritual (though not necessarily religious) power.

Vitor*, an AA sponsor to various recovering addicts who has followed the programme for eight years explains the greater resonance of what "going with the flow" can mean. “There is a power greater than you – the universe, or God, if you like - that controls everything,” he says. Vitor adds that; “accepting this, not fighting it, and having the awareness from this power and being shown your true path [is powerful].”

From his experience of doing lots of work in 12-step programmes, he's been given plenty of pearls of wisdom. “Ego gets in the way of happiness. People like to have control. Have things go their way. If they don’t, they get upset. Take life as it comes!” he recommends. “The truth is – things will happen if they’re meant to – jobs, relationships. Just turn up and do the right thing,” Vitor adds.

If we could all walk the path that has been laid for us – however uncomfortable it can sometimes seem – our lives could be a lot simpler. If a match doesn’t text you back, they’re not meant for you. Relax and move on. If the holiday’s proving a total nightmare to organise, maybe you need to stay at home! The universe, not your egoic desires, knows how to best plan your affairs. And it has a way of telling you so.

"Saying ‘You Only Live Once or shoot your shot’ might seem like a cliche but the idea can be traced back to the very roots of Western philosophy"

“You do you, babe!”

Picture the scene: the Love Island contestant who will later claim they've been given the "villain edit" has just stormed away from their sixth argument in five days. But no matter, because their one remaining ally is consoling them on a white sofa. "You do you, babe!"

You might have said the same thing to a friend concerned about an upcoming date, or their penchant for documentaries about trains. It may seem trite, but at its heart – this phrase contains a vital message about genuineness and self-actualisation (realising your full and true potential) which, if we could only realise for ourselves, can solve a lot of our problems.

“Being authentic can be challenging for many individuals, particularly those who have faced traumatic experiences,” says accredited senior psychotherapist Sally Baker. “Negative beliefs, often formed as a protective mechanism during the traumatic event, can lead to self-doubt and make it difficult for individuals to trust their thoughts, feelings, and abilities. Consequently, they may be more likely to suppress their authentic selves to avoid potential rejection.”

If we’re not ourselves, or we don’t like who we are, we have poor boundaries, can’t make decisions, and are unable to grow. “A negative inner voice can further exacerbate this struggle for authenticity,” continues Baker. “Individuals can engage in various therapeutic approaches to address the underlying causes of self-doubt and negative self-talk. Through reframing and self-reflection, we can work to overcome these barriers and develop a more authentic sense of self.”

Essentially, when we act in line with our true nature we believe in our passions and opinions more. With this comes greater fulfilment, a higher self-esteem, and, ultimately, contentment. So, whatever you do, do you!

"Shoot your shot"

A carpe diem approach has been central to the Love Island brand since its inception. It is written in guides on how to survive the show and it is the reason why you might hook-up with a contestant - whether you’re inside the villa or not.

In recent years, this rather hedonistic concept of having a limited time on earth (so living your best life in that moment) has been summed up in three simple words: ‘shoot your shot.’ This is about taking your chance. Throwing caution to the wind, forgetting your fears, and pursuing that opportunity (usually romance where Love Island is concerned) - because it might not come around again. This might seem naive, risky, and again, hedonistic. But peel back the layers and you will see rich, healthy Stoic philosophy. And the Stoics really knew how to live life.

Donald Robertson is the author of Stoicism and the Art of Happiness. “Saying ‘You Only Live Once or shoot your shot’ might seem like a cliche but the idea can be traced back to the very roots of Western philosophy,” he says. “Outside the famous Temple of Delphi, where the oracle was located, were engraved the words ‘Know thyself’, which some philosophers took to mean ‘know that you are mortal’."

Applying these Stoic lessons to today can be a way of grounding ourselves and pursuing our deepest desires. “Remembering that our time is limited becomes a way of refocusing our values to prioritise self-improvement, and the pursuit of wisdom, over transient external goods such as wealth or fame,” Robertson explains.

“It is what it is”

Despite being 2500 years old, Buddhism remains an incredibly powerful tool for people looking to find lasting peace in the uncertain world of today. Gelong Thubten is a Buddhist monk at Kagyu Samye Ling Tibetan Buddhist Monastery, in Dumfries, Scotland. “The expression ‘it is what it is’ reminds us to deeply relax and accept the present moment, no matter how difficult and challenging it might be,” he says.

“Acceptance means being okay with what is, which means fully embracing our thoughts and emotions. We perceive external situations with our minds, and so everything boils down to transforming how we think and feel. Through regular meditation, we can build our ability to accept our thoughts and emotions and become less controlled and negatively affected by them," he explains. "Additionally, through practising short moments of mindful awareness as we go about our daily activities, we are learning to relax into the here and now, no matter what.”

The phrase "it is what it is" gets pulled out every year on Love Island when someone gets mugged off in front of eight million strangers. It’s what you say to yourself when you don’t get the job. The phrase is so ubiquitous it's veering on the dull or passé. But it is a core belief of one of mankind's most influential and peaceful religions. And, if we practise and believe its sentiment carefully, in hand with daily meditation, we can learn to accept life’s peaks and troughs with a lot less anxiety (and a whole new world of serenity.)

So there we go: Love Island, a villa full of wisdom!

*Vitor’s full name has been removed for anonymity purposes, as per the guidelines in twelve-step programmes.