Standing Up to Inspirational Quotes

Don’t let the calligraphy fool you — rules are there for a reason.

09.25.14
oenthing

The photo is of three girls jumping off the edge of a pool at night — they’re holding each other’s hands over their heads, knees bent high like runners frozen mid-air. Above them in white cursive spells out the words, “No regrets.”

Tell that to the girl who — about an hour later — found herself explaining to the cops that they weren’t “breaking in to someone’s house” since the neighbor’s backyard is technically outside. Or to the girl who accidentally forgot that her phone was in her pocket mid-splash, the one who broke her toe upon landing, and the fourth girl who took said picture and knew this was a bad idea all along.

Such inspirational quotes should come with a warning sign. The platitudes you see on Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr — it’s all a bunch of block-lettered BS that can result in year-long groundings, a trip to the doctor’s office, or jail.

Take one I just saw today, “Great things never came from comfort zones.” False. Lots of great things come from comfort zones: watercoloring. Lunch. Kittens. Laughing. Biscuits! You know what happens outside of comfort zones? A tiger bites your arm off. Yellow tape is there for a reason.

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” This is another popular one, similar to the above. In theory, it’s romantic. It conjures up images of men running through airport terminals to catch the women of their dreams before one-way flights to Europe; stoic mountain climbers with frosted ice on their chins held proud and high; someone finally speaking the words, “I love you,” even though her heart’s been badly broken. In reality, it’s a conspiracy against safety and common sense.

You know what scares me? Getting murdered. See the logic?

The quotes supposedly have good intentions: “Don’t look back, you’re not going that way.” (Move forward with your life, be in the moment, focus on now.) But from a practical standpoint I have to question this rationale, because what about driving? If you don’t look behind you while reversing, you’ll crash.

I think that a large portion of these quotes were originally created by very eloquent pre-teens with no license in order to manipulate their parents:

“Mistakes are proof that you’re trying” might as well be, “Sorry for partying.” “Don’t be mad that I failed history.” “I didn’t know eyebrows should be plucked, not shaved.” Millennials sprinkle quotable euphemisms for their excuses throughout social media where Internet savvy parents pick them up, pin them, print them and stitch them on to pillows.

Meanwhile many of these quotes just sound completely insane.

“Forget all of the reasons it won’t work and focus on the one reason that it will.” Well, just because the skunk you “adopted” hasn’t sprayed you yet doesn’t mean it won’t.

“Sometimes life is about about risking everything for the dream no one can see.” Beautiful if the dream is something like, “World peace.” Not so much if the dream is, “Marry my imaginary friend.”

“What if I fall?” begins one popular print on Etsy that immediately answers itself, “Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?”

Well, my darling, maybe I sound cranky. But don’t say I didn’t warn you about four girls, one cop, a pool closed for the fall and an extremely flawed policy about “no regrets.” I would have warned you sooner but I’m trying to not look back.

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  • Tara Jayne

    I HATE inspirational quotes and would just like to say that my friends and I sit around and think about anti-inspirational quotes all the time. “No regrets. Except when you have another herpes outbreak”, for instance. Also I would also like to point out that macaroni and cheese happens in my comfort zone. And no one can take that away from me.

    • >________> LMBO I just cackled at this entire status.

    • Jared Egol

      I made this for everyone here:

      http://www.namastain.com

      It lets you wipe with those very awful quotes. That makes you an editor!

  • Posting inspirational quotes on instagram is a great way to let people know you’re close to a mental breakdown. Almost as much as a cry for help as the 100 days of happy.

    • Tara Jayne

      LOL, one of my facebook friends was doing the ‘grateful challenge’ and it drove me insane. I wanted to post under a comment with her and her dog “you are actually starting to look exactly like that animal. time for a haircut’. But I did not. But I really wanted to.

    • andrea raymer

      As a previous participant in the 100 Happy days challenge, I can confirm your hypothesis.

      • I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY NOW DOE!

    • Molly
    • Lucy

      I need a subtle way to share this article and specifically this comment with my coworker who has started to retweet love/relationship quotes non-stop around 9:00 at night. Because of this we all knew she was having marriage problems before she even said a word to us.

      I have a soul, I feel for her. But flooding peoples’ twitter feed with this stuff cant be helping anyone in the situation.

      • screen shot, print it out, leave it at her desk ANONYMOUSLY with a box of chocolate, bottle of wine, and then when she’s leaving for the day… run up and tackle her with a hug, SAYING NOTHING. works every time.

        • Lucy

          Haha!! Amazing idea.. I’ll do this on Friday so we all have a few days to move on.

    • This is the funniest, most accurate description of inspirational quotes I have ever read. Let’s be friends.

