The only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday.
There are two types of pains: One that hurts you and the other that changes you.
Sometimes you fall down because there is something down there you are supposed to find.
Oh, shut up already.
Inspirational quotes, daily affirmations, bootstrap devotionals: As if selfies and cat pictures and constant pleas to dump buckets of ice water over your head weren't annoying enough, uplifting messages are now glutting social media like never before.
There's a LOT of pressure percolating on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and other online havens of self-revelation to follow your dreams. Chase your passion. Embrace change. Take a chance. Cheer up, lil' buckaroo.
Amid the bombardment of truly horrible news — Ebola virus, beheadings, Middle East violence — surely we could all use a smile and a gentle chuck on the chin now and then.
But these incessant secular bromides waiting for us on our iPhones every darn morning? Type set over stock-photo sunrises and sunsets? You're not alone if they drive you eye-rolling batty, too.
Someone else's presumed dream-chasing or Yoda-style crisis management makes some of us feel as if we're doing it wrong, academics say. Especially since some of us are on the couch speed-eating Kettle Chips and watching The Golden Girls.
Life is too short to wait. Do something and make it happen.
Yeah, I'll get right on that.
• • •
Dr. Jamie Lynn Goldenberg, a professor of social psychology at the University of South Florida, says our response to an inspirational post — or, for that matter, a wild party selfie — often boils down to something called "social comparison," a driving emotional component of social media. We all do it. We all compare our lives, either favorably or unfavorably, to others.
For instance, your buddy Larry is having the time of his life — or at least boasting of such to his 322 Facebook friends — while you're doing laundry. Larry's life appears more fun than yours. Or, in the case of the inspirational quotes Larry keeps lobbing at you like happy-happy grenades, he has it all figured out. Larry has the courage and the energy to divide and conquer. Larry, a regular Man in the Mirror, is ready to make that change.
And you aren't.
Pass the Kettle Chips.
Perception, however, is tricky. A lot of social media, Goldenberg says, is "an extension of the self and how we want to be seen. I don't think these people are chasing their dreams every day."
A lot of times, Larry is having a lousy day, just like you.
On a far darker note, Goldenberg adds, a lot of what we post online is, in a deeper way, a tool to "quell the fears associated with mortality." Our posts are "symbolic immortality." Our posts long to say that we are alive and we are taking advantage of it. The inspirational quote, the directive to LIVE LOVE LAUGH, is just one more way to keep The End at bay.
We're all going to die.
Type that over a sunset, Larry.
• • •
Amanda Kinderman has had a challenging past six months. Romantic changes, life changes. The 29-year-old lab supervisor at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa leaned on online inspiration to help her. Find quotes on Pinterest, slap 'em on Instagram.
She likes them. A lot.
She's crushing life these days, feeling great. "Right now I'm in a place where I don't need the motivation for myself anymore," she says. Kinderman averages a few inspirational posts a day, but the intent is different now.
"Friends of mine are going through hard times," she says. "It's part of being a friend to give them a push to get through the day."
Recently, Kinderman posted this message:
Keep the faith. The most amazing things in life tend to happen right at the moment you're about to give up hope.
It is sweet. And it is good advice. You can embrace; you can eye-roll. Or you can take a deep breath and modify her inspirational quote for your own needs.
Keep the faith — but keep the Kettle Chips close, just in case.
Contact Sean Daly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @seandalypoplife.