Irony of Motivational Quotes

Have you ever been emotionally gripped by an inspirational quote, got inspired by it and tried inculcating it in your daily life but ended up getting more demotivated? Well we all have, in one way or the other. 

Such quotes seem succinct, but just because they are succinct, do they really benefit us in the long run?

There are a plethora of quotes being fed to our brains, and it is important to note that they do impact our thought processes. We might not realize it, but they have been so deep-rooted in our teachings, that we unintentionally get influenced by them. To make the matter worse, social media is littered with unworkable quotes which make us feel we can do anything. It is not a movie; we are and should not be able to do everything. That is impractical and more precisely, creates a false perception about ourselves.

Let’s analyze what inspirational quotes really mean

Look at this quote for example: “Be a warrior, not a worrier.” On a surficial level, this quote sounds out of context and stupid. But if one were to think deeply, it promotes an aggressive mindset. There are times when no matter what you want to do, you need to be accountable and get the job done. While there are times when you can’t do things before you worry or think properly. They are not interchangeable actions.

By the same token, many quotes are steeped in a language known as “toxic positivity”. A false ideology is established among the readers that any negative emotion they experience is invalid. There is no reasonable explanation of why someone should always feel positive. What happens next is people feel guilty or uncomfortable feeling any sort of negativity, further repressing the emotion and responding to distress with baseless reassurances rather than empathy.

Addressing negative emotions and understanding why you feel what you feel is a crucial step in understanding yourself and what makes you motivated. Motivational quotes like “Always look on the brighter side.”, “Never give up” or “It could be worse” strip off the right to validate the pain and make one judge themselves harshly.

Read these quotes and see if you can get what is wrong with them.

“You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.” 

“The best revenge is massive success.”

Do you observe how these quotes are only focusing on extreme situations? So what if someone does not wish to even try? We need to normalize that it is OKAY to not try. Life is not black and white, where things are either good or bad, or if you are not successful, then you are a failure. 

Life is complicated, uncertain, and certainly not a race. Go at your own pace, take time off, set your priorities straight, and most of all, don’t set unrealistic goals which in the long run hamper your well-being.

Are inspirational quotes only to blame?

Consider a situation where you have to make a motivational quote. How would you do it? How will you try to fit the whole sample size? You would generalize it so that all the individuals in your sample can relate to it. But do you see the problem here? Generalizing a lesson can make other individuals out of your niche size perceive the meaning of the same quote in a very different way, which can be misleading. This is what is happening on social media.

People don’t realize that some quotes are circumstantial, meaning that they are valid or beneficial only when used in a particular situation. Believing all quotes can be applied in all situations creates a false belief, and what we do is exert ourselves to the point of mental exhaustion. 

Tell me, how is this good for our mental health if we keep on feeding our brains these little nuggets of advice? They impact us all.

If a motivational quote is only focusing on moving your emotions and gives no sense of practicality then how can it motivate one to get on with their life? 

Life gets hard and there is a point where we feel low and unmotivated. A simple quote coming with an accompanying good morning sticker on WhatsApp may seem very relevant to our already fragile minds at that point, but the fallacious part here is that we depend upon that quote or idea to solve all our problems and worries. At the end of the day, it is irrational to believe that a single phrase is an immediate cure to our long prevalent problem.

 The only thing we need to understand is that quotes that may have been right 10 years ago may not necessarily work for us today. The world is dynamic and temporal. If everything around us has changed, then why shouldn’t our beliefs and values change too with respect to today’s world? 

A quote is an idea that is a very powerful statement with deeper meaning, value, purpose, and insight. But this is only valid when we use that quote in the right place at the right time. Otherwise, it turns out to be nothing but fallacious.

Author: Tanvi Vishwakarma

Editor: Simi Sharma

Visual Content: Amit Abhishek

Tanvi Vishwakarma

Tanvi Vishwakarma


She is Tanvi Vishwakarma, 1st year student of B.Tech. Biotechnology SRP. You will find her with a radiant smile and heartwarming aura doing anything from reading to swimming to immersing in the peculiar world and wonder of anime.

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