I LOVE a good inspirational quote. Like, for real, love them. I am addicted to motivational talks, self-help language, can-do make your dreams come true kinda stuff. So yesterday when this meme came across my Facebook feed I read it as I do many others throughout the day. Now, I admit to not being in a very good mood over the last couple of days, and I own the fact that I may have cursed out a bird or two, and berated the produce section when there were no carrot chips available – not the people in charge but the actual section…
However, with all of this in mind, I was still not prepared for the hideous rage monster that rose forth from my body when I read this utter bullshit. When I shared this several moms stated my first thought, “He must not have kids.” Let’s be very clear – I agree that we make our way in the world based on our ability to be hopeful and optimistic. No one is served by complaining all the time. I agree with the sentiment but the delivery is perfectly tone deaf.
Kind of like this one:
Brendan Burchard is good at a few things, really he is. His productivity trainings are great. His step-by-step guides for setting and breaking down goals are pretty brilliant. But this meme really upset me.
“Remove stressful activities from your life?”
“Learn to joyfully deal with them?”
Maybe there are people in this world who are not emotionally impacted by the trials and challenges of daily life. Perhaps there are those whose are so transcendent they have evolved past the frustration that comes with telling your children to put their shoes on 84 times in 10 minutes with no results. It’s possible that there are some who enjoy caring for aging parents, worrying about the bills, or who may even smile through the process of a difficult divorce. But let’s be clear, in order to become enlightened the Buddha had to leave everything he loved behind and sit in the woods under a tree for years before he achieved the level of transcendence this guy is talking about. The second you read it you are set up for disappointment.
There is a pretty serious issue with the circular logic that exists in a lot of “self-help” literature. If you do “this” correctly then “that” positive outcome will happen. But what if you’re not doing it right, often enough, with enough focus? And on and on down the shame spiral we go becoming more focused on the technique than the actual thing we are trying to achieve.
Now, I should be quiet because what I do technically falls into this category and that’s likely where my book will be when it hits the shelves in a few months; but I am really cognizant of the fact that this suggested behavior isn’t obtained through memes. In fact, memes like this one can have the opposite effect.
It struck me immediately that this type of statement is largely unfair to people with mental illness, of any kind, people with little education, few job prospects, and multi-generational cycles of abuse and neglect, many of whom don’t begin at the same starting point as those who have all of that training and modeling. When every inch of your life is a “stressful activity” it’s kind of ridiculous to just say removing those things will make a difference. When it’s all a shit storm of stress how do you choose what to remove? Should it be the children? The job? The dysfunctional family? It’s pretty myopic to say that someone should learn to deal with those things joyfully. Is that what we are telling victims of abuse, people struggling with addiction or disability? No we shouldn’t be telling them – but really no one should make such a blanket statement to anyone else, ever, for any reason. Because while it may have some truth and some value – it largely misses the point. You can’t just choose to do what this thing is saying and be done. It’s really, really hard.
I grew up with a horribly negative, mistrusting attitude about life and people. It wasn’t until I was a parent that I looked at myself and made a conscious decision to choose a different path. This is a work in progress. This takes time. So.much.time…12 years and counting and I still struggle with finding gratitude, negative self-talk, depression, anxiety, ADD. I work on it everyday – consciously, intentionally, with focus – and yet I still can’t figure out how to remove and/or find joy in stress. Though I have managed to figure out how to make fun of it pretty successfully. I do it because it’s worth it. These actions have changed every aspect of my life but it has been slow and often very painful.
And as with everything else in life, there’s no magic bullet. You just have to keep doing the thing, learning the thing, perfecting the thing, and not giving up on the thing until finally one day all that hard work hopefully pays off. But people who make dumb statements like the line on this meme create a dependency that feeds off of fear and insecurities. So I’m going to say to you what I wish he would have said instead.
Stress is part of life and while it’s important not to become mired in it, if we want to live with others, achieve goals, and create a world for future generations, we will face stressful situations. All I can say is, find the things that bring you joy, be kind to yourself, and don’t give up even when things feel darkest. Complaining only helps for a minute. Solutions last longer. Find your champions and ask for help. Life is hard. Don’t let anyone tell you that it isn’t. Those people are trying to sell you something.
But who knows – maybe this meme had the opposite effect on you and it was just what you needed to hear. I would love more conversation on this topic. What is inspiring or motivating to you? Let’s keep the conversation going.