One of the most popular things on social media are quote posts. Some people love them and others hate them. From a social media influencer angle they are a win (p.s. I fucking hate the term “influencer” and the whole influencer culture but these are the times we live in). They boost engagement because it encourages people to talk about themselves, their experiences and beliefs (and everyone loves to talk about themselves). They are also very shareable, and depending on the quote it can say a lot about you to people scrolling through your posts.
Here are some stats for popular hashtags used with these posts. These numbers reflect hourly views generated on Twitter and Instagram combined.[list style=”style5″] [li]#quoteoftheday – 8,611,267 views[/li] [li]#inspiration – 3,846,504 views[/li] [li]#motivation – 3,458,188 views[/li] [li]#inspirationalquotes – 207,104 views[/li] [li]#motivationalquotes – 51,950 views[/li] [/list]
That’s a lot of people looking at these happy, uplifting, “life is always awesome” type of quotes. But this quote culture has created a lot of misinformation and misquotes. You’ve all seen these meme style quote posts. They have a generic inspiring quote in big block letters over a moody or serious black and white image of an actor or other celebrity despite the fact that they have nothing to do with the actual quote.
Some of the most misquoted and shared quotes come from the Buddha. I guarantee you’ve shared a fake Buddha quote if you share posts like this. You may even have them on your word board in your office or on stickies to motive you. Most of these quotes aren’t from the Buddha at all or are modernized interpretations of one of his teachings. Sometimes these “updated” quotes totally lose the original meaning.
This quote seems to originate with philosopher and theologian Albert Schweitzer but is often attributed to Buddha. It makes for a believable Buddha quote in the modern new age, inspirational, motivational self-help style that we approach the Buddha’s teachings with. But it’s not, it’s a Fake Buddha Quote.
I tried an experiment last year by posting a quote that just sounded and looked good on the surface without stating who it was from of giving context.
I was both pleasantly surprised and happy to know there were a handful of people that knew the origin right away but I was a little horrified, but unsurprised, to find that later in the day it had been shared by a few people without any mention of the origin and instead using it to promote their own take on it.
FYI…that quote is from Charles Manson; it was part of his “motivational” speech to the Family members who were heading out to commit the crimes that would turn out to be the murders of actress Sharon Tate and her friends.
Other than misinformation and misattribution, a lot of these modern day affirmations and mantras posted all over social media create a lot of pain. Sometimes that pain comes in the form of feeling badly about oneself for various reasons or from false hope or diluting pain they’re already experiencing.
The problem with the “good vibes only” trend is it encourages us to turn away from pain. It can put you in the mindset that it’s best to avoiding challenging or painful situations, ones that otherwise teach big life lessons that we don’t really learn any other way.
It’s a form of self-imposed mental and emotional sheltering.
For some people that isn’t the case. For some they are monetary mood boosters to help them actually get through the painful situations. But for others they are an emotional version of those inflatable bumpers put in the gutters at the bowling alley so when kids bowl they actually hit the pins instead of constantly ending up in the gutter.
Sometimes we need to spend time in the gutter to learn better ways to aim for the pins next time.
Here are 8 of these affirmations and instaquotables that are utter bullshit.
and how I would make them better
Dream Big. Work Hard. Make It Happen.
It is completely possible to dream TOO big. Not everyone can be the next Oprah or Lady Gaga. Somebody needs to do Oprah’s hair and someone needs to dog sit for Lady Gaga when she’s on tour. Sadly, not everyone is cut out to “work hard” to “make it happen” either. Most people will only go so far with a dream before giving up when things aren’t happening as quickly or easily as they would like while not taking responsibility for their shortcomings. Dreaming big and working hard doesn’t always mean the dream will happen, but that also doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dream! I would tack on to the end of this one “Know when it’s time to walk away and find something better.”
You have to be at your strongest when you’re at your weakest.
I fucking hate this one. There is no shame at all in falling apart. Sometimes falling to pieces is the only way to rebuild yourself and find your strength. This quote carries the implication that weakness has no value and that if you can’t just bulldoze your way through pain and problems you’re doomed to fail. I would modify this quote to say “You have to be at your strongest after you have fully experienced yourself at your weakest.”
You must wake up each morning and tell yourself “I can do this!”
Not only do you literally not need to do this, but there are times when you can’t “do this” and you just need to power down and regroup. Pushing and forcing yourself to do something that you have to force and push yourself to do is a sure sign that something isn’t right about this situation. Whether it’s having to drag yourself out of bed to get to work each day or enduring a relationship that you are deeply unhappy with. Sometimes what you need to say when you get up in the morning is “I can’t do this but I can make a change.”