    • Valentina

      “Posting inspirational quotes on instagram is a great way to let people know you’re close to a mental breakdown” Can I instagram that quote??

  • I’ve always said that the people writing these quotes are emo ass teenagers with no perspective on life. I’m not mad at them – we were all emotional ass teenagers at one point – but the adults using these quotes as life mantras KILL me.

    • LOL, it’s always basic advice, that’s what gets me.

  • The inspirational quotes are getting out of control! We need some more realistic ones out there.

    http://www.FashionSnag.com

    • I agree! Like “Laugh at the confusion and live for the moment, unless it gives you bone crushing anxiety, then see a doctor, or seek an alternative lifestyle”

  • Hahahahaha Amelia, so good!!!

    I’m a realist through and through. Inspirational quotes make my skin crawl.

    • Hanne

      TOTALLY, and people focusing on them seem somehow dumb in a way that they are not getting something

    • YESSS, mine too! They seem like a desperate try to transfer responsibility to higher powers or at least facts of life that simply must exist since so many people are posting them online … LJEURGH.

      • Hey Alcessa, feel like I haven’t seen you around these parts in a while!

        And that’s an excellent way of putting it: transfer responsibility to a higher power. I feel like these types of quotes, if really taken seriously, can lead a certain docility. This is exactly why I hate the phrase “everything happens for a reason.” Ummm, no. Some situations are shit, some are not, we don’t have to chalk it up to some outside force that only helps us downplay the issue. Better to feed off the motivation of rejection or otherwise, rather than set the issue outside of yourself.

        • I don’t know whether people living in America can even imagine this, but: I just came back from my second summer vacation! (jep, we Lazy European Bastards sometimes do that :-))

          My personal view is that in every situation, many, many forces with various influences come together, some external, some internal. If we had … mathematics complex enough to describe such unique situations (in form of algorithms, open to accurate, observation-based or at least fairly accurate psychological/sociological etc. descriptions/guesses), we could gain some of the control over situations some of us strive so hard to conquer by means of simplistic motivational quotes that may or may not apply … Luckily, as we gain (rational and emotional) knowledge about life, our influence on individual situations can become greater even without maths or sciences, at least if the world we live in doesn’t change too much too suddenly … And that should be good enough, in most cases. Of course, there are too many situations where no knowledge, individual or accumulated, can save us from being overburdened or in big trouble, but maybe getting hugged and/or helped in a way that is really useful would be better than getting motivational quotes plastered on sunsets, rivers or dolphins?
          … I sometimes fear people get sent such motivational statements as a … friendly warning: don’t you dare complain about life, here is a nice quote, believe in it and leave me alone with your real-life stories I cannot process anymore! 🙁

          • dustUP

            TED talk worthy Alcessa!

          • Mhm 🙂 (psst 🙂

  • Hanne

    i so hate inspirational quotes, it used to annoy me so much when someone said “but the money doesn’t matter, passion makes the world go round!” when i didn’t get paid for an internship or so, because it totally does if you want to survive!

    • 2Fly

      “Only ignorance finds stupidity or humor in the question or belief of another.” – 2Fly Factory

      “The internet has, more often than not, failed the dream of creating an avenue for intelligence, learning and creative expression. It has instead created an avenue for fools to gather in thoughtless and uncreative self-expression, for commerce to target human weaknesses, and for cruelty and prejudice to seek validity, all by gaining numbers without righteousness.” – 2Fly Factory

      “Only on the Internet can a person be lonely
      and popular at the same time.” ― Allison Burnett, Undiscovered Gyrl

      “It made me sad when I caught myself pretending
      that everybody out there in cyberspace cared about what I thought, when really nobody gives a shit. And when I multiplied that sad feeling by all the millions
      of people in their lonely little rooms, furiously writing and posting to their lonely little pages that nobody has time to read because they’re all so busy writing
      and posting, it kind of broke my heart.” ― Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being

      “There is some blogging jerk out there who
      feels he can generalize his way to validity.” ― Neil Young, Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream

      “The pleasure we feel in criticizing robs us
      from being moved by very beautiful things.” -Jean
      de la Bruyere

      “I will tell you what I can’t abide – and I think the Internet has really created a space for it – women criticizing other women and mothers criticizing other mothers.” – Jennifer Garner

      “As soon as you concern yourself with the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ of your fellows, you create an opening in your heart for maliciousness to enter. Testing, competing with, and criticizing others weaken and defeat you.” – Morihei Ueshiba

      Need I say more? None as stupid or fake than what I read on this blog.

  • Mads

    The fake quotes are what get me. Attributed to Coco Chanel is: “A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous” Not! Chanel wouldn’t be caught dead saying stupid shit like that.

