The interesting thing about social media is that the thoughts and opinions of diverse people are available within arm’s reach. This means that you need to be constantly filtering what is being communicated through your own values, beliefs and opinions.
In order to remain true to yourself and stable in your core being, you need to be able to accept and dismiss comments that are or aren’t aligned with who you are. On the other hand in order to grow and learn you want to remain open to divergent views that can challenge your preconceived ideas.
I say this by way of introduction because two pieces of content came across my path criticizing what is now known as the “inspirational culture.” The one was a comedian mocking #motivationmonday and other inspirational messages that proliferate the various social media platforms. She was basically pointing a finger back at the originators of this material saying they are posting what they themselves need to hear. They are living lonely, desperate lives and are trying to cheer themselves up through these posts.
The other was quite a sharp critique by one of my heroes, JK Rowling. In her tweet she was chastising those who are urging people to keep going and to make something happen in this time of shut down when people are barely managing to get through the day. She is saying that these messages, designed to motivate, are instead putting pressure on people who rather need care and empathy.
As someone whose work and postings fall well and truly under the banner of “inspirational culture” I needed to examine how fair these comments were and to make sure that I am not perpetuating something that is in fact, not helpful.
Am I doing this for me?
Firstly I need to look at myself. Am I nearing despair and so needing to prop myself up with words of inspiration to keep me going? Are my posts a self-serving crutch? I really hope not. But that’s not to say I don’t need to eat my own cooking.
I am fully aware that in my life and in the lives of everyone I have ever met there are difficulties, worries, pain and hurt. Life is tough. It is not tough all the time and different people have struggles in different measures but at some point you will have a heavy burden to bear. At such times we reach out for comfort, reassurance and hope. We need to be inspired to keep believing that this period or problem does not and will not define our life forever.
I’m also someone who has great dreams and goals. I want my life to count. I want to leave a legacy that in some small, but hopefully significant way I made a difference, at least to the people in my circle and who crossed my path. Is this grandiose? Is this a bit cheesy? Maybe, if you are a bit cynical and jaded. But I believe in my heart of hearts that we all want to know that our lives matter and that we each have a unique purpose. I see my role as encouraging and supporting people in achieving their life goals.
I’ve said this before: life is too hard and complicated to think we can do it on our own. One resource easily accessed by people is social media. Why not fill it with good, positive intentions rather than allowing it to be sucked down to the petty and demeaning?
Is it an unkindness?
Now to address JK Rowling’s rebuke. Are we overloading people, already feeling down, with undue expectations that they have to be better, without fully acknowledging where they are? At some stage all of us have been frustrated or even hurt by someone who jumped in too quickly with advice on how to fix our problem without properly understanding how we were feeling. At some point in time, most of us have been in a place where we knew the “right” answer or what we were “supposed” to do and it just required more from us than we could muster up.
If you come from a background or culture where it is only acceptable to be happy and positive and strong and good, then the pressure to maintain this when real life happens can be almost intolerable. For those of us who want to inspire others to believe in themselves, to grow and to move in the direction of their dreams and goals, we cannot expect that this will happen in a steady and ever upward trajectory.
It is a jagged, up and down, roller coaster ride of a journey. It will be a wild, exciting free fall one day and a trudge of perseverance the next. That’s the journey we’re all on. Hopefully inspiration is a trusted companion on the adventure.