You’ve seen them. All over Facebook and Instagram. Your friends and people you follow post these beautiful images with a quote on them that is meant to inspire you to be and do better.
As a person who lives with chronic depression and generalized anxiety disorder, seeing these types of posts can be like a slap in the face. Sure, some of these can be actually inspiring or thought-provoking, but a large number of them give the same sort of message. “It’s your fault if you’re not happy, healthy, etc.”
I’m going to share a few that I’ve seen around and explain why I believe they are problematic. There are thousands out there, but hopefully, you can understand my point from the few I am going to share today.
These are trying to inspire people to “decide” to be happy. Unfortunately for many, this just isn’t possible. But thinking that it is possible can lead someone who has depression or another mental illness to feel like a failure for not being able to be happy. They also create a culture of people who believe that “happy” is the only way to feel. And that having negative emotions are something to be ashamed of. This is horrible because humans were built to experience a wide array of emotions. Feeling sadness or anger in moderation is good for you, and help you appreciate your happy times so much more. If you never allow yourself to feel negative emotions, you won’t be equipped to cope when these feelings do come on strong enough that you can’t “decide” your way out of them.
Oh, that’s all I have to do? Silly me, letting my anxiety disorder cause me to worry all the time. Next time I worry, I will turn into a “warrior” and poof, all my problems will go away!
But actually, I am both of these things. I fight battles with my brain on a daily basis. Anyone facing mental illness or any other chronic illness is a badass warrior in my opinion. But we also worry, and while it’s important to work on ourselves and try not to let worrying overtake us, it’s not an easy one-step process, and you can be a worrier while also being brave and amazing.
These ones do make a good point. It is really important to remember that hard work can usually get you where you want to go. It should also be remembered that sitting around and not doing anything will not get you anywhere, and you shouldn’t feel entitled to things you don’t work for.
However… A person going through a depressive episode, or having anxiety about leaving the house, doing the work needed, or failing, can see this type of post and feel so much worse. In my darkest moments of depression, seeing posts like this when I was having a hard time just getting off the couch or opening my computer to type up a blog post, made me feel so much guilt. How dare I have all these dreams and desires when I can’t even build up enough energy to get started. I felt pathetic and ashamed of my lack of work ethic, despite knowing that when I am feeling good, I have a great work ethic and like to get a lot done.
This is just a horrible message. It can work if you’re talking about a healthy lifestyle choice, but otherwise, just horrible.
Think of the person in a love-less/abusive marriage seeing this. They might think “I’ve already put 10 years of my life into this, maybe if I stay things will change eventually.”
Or a person in a job or running a business that isn’t lucrative at all and it’s clear that despite their best effort, they aren’t going anywhere with this position. Instead of letting go for the sake of their mental and financial health, they keep holding on.
Letting go of something or someone that isn’t serving you is really difficult. Really really difficult. But it’s often the smartest choice a person can make for their own well being.
Both of these images send my anxiety through the roof! The idea behind the first one is good, but it’s stated far too casually. I don’t believe that a person should allow anxiety to hold them back in life, but there are so many things in between feeling the fear, and doing the thing. There is working on yourself, therapy, possibly medication, and practice. A person can’t just toss their fear to the side and do something that scares them as easily as this quote suggests.
As for the 2nd image. People with anxiety already have an overwhelming worry about running out of time and feeling like time is passing by so fast. This type of quote just enhances that worry and encourages it.
If you have any quotes that are supposed to be motivational and inspiring, but are actually condescending and hurtful, share them and your thoughts in the comments below.