    • Amelia Diamond

      I just read that Marilyn Monroe didn’t say half the shit people credit to her on Pinterest either.

    • So true. Chanel was a G, she definitely wouldn’t utter that shit.

    • Lyric

      And it’s always posted by the girl who thinks wearing pearls with her leggings, uggs, northface combo is classy.

      • Avery Cheatham-Banks

        LOL #troof

  • Quinn Halman

    Amelia, you honestly never cease to come up with the most brilliant pieces!
    When I was 13 and on Tumblr I saw a quote that said “never regret anything, because at one point it was exactly what you wanted.” It’s really funny that I think it would have worked when I tried to reason with my mom. I also have a lot to say about the “do one thing a day that makes you sweat” because most days I don’t have to actually do anything

  • hahaha this is by far my favorite blog post! Although inspirational quotes are cute and can make you feel like you’re invincible, they’re foolish! They’re really another excuse to justify your wrong doings. Yolo.

    http://www.littleblackshell.com

  • “I didn’t know eyebrows should be plucked, not shaved.”

    We’ve all been there, am I right ladies?? (also some dudes??)

    COOCOO FOR
    COCO

    • Amelia Diamond

      write what you know!

      • Amelia, I seriously love this post!
        (and could tell a story or two about shaving eyebrows, too, but since plucking is out of question (excrutiating pain not being part of my lifestyle), I must keep quiet forever 🙂 …)

  • katwoodside

    f’in perfectly put

  • Shelby Soke

    Inspirational quotes are an alarming epidemic. Also worth hating on are the lists of thing you need to “Do/See/Forget/Figure out in Your Twenties.”

    If I see anymore of those, I won’t make it to my thirties because I’ll have a heart attack and die.

  • Inspirational quotes belong in middle school and edited Picnik photos, and that is all.

    However, if you’re a New Girl fan like myself, this buzzfeed about Nick Miller quotes being motivational posters is golden. http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjkiebus/if-nick-miller-quotes-were-motivational-posters#3giv704

  • Hey remember that time when some person on Pinterest posted pictures of Taylor Swift with inspirational Hitler quotes on top?

    • Lyric

      I’ve never seen that before. Pretty hilarious.

    • noooo way hahahaha

    • Oh damn.

    • amalieilund

      I always keep this quote close <3

  • Natalia

    You’re so right.. but quotes are great too.. So I guess we just have to believe in them a little bit hahaha

    http://lifebetweenhats.blogspot.com

  • Kandeel

    Im actually laughing omg. Ive seen a bunch of quote parody tumblrs they are hilaR juztgurlythingz.tumblr.com/ (i dont think this was the exact blog but i cant find it rn!)

  • heartprivacy

    There’s a Twitter account called dance_blessed that makes fun of all this stuff. It’s pretty hilarious.

  • James Society

    Bahhhh. Thank you. Much needed discussion. And why do they get so many “likes”? As a small business owner I should be spreading them like wild fire … I just can’t stomach it. Thank you. Thank you.

  • Carolinecarol9

    Have you checked out the “Demotivators” on despair.com? Those are the antidote. My favorite is “Shoot for the moon, even if you miss you’ll land among the stars. Of course, then your eyeballs will boil and your lungs will explode from decompression. But that’s what you get for being a damn showoff.”

  • I’m not sure how you or anyone can be negatively effected by words based usually in a square, made mainly to amuse, sympathise or inspire a person. “Such should come with a warning sign”??…

    To which audience? People without a mind to know better than to illegally jump in a pool.. I think you can choose to find the negative in anything, but simple aspiration quotes really is digging deep. In life self motivation can get muddy, especially when we are living in a world full of such atrocities and financial dependancy, I’m astounded you would find something so simple and innocent, maybe the one thing that changes a person thoughts for the day to be such a issue. Stand up to inspirational quotes, is like say fight back to positivity.

    I love your blog – with your success maybe you don’t need inspiring as everything is a little easy for you, but i think you should consider those who aren’t in your position who fight everyday to be positive and maybe get a little more sleep!

    Emma
    http://www.barefacedmessyhair.com

    • If you took anything in this blog, or the entire internet for that matter, 100% seriously, you would be missing out on many LOLs and LMAOs… and perhaps even some ROTFLs. In my high school yearbook I am quoted saying “laugh as much as you breathe.” *cringe* Looking back, that is both unsafe for lungs and inappropriate for many situations, like funerals. I think that’s what we are all chuckling at here.

