Quotes in their more basic form, are just parts of stories. Some of these stories are beautiful and do their part in motivating you and making you feel less alone in the world. However, like a documentary, the way they are presented tempts the reader to take the quote’s veracity at face value. But I disagree. Some quotes are shit. Moreover, some common ones can actually be detrimental towards personal progress.
“You deserve better.”
- What’s wrong? No one deserves anything. Good or bad. You hear this phrase often in terms of dating or jobs. But can we really say someone deserves to date someone “better?” If you work for it, you might get what you want, but you also might not get anything.
- Instead. A more active phrase to live by is “you can do better.” If you feel like you can find a better job, great. Go out and do what you need to do. But avoid the fallacy that you deserve anything as it has a connotation of waiting around for what you want.
“Follow your passion.”
- What’s wrong? Life is complicated and falling over itself with change. Following your passion isn’t a guarantee towards success or happiness. Life is full of compromises. Following your passion may mean giving up security and having security is a component of how you enjoy life. Just because you take a huge risk does not mean the world owes it to you for things to work out.
- Instead. The following your passion quote can be dangerous, because it may make your life feel meaningless if you don’t love what you’re doing. You should definitely analyze your passion, but don’t feel that your life is empty because your passion is not your career. Instead, what might be missing is changing 10 little things in life instead of 1 big thing.
“Everything happens for a reason.”
- What’s wrong? Really? So the millions of people who died in floods, terrorist attacks, and famines were all for a “reason.” Riiight. What people often forget is the “reason” always comes later on. Well you can derive a reason from anything if you give it a long enough. So is it really meaningful then?
- Instead. Instead, try to accept life as it comes. Some events in our lives are outliers of discomfort and pain. Struggle is inevitable and does not always happen for a reason, but you can choose to create a silver lining. Do something to make a negative event more bearable.
“Everything will be okay/work out in the end.”
- What’s wrong? The only certainty in life is death and change. Everything else is just a probability. We make choices and sometimes they turn out to be a complete detriment to us.
- Instead. Analyze the discomfort instead of dismissing it. Are you reassuring yourself that everything will be okay because you believe it? Or are you being delusional in order to avoid the truth that some things might have to change? Things might not work out but they will change. It’s up to you to direct the course you your want life to go in.
“There’s someone out there for everyone.”
- What’s wrong? No, there isn’t always someone. Some people die (unwittingly) alone. That may be statistically unlikely for the average person, but outliers are outliers for a reason.
- Instead. Envision your life without a significant other. It doesn’t mean you won’t find a partner to be with. Let this exercise serve as a reminder that there doesn’t need to be someone out there for you for your life to be complete. You can be happy and find meaning without a “soul mate.” There are many different and equaling rewarding ways to have a family other than the typical nuclear family unit.
“You’ll find someone when you stop looking.”
- What’s wrong? Not going after what you want is never a piece of advice given in any other context, so why is it in this one? This quote misleads others from being an active participant in their life and instead relegates them to a story in someone else’s book.
- Instead. You have control over your destiny. If you want to date, then don’t shy from saying that. There’s nothing wrong with looking. Of course there’s a balance between looking and being desperate – but “looking” doesn’t automatically put you in the desperate category.
The common theme that is irksome about these quotes is that they breed complacency. If you want things to work out, sometimes you need to change. But you also need to accept that there is an element of surprise in life, which means results are not always proportionally correlated with effort. Life is not a simple math equation of 1 +1 = 2.
Life is often uncomfortable and uncertain, but the hope for more beautiful moments keeps us going. You may never get that big acting break or promotion though. So think now if you believe you can be satisfied with what you will give up going for a goal you may never reach. Is it worth it? If you think it is – then great. Keep doing what you’re doing. But don’t let silly little life platitudes stop you from doing the hard self-examination that will ultimately lead to a more fulfilling life.