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The Empty Rhetoric of the 'Inspirational' Quote

May 27, 2021 Jennifer Lear

Those empty "inspirational" quotes are a particular pet peeve of mine. Facebook and Instagram are littered with them, and the more of them I see, the more aggravated I get. It's not just that the same ones seem to do the virtual rounds every few months ("Live, Laugh, Love" anyone?), it's that they have become so ubiquitous that they feel insincere.

Increasingly, celebrities, influencers, and politicians are using the inspirational quote as a way of paying lip service to the issue of mental health without actually engaging with it in any meaningful way, and I worry that this superficial approach is just another way of sweeping the often ugly reality of mental illness under a filtered and photoshopped rug. 

Social Media Is Full of 'Inspirational' Quote Content

Earlier this week, I was perusing Facebook when I came across the profile of a woman I haven't seen for years. We are friends on the site but never interact, so, out of curiosity, I had a look. Her page was carpeted in inspirational quotes. Most of them were benign, but one stuck out. It read, " No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, and show up."

The text was set in a pretty gold font against a pastel pink background which sparkled when you clicked on it. This wasn't the first time I had come across this quote on social media, as it makes regular appearances in the Instagram feeds of countless young female celebrities and "influencers," and usually generates 1000s of likes and shares, with comments like "So true, Queen," and "Thiiiis," reeling underneath it like ticker tape. 

Aside from being terrible advice for somebody dealing with depression, this quote often appears in the same feeds as another famous aphorism: "It's okay not to be okay."

So, which is it? Am I allowed to acknowledge that I'm not okay, or must I "get up, dress up, and show up," no matter how I feel? This inconsistency is exactly why I despise the culture of social media grandstanding: quite often, the people who post these quotes have no real interest in the issue of mental health and are just jumping on a topical bandwagon. It's pandering, it's insincere, and it's frankly insulting to those of us who actually suffer from mental illness.

Real Support Is Much More 'Inspiring' Than Any Quote

I do not doubt that many people share inspirational quotes with the best of intentions, but the reality is that people with mental health issues don't need quotes -- they need support. So, the next time you see somebody share a meaningless platitude on social media, maybe suggest that instead, they share links to local mental health support networks and crisis lines. Let's get real support trending. And you can quote me on that. 

APA Reference
Lear, J. (2021, May 27). The Empty Rhetoric of the 'Inspirational' Quote, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, June 21 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/copingwithdepression/2021/5/the-empty-rhetoric-of-the-inspirational-quote



Author: Jennifer Lear

You can find Jennifer on Facebook.

Lizanne Corbit
June, 1 2021 at 2:57 pm

Inspirational quotes are one of those things that can be shared or said with the best of intentions, but they fall short or flat. This is a wonderful rally cry for actually putting action behind those pretty words and thinking about what would be truly supportive, truly inspiring. I'm on board with more of that!

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