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Thursday, January 15, 2015

7 "Inspirational" Mantras That Are Actually Ruining Our Lives

Every now and then, I see inspirational quotes or sayings that really speak to me, but most of the time, I just find them irritating. I always thought it was because many tend to over-simplify things, but then one day, I realized it was bigger than that; these mantras that we hold dear in our American lives, these sayings that we wear proudly on our shirts and slap on our cars as bumper stickers are actually ruining our lives. We think they give us inspiration, but they're acutally just incredibly unhelpful, the opposite of what we should really be telling ourselves. With this in mind, I took some time to correct many of these cliche inspirational mantras and make some crappy brilliant posters of my own that you can put on your walls to replace the life-ruining ones.

#1: "Dream Until Your Dreams Come True"

Such a beautiful thought, right? It reminds us of twinkling starlight and Disney movies. But here's the dirty little truth on this one: dreaming has to lead to action, or else it's useless. You know how much time I've spent dreaming, both while awake and while asleep? If  dreams could convert into some type of currency, I'd be living in a palace eating gold.  I've only accomplished like, three things in my whole life. This mantra ruins lives because it ends too quickly, leaving out the most important factor that makes dreams come true. Yes, dreaming time is a very important step in creation and change, but you can't just say there.

Mantra corrected:

"Work Until Your Dreams Come True"

#2: "You Can Do Anything You Set Your Mind To"

Can you? I'm pretty sure no matter how much time I spend reading about astrology, I will never work for NASA. I don't think everyone has the physical body to be a gymnast. Just because you love music doesn't mean you're creative enough to compose a symphony. I think this mantra can ruin lives when people start to feel bad about what they haven't accomplished, like they can't do this or that because they haven't worked hard enough. Maybe you just weren't meant to do it? Maybe you were meant to do something else. We all have different skill sets, different brains and potentials, and that's a good thing.

Mantra corrected:

"Test Your Limits, Then Know Them & Focus On What You CAN Do & Get Really Good At That"

#3: "Everything Happens For A Reason"

This one gets tricky because it bleeds into religious territory, and I don't want to shut down anyone's beliefs, but I struggle with this one myself. Some things DO seem meant to be. Others are too horrible to be worthy of justifying some grand plan. I get nervous when people act like EVERYTHING is pre-destined because I'm like, "Do you ever watch the news???" How will these people deal with truly terrible shit that happens in their lives, as it most likely will at some point? I'm not talking about losing a job or a break-up; I'm talking about death and illness and natural disaster and political unrest. I worry for these people. I think it's dangerous to think that fate or God or the universe makes everything happen. At what point are you absolved of responsibility? At what point will you be mad at God for what he supposedly did to you? I gots to much to say on this one, so I'm just gonna leave it at this before I start spewing off my own spiritual beliefs.

Mantra Corrected:

"The Universe is Not Shitting On You; Good Can Come From ANY Situation"

#4: "Dream Big" and/or "Expect Great Things"

Trust me, dreaming big will only lead to feeling like a failure. Dream small, achievable dreams that can increase as you meet goals. Instead of expecting great things, expect nothing. This was my only resolution for 2015, and I've got thirty years of reasons why. Our culture has a problem with expecting great things, and honestly, I think it's our downfall. We are all encouraged to expect above-average lives, which can turn into feeling like we are entitled to great big things. Not good things, comforting things, or pleasant things, but GREAT things. When we don't get these things or they're not GREAT enough, we feel bad about ourselves, resent each other, and again, hate God. That's sad. On the contrary, when you don't expect great things, or really anything, I think it's easier to see more of the good. You're not distracted by what this "should have" been and you can just appreciate what it is. Hopefully.

Corrected Mantra:

"Do Your Best, Expect Nothing, & You May Be Pleasantly Surprised"

#5: "Don't Worry. Be Happy!"

This is similar to "be fearless" or "be confident" or "choose to be happy." I think these ideas ruin lives because no matter what anyone says, you cannot control how you FEEL. YOU CAN'T. Why do we keep insisting that you can?! We can choose what we focus on, with effort. I would like to emphasize again WITH EFFORT. We can choose how we act and how we treat each other, but we cannot control what we think or how we feel. I can't just not worry. I can't just be happy. And you know, sometimes you have to worry. I can't pay my bills! That makes me worried! I should do something about that. Nah man, just be happy. Okay! Now I'm homeless. So stupid. I'm not saying we should be slaves to bad feelings, but they require management, not rejection.

Mantra Corrected:

"Notice When You Are Focusing Too Much on What Makes You Worry & Make Time To Focus on What Makes You Happy"

#6: "Live Life With No Regrets"

Okay, out of all the life-ruining mantras, this one is by far the worst. Living life with no regrets is the stupidest idea we have adopted into our cultural consciousness. Regret is the result of learning. Learning is an important part of being a person. Regrets are often accompanied with pain, and if our culture is anything, it's one dead-set on numbing and rejecting pain, to the point of fetishism. But Oprah herself would tell you that the only way out of the pain is through. "Live life with no regrets" not only glorifies the rejection of reflection, growth, and responsibility, but it also diminishes how hard it can be to make choices. Respect the decision-making process that we all go through in life and have empathy with yourself when you struggle with it; everyone does, and that's called The Deal You Got When You Agreed to be a Human Being.

Mantra Corrected:

 "Reflect Heavily On Your Regrets, Then Move Forward & Make Different Choices"

#7: "Live Life to the Fullest"

What does this even mean?! Whose idea of "the fullest" am I supposed to be following? Usually, this mantra is accompanied with pictures of mountain climbers in foreign lands or something that involves Eat, Pray, Love-esque soul searching. Your life is full if you've gone to a lot of places and met strange people and made impulsive decisions, never mind if they were "mistakes" or not. (Oh yeah, they weren't mistakes. Live life with no regrets.) Am I supposed to feel bad about myself because this all sounds awful? Being physically active and making small talk with strangers are two of the things that I hate the most. It also just looks like a lot of emptiness to me. Our culture tells us that a person who backpacks across Europe making surfacey, sexy relationships is living a fuller life than someone who stays home taking care of her family who she loves & counseling her friends over the phone, and I think that's gross. I guess if you value adventure and new things, then fine. But I value relationships and naps and art and pie.

Corrected Mantra:

"Define Your Values & Try To Live Them Out Fully Every Day"

So what do you think? Have you ever followed or tried to follow one of these cliches and felt like you were a failure at life when you couldn't make them work? Did you used to like one of these ideas and now find it annoying? Are you mad at me for how I defined these mantras and want to defend them? What annoying mantras have I missed? I know there's a million of them. Sound off!

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