Forget all the reasons you shouldn’t and believe in the one reason you should.
This is like saying, “Well, sure all the facts and proof are there that it’s a bad idea but I have this one reason why I should do it anyway so I’m doing it!” I see this quote or something similar when reading articles and social media posts from spiritual entrepreneurs and biz coaches. In situations like this I’ve seen people quit their jobs or put themselves in serious debt because, despite all the signs that their vegan keto paleo cupcake company is a bad business investment, they believe in it so much because it’s something they love, they throw caution and logic to the wind and go in headfirst. Six months later they lose everything and have to close their doors and take a job at Taco Bell to attempt to pay the bills (oh the irony). Those “shouldn’t’s” aren’t things to ignore but things to work through first before you do the “should.” Instead “The reasons you shouldn’t are important rest stops on the journey to the reason you should.”
If you want it you’ll find a way. If you don’t you’ll find an excuse.
OK, this one I’m going to be a little softer with because I feel like there is truth here but not at face value. There will always be times when you want something but are full of nothing but excuses. Usually that’s because you haven’t got a clue how to get what you want. That’s just life. You can’t snap your fingers and get it right away or know exactly how to get it. Part of the journey to attaining what we desire is going through the excuses phase that leads to the discovery phase that then takes us to the planning and doing phase. I think what we need to say is “If you want it you’ll find a way. If you don’t you’ll find an excuse. If you never find a way and only find more excuses, it was never that important in the first place.”
When you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life.
This is such utter fucking bullshit and kind of ties into that previous favorite of the motivational entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. It’s actually the total opposite. When you’re doing what you love you go through a ton of hurt, pain, struggle, and stress. You know why? Because you LOVE IT and it MATTERS! When we don’t love what we do we don’t give a shit. If you’re blessed enough to do a job that you truly love, think back to your last job that was completely unimportant to you. Our vegan keto paleo cupcake lady is going to literally shed blood, sweat, and tears over her cupcakes because she loves them. When she ends up working at Taco Bell she’s going to go in and out of work each day without a care in the world because the last thing that matters to her is that someone got a soggy chalupa. Instead “When you do what you love you’ll work harder than ever because you’ll do everything you can for what matters most.”
If you can count your money, you’re not working hard enough.
This mentality is something that lead me through several very painful years in my life and my business. I would instead turn to a quote from 90’s philosopher Christopher Wallace, aka Biggie, “The more money we come across, the more problems we see.” Work harder, make more money, sacrifice more to work harder to make more money and eventually pay more taxes. If you’re lucky you’ll find time enjoy the money, but a lot of people end up not having time for the vacations or cars or whatever because they’re too busy working.Then you have people trying to take what you have or manipulating you for their own gain. Trusting people who come into your life after you have that money is hard. And then there’s the vibe of not being grateful for what you already have that this quote conveys. So I say, “If you can count your money, count your blessings for all the things that get you that money, no matter how much you have.” Because there are literally people with nothing to count who would be more than happy to have what you have that you think is insignificant.
Hustle until your haters ask if you’re hiring.
No. No no no. First off, “hustle” has become nothing more than a buzzword and an ideal, not an actual way of living. Most people that DO try to embody the hustle lifestyle burn out quick. Just as fast as they showed up all over the internet they’re gone or they’re pivoting their business because they’re beyond stressed. Hustle is doing ten things at once, six of which you truly hate. Hustle is having more caffeine in your veins than blood. Hustle is living and working from a mindset of lack and fear as a way to drive you to undercut the competition and stay ahead of the curve. Hustle is living in next week and never having a chance to enjoy today. Hustle is also what con artists do; they talk fast, confuse you and pressure you, and make you feel like if you don’t just say “yes” to whatever they’re selling you’re going to regret it later. Then you say “yes” and as quickly as the payment clears they’re out of town or out of reach. Instead we need more presence and less hustle, really. And besides who honestly wants to work to impress their haters?!? Instead I say, “Create with purpose and passion until so many people love what you do that you never notice the haters.”
I don’t think there is anything wrong with motivational mottos and quotes but there is a problem with the airy-fairy “good vibes only” approach that a lot of people take with them.
If you’re not all about the good vibes 24/7 you’re not a horribly negative person (despite what some of those motivational posts will tell you). You’re just not trying to mask possible pain, loss, disappointment, or failure because you understand there is value there too. Like it or not, these things will happen because that’s part of life’s journey. The light needs the dark and vice versa.
One motivational quote that I do love that has become very cliche:
It’s not how many times you get knocked down that count, it’s how many times you get back up.
– Col. George A. Cluster
If you learn lessons from each time you get knocked down and then get back up and try again, eventually you’ll be too strong to knock down.