why these inspirational quotes are wrong
Inspirational quotes, intended to motivate or encourage, are often nothing more than psychological gibberish masquerading as profound truths. They sound nice, but mean nothing.
- “If you dream it, you can do it.” I love Mickey Mouse, but this assertion by Walt Disney is silly. Dreams accomplish nothing. Disney’s achievements were built upon talent, persistence and hard work.
- “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment” proclaimed Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of my favorite writers. There are lots of these “be yourself” quotes around, all of them misleading and juvenile.What does it mean to be yourself? There are times we are selfish, mean, and narcissistic. Living is all about trying to contain our negative sides and live in a loving and moral manner. Can you imagine a world where everyone just acted on the way they felt in the moment, and rationalized their behavior by proclaiming that they were “being themselves?”
- “You can have anything you want, if you want it badly enough” remarked President Lincoln. Classroom teachers like to put posters like this in their classrooms, and it drives me crazy. I get the intent. Let’s encourage students’ self-confidence. However, adults know that hard work alone is not enough. Talent is essential, and not everyone is equally gifted with intelligence or creativity.
- “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” I don’t know who said this, but it sets the wrong expectations for our kids about life as an adult. I really love my job, most of the time. However, there are parts of it that are frustrating, boring, and exhausting. Let’s not tell our kids that work is always fun.
- “If you judge people, you have no time to love them” remarked Mother Teresa, who is currently being considered for sainthood in the Catholic Church. With all due respect to a potential saint, this is terrible advice. There is nothing wrong with proclaiming people’s behavior as wrong, immoral or stupid. Just because someone thinks that something is correct doesn’t make it so. We need to judge more, not less.
- “That which does not kill us makes us strong” wrote German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. This guy never spent a day in my office. Lots of bad things happen to kids that leave them hurt and vulnerable, not strong.
- “The fact is that people are good…” was a fundamental tenet of psychologist Abraham Maslow. Anyone who has read a few chapters of history from any time period knows that statement to be rather ridiculous.