Meme Busting: Dismantling the Inspirational Quotes
Just because it's printed on the beautiful photo, with the nice font, and everyone else is saying Amen in the comments, it doesn't mean that the inspirational quote is true. Or, at least, it doesn't mean that it's true for all of us.
Gary Vee wants us to believe that cash is oxygen and we just need to hustle harder. Tony Robbins is telling us that if we want to be successful then we just need to find someone who has achieved the results we want, then copy what they do. And, apparently, Jesus also has a lot to say.
But what if the popular truth doesn't look like your truth? What if the crowd-pleasing words don't match the knowing that lives in your own body, the experiences that have formed your own history, your own very personal story?
After a particularly painful morning of seeing my newsfeed full of "inspiration", I decided to dismantle some of the meme myths:
“No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, show up and never give up”
Maybe you have some form of chronic pain or an invisible illness and you just can’t deal with today. Maybe honoring your own needs looks like staying in bed, or not getting dressed, or asking for help to get through the moment, or the hour, or the week. Maybe it's taken you years of therapy to finally understand that your feelings are valid and that honoring them is your very own victory, even if it looks like "giving up" to somebody else.
"Shout out to all the beautiful women who don't need to dress half naked to get a man's attention - stay classy!"
Shout out to all the beautiful humans who are doing their best to feel good in their own skin, despite the overwhelming pressure to conform to some kind of stifling ideal that the world constantly projects on to them. Respect to all those who are dressing, or undressing, for themselves and refusing to listen to a meme that makes ridiculous assumptions about their identity and their preferences.
"Expect nothing and appreciate everything"
Expect respect. Expect equality. Expect to be treated with dignity and afforded the same rights as others, no matter how you identify or what you look like. Gratitude is not a given. We do not have to show appreciation for people or circumstances that we are not thankful for.
"God never gives you more than you can handle"
Right. Because that's exactly the kind of supportive statement that we all want to hear when we're in the thick of the living and we don't know how the bill will be paid, or when the trauma will ease, or how we're going to deal with the test results.
Newsflash: We are not all praying to the same God (or any God). We are not all surrounded by the same support systems. We are not all in the same bodies, with the same feelings, having the same experiences. None of us can handle all of the things, all of the time. It is not a weakness to know this.
"Your only limit is you"
Except of course when you are limited by external systems that seek to oppress you rather than elevate you. Except when a big part of your daily living means you are wading through the numerous discriminations that not everyone else is subjected to because they happen to live in the right body, with the right skin color, in the right zip code. Except when you don't have access to the money, or the time, or the able body that might allow you to rise a little higher and get a piece of the same privileged pie that everyone else is telling you tastes so good.
Encouraging one another to aim for our dreams is wonderful. Pretending that we are all on an equal playing field is not.
"The love of a family is life's greatest blessing"
Maybe your greatest blessing was walking away from your family. Maybe you've spent long years feeling the weight of familial expectation or suppression from your relatives, as well as the accompanying guilt that comes when we turn away from something we're told is "love". Maybe your chosen people are not related to you by blood, but bonded to you through mutual choice and common ground.
Each of us gets to know and name our own blessings, and we are not required to justify their meaning to anyone else.
"You get into the biggest fights with those you care about most, because those are the relationships worth fighting for"
How utterly exhausting and harmful to believe that violence is a display of love. How damaging and draining to be told that showing up to a fight is an indication of how much we care. Abusive behavior is not a badge of honor. We are allowed to establish healthy boundaries in all of our relationships. And we are allowed to stick to them.
"And she'll continue to smile, no matter how hurt she is"
And she'll continue to suffer and risk her physical and mental health because she's always been taught that, even when in pain, attractiveness is the ultimate goal.
Suffering in silence is not a sign of strength. Maintaining an image that is rooted in sexism is an additional pressure that we can refuse to take on. We do not have to smile, whether we are hurting or not. We are not here for the entertainment or objectification of others. Acknowledging our emotions is a far greater gift to ourselves than putting on a pretty pretense for others.
"If you're going through hell, keep going"
If you're going through hell, ask for help. If you don't already have people checking in on your needs or welfare, then try to communicate your struggle to those around you. If your chosen community cannot support you then consider reaching out to a professional who can. Make a note of the helplines that might be lifelines for you, and keep them close to hand.
This isn't a Will Smith movie. You do not have to single handedly save the world. This is your life, and it is ok to stop and rest and take what you need.
Image courtesy of Unsplash