:: the case against inspiration? ::
As a coach, teacher and writer, I know I *should* be in love with it, but sometimes inspiration really rubs me the wrong way.
I don’t like the way inspiration is often (if largely unintentionally) wielded.
It can carry with it a sense of othering that I don’t appreciate, imply a lack of worthiness that I refuse to back, unintentionally shame people who need it, and inadvertently allow admiration to inhibit action.
HOW INSPIRATION OTHERS
When we think about inspirational figures and quotes and stories that inspire, the conversation often elevates those people and their words and acts as exceptional.
Which they ARE. I am NOT trying to take away any of the amazing from their inspiration.
But I don’t dig the way it makes THAT type of amazing more important or worthy than other, more ordinary or less dramatic types of amazing.
This isn’t about “everyone gets a trophy” mindset that rewards people just for playing (although we all freaking SHOULD get a trophy for playing this life, especially THIS year lol.)
This is about recognizing that we’re all exceptional in all sorts of ways, and it’s not just the big, flashy or heartrending ones that count.
HOW INSPIRATION IMPLIES A LACK OF WORTHINESS
Even when the moral of the inspirational story points to the capacity within EACH of us to do great things, it still sets up a dichotomy of winners and losers, worthy and un, those warriors who rise to the occasion and those wimpy, weakened failures who don’t. Until, if they prove themselves, they finally do.
When you live in either-or terms, until you are all-caps INSPIRATIONAL you are, by default and whether you realize it or not, NOT GOOD ENOUGH. Even when you’re working for it. Even when you’re finding your way. Even when you’re doing the best you can (which, for the record, I believe we all are, always.)
And that’s not okay with me.
I know it motivates a shit ton of people, to work toward a goal that will prove you are worthy, that will prove you deserve the reward for which you worked.
But that’s not the kind of motivation I’m interested in or motivated by. I believe we’re born worthy. That what we do or don’t accomplish has no bearing on our worthiness as humans. And it feels really gross to try to force yourself into a worthiness framework with which you don’t agree (or to feel forced into it by the people around you or the systems within which you function.)
HOW INSPIRATION SHAMES PEOPLE WHO NEED IT
Stories of inspiration often carry with them a stealthy veil of shame and dull tang of condescension, smacking more of guilt than grace and oozing with unwelcome judgment.
“If they can do it, you can too,” swiftly becomes a subtle shaming finger-wagging that criticizes any complaints or admissions of struggle — because you don’t have it anywhere near as bad as this person did, so what’s your excuse for not doing whatever, too (hint: there is none.)
All the while insinuating that you must have an excuse, maintaining the idea that if you’re not living a tear-inducing, awe-inspiring screenplay of a life, you’re not as valuable as anyone else who is.
Right about now I imagine someone piping in to say something like “Come on. I’m not saying they need to accomplish THAT person’s goals, but they SHOULD be accomplishing goals of their OWN.”
First of all, that’s really none of your business (or mine.) It still drips of judgment.
And also… I get that.
To be clear, I’m a fan of hard work for what you love, reaching goals, and success.
But the business of goal-setting — the letting oneself have and achieve goals, their pursuit within the context of a particular life and set of circumstances, the stories one’s told oneself about what’s achievable, desirable, and accessible, and the individual healing journeys we’re all on… that’s a big bundle of complex and personal experiences, beliefs and endeavors, with lots of nuance and no room or welcome for outside, unasked-for intrusion.
HOW INSPIRATION ALLOWS ADMIRATION TO INHIBIT ACTION
Finally, sometimes the act of taking in and sharing inspirational stories ends up somehow feeling like enough, like we’re doing more than we actually are.
Like being a big fan and talking a good game from the sidelines rather than getting all up in it to win it, without even realizing it we’ve woven ourselves a cozy little cocoon of motivational messages and memes that nurtures and cradles us first in admiration and then into submission, creating a silken barrier between our dreams and their fruition. That sneaky old inspiration!
Now listen, it doesn’t always happen like that. And when it does, sometimes the cocoon can actually be quite healing for a time. Sometimes we’re so depleted that we NEED to go within and build up a critical mass of inspiration before we can effectively enact our reemergence.
But it’s important all the same to make note and take care, lest we end up held back by what was meant to give us flight.
JK I STILL LOVE YOU, INSPIRATION
Alllllll that being said, people are freaking INSPIRING. I want to hear all the stories. Send them to me, please. I will cry at every single one of them.
I just ALSO want to hear the smaller, less headline-y stories, too. I want to cheer YOU on, in your flashy victories as well as the teeny tiny steps toward living an aligned and joyful life.
I want YOU to define success for yourself, and I want you to feel whole and worthy when you spotlight all the big and small successes of others.
I want you to honor your path and your place upon it, and to feel the truth of how boundless your success can be. To both reclaim and surrender to a world in which there is MORE than enough for everyone; a multi-faceted, non-dichotomous world in which you can truly choose your OWN adventure.
It’s from THAT kind of energetic space that real inspiration exists.
Wanna be inspired? Take some time today to reflect on your big and small successes this week, this month, this year. Could you use some guidance? Message me to see if a 1:1 coaching session would help!