The Problem with “Motivational” Quotes

We’ve all seen them. The ones that tell you to use your time more wisely and that you’ll regret not starting (whatever it is you’re meant to be starting) today because the time will pass anyway.

And when you just need that swift kick in the pants to get you going, it’s nice to be reminded to just get up and get at it.

But what about when you want to, but you just can’t make yourself?

I remember sharing a quote on Facebook some years ago, in a moment where I needed to be reminded that I could do the thing, but that I was choosing not to.

My mother, always quick to remind me to see other viewpoints, commented that it was a bit dismissive and untrue. It wasn’t that some lacked the motivation or desire or drive to do whatever it was they wanted to do, but that maybe they had mental or physical limitations.

I deleted the post, and chose to save it on my phone for when I felt that I needed it.

My mother was dealing with both physical and mental health problems at the time, and the post probably made her feel even worse about her situation and herself than she already did.

Then Monday evening, as I was scrolling through Instagram, a friend shared this photo and, based on the caption, it was just what she and others needed to bring them out of their dark places, wherever they may have been.

And while I can see how it would have been helpful to them, I felt it was necessary to remind them that the post came across as dismissive. Not toward others, necessarily, though someone could have had a reaction similar to my mother’s on the post before, but toward herself.

Sometimes, when you’re in the pits of an anxiety-induced spiral or having a depressive episode, or just trying to trudge through life; you’re just trying to survive, much less make a list of your goals or meditate.

And don’t get me wrong, those are fantastic ideas, but it’s not about having the time to meditate versus check social media or write down your goals versus feel like shit and complain, it’s about being mentally and physically capable, in that moment, to do those things.

I’ve got an entire art room at home: something a lot of people literally dream about having. And yet, there are some days I can’t even make myself get off the couch, much less go in my room and create something. And it’s not because I don’t want to or because I’m ungrateful or I’m less dedicated than others. It’s because, in that moment, I can’t make my mind focus on anything other than being as zoned-out as possible.

And then there’s this one. As if you weren’t already beating yourself up enough, this little prize pops up on your feed.

And obviously Beyonce is just an example- you can sub in any celebrity (Blake Lively is one of my favorites). But what this post fails to mention is that, besides the same 24 hours, she also has a team of professionals working for her and boatloads of money. And also, she busted her ass for it. It wasn’t handed to her, she had to put in the work. Plus, she’s human. Just like she has the same 24 hours, she has the capacity for mental and physical health problems, too. She’s not a robot, after all.

So what that someone you went to high school with is jet-setting around the world? It’s not your business that your coworker has gone on their fourth trip to Disney World in two years. You don’t see their struggles. You only see the best, most curated version of their life that they choose to share.

Just be kinder to yourself. Only you know what you’re dealing with and are capable of. And if that doesn’t include setting goals for yourself because you can’t make yourself focus on anything past the next hour, that’s okay.



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