Saturday, January 4, 2014

On Pithy Motivational Quotes

So the other day I bop over to one of my favorite web comics, www.NatalieDee.com, to see this:

Which really just proved yet again that Natalie Dee is totally my homegirl. (Seriously; you should check out the whole week.) No disrespect if pithy motivational quotes & images are your bag; we can still be friends. But personally, every time I see one I kind of throw up in my mouth a little.

This probably explains why one of my other favorite internet places is Despair.com:

The Natalie Dee comic kind of reminded me of the time I made the mistake of browsing the Health & Fitness section of Pinterest, & instantly went from thinking I was doing pretty well for myself (running 30-50 miles most weeks, martial arts Monday & Wednesday, not too terrible in the strength work department, eating lots of vegetables) to realizing that no, in fact, I am nothing but a giant slob of a failure:

{Backs away slowly...}

In theory, these little images & cute sayings are supposed to be inspiring; I don't know about you, but frankly, they just make me tired. (And to be honest...kind of afraid.)

Don't get me wrong; I understand the general sentiment, and there is sometimes a grain of truth. Delayed gratification is tough sometimes. Sometimes we do have to be a little audacious to talk ourselves into working hard for something. And in this sense, the pithy motivational quote/images aren't horrible. Realistically, they are a lot like porn, or bodice-ripper romance: all fine and good, as long as everyone involved understands that what they're looking at has a specific purpose, which does not happen to include representing reality.

In the case of "run/fitsperation" (and a lot of inspirational/motivational quote-images in general), I think the purpose is to help your brain do a little trick: believe something it really doesn't, want something it really doesn't, enjoy something it really doesn't, at least perhaps not in that very moment. It may not last for very long, but it gets you through whatever it is you felt like you needed to do & really kind of didn't feel like (because let's be real. People who are super pumped & really feeling whatever it is they're "supposed" to go do don't need inspirational quotes to get them out the door). So I'm not railing against the existence of this stuff; it doesn't do much for me personally, but it serves a purpose for some folks, and I think I understand why I can't go into a sporting goods store or read the internet without being inundated by it it has such a following.

As for why I kind of roll my eyes and derive so much glee from the spoofing of it? Because so many people just don't get that it isn't reality, that cling to these platitudes & clich├ęs as if they are literally true and not just a device to help you temporarily tolerate a bit of unpleasantness. And when the pithy little quotes don't deliver, when the fledgling athlete's actual experience doesn't live up to the slick images and snappy slogans, she concludes that there's something wrong with herself. That she's doing something wrong, that she's an exception, & running/exercise/whatever it is just isn't "for" her. And that becomes a reason not to try.

Friends, I am here to give you the straight dope on motivational sayings. Heed me.

Pithy quote:

Reality: Pain is your body's way of sending a warning to your brain. Obviously, no one is getting through a speed workout or setting any new PRs without a little discomfort. But there's a difference between the *discomfort* of a brief or infrequent all-out effort or pushing your body slightly further than it's used to as part of smart training and the *pain* of impending damage. There are many, many instances where easing up or stopping because of pain is the smart, safe choice. (You can ask me about that sometime, if you want...)

Pithy quote:

Reality: GIRL. Unfuck your shit. Stat.

I mean, get the sentiment here. I do. It is a great gift to be able to use running (or whatever) to get some endorphins going and take your mind off your problems. But that's different than running from those things. Bills/work/routine/commitments got you down? By all means, go for a run & get your head straight; then go back and actually deal with your problems. Going for a run to feel better doesn't actually count as addressing them.

Pithy quote:

Reality: Sometimes this is true. It's okay if it's not. You aren't broken or doing it wrong or anything. Running just doesn't fix everything all the time.

Pithy quote:

Reality: Not necessarily. The run you go on when you're sick or hurt or sleep-deprived or have other responsibilities to deal with is probably not better than just letting it go. While it's rare that I'm like, "Well that was kind of a bad idea" & wish I'd just stayed home with a good book & a bottle of wine, it does happen. In fact that's pretty much how I'd categorize every run from the week of December 16.

Pithy quote:

Reality: You might not love the burn. It's okay. I personally detest the burn. In fact, I am a firm believer that there are two kinds of people: those who abhor the burn and liars. Also that picture is photoshopped.

Pithy quote:

Reality: Honestly, relying on a recreational activity to define you as a human being is a lot to ask. It is something I've seen people try more than once and it rarely ends well because the real, true, underlying problem has not been addressed. If you're truly having an identity crisis, taking up a new hobby or setting a big goal isn't a bad idea necessarily, but again, please also do something to help you address the real problem.

Pithy quote:

Reality: What. Tha. Eff.

Seriously. Get some help. That shit is above my pay grade.

Makin' Fun of Pinterest: Part 2

18 comments:

  1. Love this!! I totally agree with you about the inspirational quote + inspirational photo thing. Some of them, in small doses are okay - especially when the quotes were real words spoken by real people who actually inspire me, more with what they did than what they said.

    BTW, the last quote is a rip-off from something Prefontaine said (or supposedly said), which is: "The best pace is a suicide pace, and today looks like a good day to die.”

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Heh, that makes more sense now! (Though honestly....still super creepy.)

      Delete
  2. THANK YOU! I mean, one here or there is fine, but I see multitudes of these daily on every social media outlet. I just want to say "If it's that hard for you to get your @ss out the door, maybe find another hobby? It's supposed to be fun & relaxing." It just seems to me that every person with a smartphone is posting a pic with words and hashtagging it #Motivation It's just exercise...it's not life or death people.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. YES!
      We need to make "inspirational" photos with your quotes on them, specifically:
      - "If it's that hard for you to get your @ss out the door, maybe find another hobby? It's supposed to be fun & relaxing."
      - "It's just exercise...it's not life or death people."

      Delete
  3. Stay away from Pinterest!

    I like the motivational quotes, etc, sometimes. When I need the get-up-and-go. But, I find the people pushing them annoying usually.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. OMG. Pinterest is like the land of people who don't understand how exercise works.

      Delete
  4. Ugh, I am so over the stupid fitspo crap! It's belittling and foolish and, as you point out, hardly accurate. If you need pushy inspiration, you need to reevaluate your motivation for running or exercise.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I love this post so much, I pinned it on my fitness fun pinterest page! LOL! I'm all for whatever works, but sometimes they can go overboard. The hard-core ones like the puke, faint or die are the ones that make my eyes roll. It's a workout. You're not surviving a Nazi concentration camp. Lets keep things in perspective and recognize what willpower and endurance really mean in the larger scheme of things and stop patting ourselves on the back for voluntarily exerting ourselves.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Someone out there had the same thought you did. I cracked up reading these and just had to share... http://legit-fitness.tumblr.com/post/64465401632/fabstroid-this-is-my-fitblr-i-love-this-safe

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome! By the way, I read Data: A Love Story today - what a riot.I like the empirical approach to life, but she may be a teeny, tiny bit OCD... Thanks for the recommendation!

      Delete
    2. Oh absolutely. From a practical, go-after-what-you-want standpoint, I was like, "Get it, girl!!" But another part of me (that would never, ever do something like that) was definitely backing away slowly.

      Delete
  8. This is just so, so funny. And your comparison of these to porn is fantastic because I know EXACTLY what you mean: as long as we all know what we're getting here...

    ReplyDelete
  9. Bahahaha! You know what else I really hate? Bitstrips.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So that's what those things are called! I had to google it, but yes, agreed - HATE those.

      Delete