Inspirational quotes and privilege

New Year’s doesn’t get nearly enough love compared to the other winter holidays. Personally, I love it. There’s something about a fresh start and a celebration of the year that passed that makes me happy.

It’s a time for reflection, which makes sense. A new chapter is starting, and it’s never a bad idea to take a pause to look around and see if you’re really liking what you’re seeing and where you’re going. Reflection time also brings out the inspirational quotes meant to motivate you into whatever life change you might be seeking. They’re pretty common on Instagram usually, but it seems like they’re EVERYWHERE this time of year. And like a lot of things, I feel like they need to come with a warning label.

Don’t get me wrong, I love me some inspirational quotes.

I have a ton saved on my phone. One of them (running related, obvs) is the lock screen on my phone. I’m a sucker for some “get me right in the feels” motivation. BUT… (you knew there was a but coming)

They also really come from a place of privilege, and I think it’s important to acknowledge that.

I did a deep dive of Instagram (okay, it wasn’t that deep) and here are some of the inspirational messages I came across. I’m not trying to throw shade at anyone specifically, so I’m not tagging the accounts that posted them, but take a look.

True, but not everyone has the ability to make that big decision without some serious consequences, even if they wanted to.
IF ONLY IT WAS THAT EASY. Also, it’s okay to react “poorly”. You’re not experiencing a hard time because you weren’t strong enough to control it.
Orrrr… life responsibilities take over and there are only so many hours in the day.
A good idea in theory. Not everyone has the ability.
YIKES. So if you don’t overcome a “bad hand”, it’s your fault?

Kind of see what I mean? All of these quotes are great and inspiring IF you’re in a privileged position to be able to take advantage of the advice. Not everyone can just make a different decision to change their life circumstances. It’s much easier said than done to overcome a crappy life situation. There are tons of people, for various reasons, that can’t just “make themselves a priority”.

So why does this matter?

It’s not helpful, for starters. Imagine you’re someone who’s a single parent, working a low wage job, and managing a health concern. You’re unhappy. You’re worn out, frustrated, and in desperate need of a break. Now go re-read those quotes. Yeah, not good. At best, you can’t relate at all. At worst, you feel patronized and shamed.

And yes, that scenario is on the “very difficult” end of the difficult spectrum. But even as myself, as someone who has it pretty damn good overall, I’m feeling some type of way depending on what’s going on for me as I read those. If I read the “you can choose how you react” in the middle of a pain flare, I’m mad about it. Sure, it’s technically true, but also being in the middle of a pain flare SUCKS. It’s really not as easy as that saying makes it seem to just choose to react differently. And you know what? Sometimes it’s okay to react “poorly”. Also, I am not one decision away from a different life. I want a life without pain. There’s no decision on my part (at least not today) that would let that happen. Soooo, thanks for nothing!

Are these helpful to some people? Absolutely.

Like I said, I love my motivational images I save on my phone and look at often. I save them because they have meaning to me personally and provide a boost of warm fuzzies when I need one. But they might make someone else completely cringe – and that’s valid too.

Does that mean these fun Insta-graphics should go away forever? Of course not. They’re obviously reaching some people and giving them inspiration to keep pushing through what might be a difficult day or time in their life. As the saying goes, you can’t please everyone. Some people will love the message, and some people won’t. That’s just life. It’s important to accept that, but it’s also important to be mindful of how someone else might receive your message, especially if you’re someone posting or sharing things like that.

Everyone’s life experience is different. People will react in various ways to everything, including something as simple as an Instagram post that has all the best intentions. Being mindful of that doesn’t totally stop you from making a mistake and accidentally hurting someone when you meant to help – and we ALL do this. It can, though, help prevent it.

So next time you see one of those pick me up messages, just pause and think “Is this helpful for everyone? Who might be hurt by this?”.

It’ll give you a better awareness of the world around you and maybe give you the ability to choose messages more carefully so it’s much more likely that they are helpful, rather than harmful.

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