Inspirational? More Like Bullshit!

Have I mentioned how much I absolutely detest "inspirational" bullshit? Maybe so, but I'll do it again and this time in a more coherent fashion!

Anyway, as anyone who has even the faintest acquaintance with me knows, I hate bullshit. I also veer wildly between happiness and despair, idealism and cynicism, and do it all with a huge dollop of snark stuck on top. And I am utterly, utterly sincere. Unlike quite a few people, I don't do insincerity. I won't say one thing and mean another. I won't fake emotions - firstly, it costs me precious energy, and secondly, it's dishonest and I do have hang-ups about lying. Maybe my smile, my laugh, my tears all look idiotic and pathetic (I don't have high self-esteem) but they're all genuine.

This brings me to my first problem with inspirational bullshit: it doesn't seem sincere or authentic. It seems to be very much something that is banged out at a keyboard by someone who has nothing better to say or do. It's been recycled over and over again, to the point where the words and phrases become meaningless, to the point where you can pretty much create your own "inspirational" quotes and they sort of vaguely make sense in an utterly ludicrous way. They mean nothing. They are not quotes, not words of advice, not wisdom, not anything. They are painfully clichéd words and phrases strung together in a vaguely coherent way that people are expected to take heart from because hey, it's an inspirational quote! It's meant to make you feel better about life, the universe and everything!

Well, fuck that. With a shovel, if you're so inclined.

That's another problem with inspirational quotes: they're pretty damn idealistic and hopeful. Now, there's not much inherently wrong with idealism and hope - they're good not-having-a-complete-breakdown-at-how-utterly-shitty-the-universe-is fuel. To me, the problem comes when that hope and idealism are baseless. (To the people telling me that all hope and idealism are baseless, no, they're not - look at as much evidence as you can. Being a grouchy pessimist, though, I'd wager that most are unfounded.)

And guess what? In inspirational bullshit, they mostly are. All sorts of absolute shit about how what doesn't kill you makes you stronger (people don't like to admit it, but what doesn't kill you can leave you physically and emotionally scarred or can leave you with neuroses and triggers - the sooner you learn this, the better), teenage years are the best of your life (so the years I'm spending agonising over what shitheads think about me are the best, eh? Fuck that), sentimental, lying crap (I normally have a very low tolerance for sentimentality and even when I am feeling sentimental I'll probably be quite tongue-in-cheek about the whole thing), and a veritable rogues' gallery of general stupid designed to sound like enlightenment.

I am willing to admit - in fact I am forced to admit that for some people, this shit works. I don't know how or why, but it does. And if it works for some people, fine. I'm not going to stop them from gorging themselves on inspirational quotes. It's their private choice and I have no right to interfere with it. The quotes themselves, however, seem to screech "BE HAPPY! BE HOPEFUL!". Well, how about NO and FUCK OFF? If I'm grouchy and grumpy, telling me I should be happy isn't going to work. (Knowing me, for various reasons it probably has a better chance of making me feel worse, but I digress.)

I suppose I could just about cope with idealism, but idealism and oversimplification together make my common sense hurt. While I always try to distill things down to their simplest components, it would be intellectually wrong of me to go any further than that - I'd end up leading people astray. And yet this is almost what is required of inspirational quotes; they have to condense life's wisdom (or corny clichés, take your pick) into a couple of sentences at most. Now, forgive me for stating the obvious here, but life is a complex thing and it takes more than a couple of sentences to sum it up. A lifetime's worth of inspirational, advice-imparting speeches could not hope to sum up all humanity's experiences (which, after all, are what we call life).

Of course, people still try. But the only way they can manage to cram a life lesson into a sentence is to strip that lesson of much of its content - in other words, to simplify it to the point where much of the information and therefore much of the usefulness is lost. It's this oversimplification, this loss of information in the quest for a snappy soundbite, that bugs me: oversimplification leads to getting things wrong and therefore, probably, to fucking up because some idiot placed wit over wisdom when trying to teach people - or just to sound profound.
At this point, someone might say "But you're supposed to have enough experience to fill in the blanks for yourself!". Let me give you an analogy - hopefully one that's decently thought through, because I tend to overthink these things. I tend to overthink just about everything, actually, but that's beside the point.

Let's say I'm talking to someone - or rather, this person bounds up to me and starts talking at me (not only do I get inspirational bullshit shoved in my face rather than go looking for it, I'm a shy and introverted misanthrope who rarely approaches people; I'm quite happy that this analogy works on two different levels). Let's say that this person claims they're teaching me something, but say passive-aggressive, oversimplified, self-pitying and sometimes flat-out wrong things, then claims that I should fill in the blanks when I ask for clarification. Would you actually trust this person on matters of life? I wouldn't; quite apart from the fact that no-one has a monopoly on life lessons, that person has just demonstrated that they're wrong. Hell, I have a better chance of fucking up and learning on my own, albeit very painfully.

That brings me to another point - I would rather learn on my own than have people give me bad advice and put words in my mouth. Things like that are why I absolutely hate things like "quotes for teens" or "quotes for girls"; I'm a teenage girl, yes, but I disagree with what the quotes say. Does that make me an aberration, a blight on the face of humanity? Probably, but I'm still a teenager and a cis female (albeit probably the worst cis female ever due to being bad with make-up and heels). Inspirational bullshit doesn't apply to everyone and it's a mistake to pretend it does - yet it is advertised as such.

This post is turning into an absolute clusterfuck and so I think I'll end it very soon - but I have one more thing to say, and it's the thing that spurred me to write this post in the first place. Some inspirational bullshit - thankfully, not all - implies that if you can't follow the oversimplified recipe to happiness it's your fault. And of all the pieces of bullshit that make up anything inspirational, that's arguably the biggest and the most damaging. Contrary to popular wisdom, you are not the sole arbiter of your own destiny; external factors such as other people, finances and sheer bad luck (I don't believe in fortune, but I do believe in chaos and coincidences) all make a difference. This isn't simple bullshit; it's held me and so many other people I know back in so many ways. That wasn't our fault, that was the fault of a cruel and shitty world. Life's tough enough as it is without getting guilt over something we cannot be blamed for.