  • Trovea

    I do think it is important in our life to challenge ourselves and do crazy things. Taking decision that can scare you help you to grow personally and be stronger. After living in London for 15 years, I decided from one day to another to move to Germany, without knowing the language and people. I was scared as I left behind my friends, my life, but now I feel great. I am not looking back, I am going forward and I am treating myself every week with a goodie.:)

    Last week I bought myself this lovely IPad sleeve from a German designer http://www.trovea.com/jn-llovet/ipad-sleeve-en-2-3-4-5.html

    I love it!

    Shop new designers from places you’ve never been on:

    http://www.trovea.com

  • Unpublishedl

    Brilliant post! Thanks so much for doing this – I thought I was the only one who was getting tired of all these inspirational quotes! There is nothing more irritating!

  • Michael Madigan

    This is brilliant. Thank you, Ms. Diamond, for putting into words so eloquently what I have believed for years.

    “You know what scares me? Getting murdered. See the logic?” Brilliant.

  • CarlotaLMorais

    I have to say I like some quotes. Some book or movie quotes. Things written by good writers or sayings by a good character always make me wonder. But things like “Clever may have the brains but Stupid has the balls” or the today’s Carpe Diem “YOLO” just kill me!!!
    If you quoted Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society I would much preferred it AND believed it!

    • Yes, I agree with quotes from books/movies/songs

  • Hudson Berry

    Bravo

  • BethanyBeach

    Oh I am 100% with this, as I’m an extremely realist and anti-fate person. My absolute least favorite of these inspirational quotes is the one related to “if it’s meant to be, it’ll happen” because it removes the burden of responsibility of taking charge of your own future. If you want it, go out and get it!

    • I agree 100% with you. I think fate sometimes breeds docility.

      • BethanyBeach

        EXACTLY. “Destiny is for losers. It’s just a stupid excuse to wait for things to happen instead of making them happen.” –Blair Waldorf

  • Guest

    I always keep this quote close to my heart <3

  • Guest

    I always keep this quote close, it’s so inspirational <3

  • Tara style-encore

    Totally agree however, quotes are indirect ways of determining someones relationship status! -Ya know…”what goes around comes around”= means they got burned or had a bad breakup. “Everything happens for a reason”= they rebounded!

  • Mikalina Bachman

    omg THANK YOU for writing this entry! every time i see these inspirational quotes on pinterest, i roll my eyes and beg that there is someone out there who doesn’t take all of them literally/seriously.

  • jmt

    I don’t think seeking out inspiration wherever you can get it is a bad thing. This article is discussing how I use them… in a discretionary manner. Not everyone is a natural born leader, and teaching people how to do that takes different methods. Whatever works, right? Obviously, all things are not relevant to small pictures covered in words, but one can apply some of these short sayings to keep himself going in a difficult job. Sharing them via social media on the reg is pretty annoying though… on level with status updates with Scripture quotes.

  • Anna

    Honestly I’ve unfollowed every Inspirational Quotes/Words to Live By etc. board that have cropped up in my Pinterest feed. Though I believe that sometimes you can get benefits from leaving your comfort zone (well my yoga teacher always says that) and do something that scares you (yes being murdered also scares me, but so does speaking in public), this obsession with inspirational quotes makes be believe that something going on with their life. I am a happy and optimistic person by myself…I don’t need quotes and bulls**t like that to keep me going. Thank.You.Very.Much

  • Georgia

    A lot of these ‘inspirational quotes’ are bad excuses for doing really dumb shit, instead of taking responsibility for doing really dumb shit. But also hilariously illogical.

  • Ml.marquez

    Many quotes sound overly hopefull but putting everyone down also sounds overly doubtful, and gives a debby downer vibe. Eerything comes wth a price and we all choose whats most important, the kitty time or the pool experience, pool time gives obvious risks but kitty time risks fufilling our greatest potential. Our choice.

  • Genius. I needed this. As someone who uses Pinterest to ACTUALLY STORE RECIPES AND SHIT I USE LATER, I can relate to the weirdness of the inspiration trend. Also, I have “do one thing a day that scares you” on my to-do list next to my bed under, “eat as many vegetables as you can,” “take your birth control,” and “do the kitty litter box.” and it reminds me when I’m being lame to stop being lame “Ellie, try this weird-ass asian food with tripe that makes you gag!” So I did. And I vomited an hour later. But that’s not the point, the point is, when I’m being a party pooper over nonsense (like taking my husband to the fair and then wimping out and not getting on rides) that little nudge is like, “Hey, loser, be afraid of real things, not fun, mild, new stuff.” Like someone else said in this thread, “inspiration” is actually just basic life advice.

  • you’re hilarious! ” I love cuddling with my kitten for the rest of my life” says no one ever…..

  • Glenn
  • Andrés Millán

    I think they are ok, i mean, people are smart and they certainly will learn about their mistakes, no matter what was it that inspired to do them anyway.