Swearing Off Inspirational Stories

I’ve read a fair number of opinions and suggestions about how to be happier, and I’ve discovered a basic theme.

Each person starts out not appreciating their life enough, wanting something they don’t have. Then at some point (usually in their mid-20’s or in mid-life or in some other period of great transition) something clicks. They wake up one morning and realize that they have control over how happy they are and what direction their life takes. From then on, their perspective changes and they are happy no matter what happens in their lives.

These accounts piss me off.

It’s like if my 6-foot-2 husband wrote an article about how to reach items on the top shelf of our kitchen cupboards.

“I wasn’t always able to reach items on the top shelf,” he might write. “I used to beat myself up for not being able to get to those top shelves. I would be angry when I saw other people who could reach those shelves so easily. What was their secret? But then one day just before I started college, I looked up at that top shelf and realized that all I needed to do was reach for what I wanted and I could grab it. The secret was the wanting. Once I realized I could obtain items on that shelf if I really wanted them, it was easy. I’ve been able to reach items on high shelves ever since.”

This sort of inspirational story would work well for someone else who’s over 6 feet tall. But for someone who’s 5-foot-2 like myself, it’s ignoring the fact that he can reach one whole foot higher than I can. It’s ignoring the fact that his ability to reach that top shelf was influenced by something more than just will. No matter how much I want that item on the top shelf, I’m going to need a stool to reach it.

There’s this, “If I can do it, you can do it,” idea that these motivational/inspirational types try to impart. But why on earth would this be true?

So, I’m going to stop reading these kinds of books, articles, blog posts, and interviews. These people aren’t me. They don’t know me. And their oversimplifications simply serve to plunge me into despair of ever attaining the happiness that I desire.

4 comments

  1. Jamie @ I am totally that mom · October 25, 2011

    I love this! How true. I always get mad, frustrated and depressed by these stories. I mean it starts off veiled as motivation but in reality, it’s just another reason to beat myself up for what I’m not. I love your perspective.

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    • CJ · October 25, 2011

      Thank you for the comment, Jamie. I’m always surprised at just how deep the downward spiral takes me if I read these stories in the wrong mood. I usually have to read a really sad book or watch a tear-jerker to get me back on an even keel (I have Steel Magnolias and Terms of Endearment in my movie library for this very reason).

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  2. Abigail · October 24, 2011

    I’m with you. Those accounts leave me irritated. Also, my husband is also a foot taller than me. I am watching my boys grow and anticipating being the shortest one in the house in a few short years. If only I wanted to be taller. 😉

    Like

    • CJ · October 24, 2011

      Yep, if we just changed our perspective, we’d be taller in no time! My daughter asks me when she’ll be as tall as me, and I always tell her, “When you’re about ten, honey.” She’s only got one foot to go and she’s only 6.

      Like

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