I love a good platitude. When I was in high school I went to tons of church retreats and I would collect great quotes spoken or printed on handouts, or prayer cards or poems, and I would preserve them in these two journals I had.
Those journals were my lifeline when planning my own speeches or bible studies. I loved finding new tidbits to put in them.
The pages are full of things like that. Poems and prayers and quotes and even, periodically, my own terrible prose. Folded up in one of the journals I even found a printed email sent to me when I had an AOL account in 1996 by my friend Elizabeth. I guess I never figured out how to condense it enough to put it in the journal. I’m guessing that’s the last piece I every added.
My point? I LOVE A GOOD SUCCINCT MESSAGE. I love a great quote (Sidenote: Hillary Clinton evidently carries around her own collection of quotes and such and originally her post-election book was just going to be that, a collection of the quotes she loves that she carries with her.) or a perfect bible verse or a poem or just a collection of words that speak to my heart. GIVE ME ALL OF THE PLATITUDES.
That said. I don’t think even the most perfect ones apply to anyone 100% of the time.
One of my favorite famous people tweeted something yesterday like “You have to love yourself before you can love someone else.” And as much as I love RuPaul’s variation of the same idea on her show, this has never sat well with me. And because this person has a fan base of young people who understand mental health struggles she got a LOT of push back on it. And my first response was, “HELL YEAH! PUSH BACK!” Because…UGGGG…those of us who struggle with mental health know that some days we don’t love ourselves but that doesn’t impair our ability to love others.
But I’ve been thinking about this incident a lot (she actually later called out for mental health professionals to help her more accurately explain what she was trying to say) and I’ve decided instead the fault isn’t necessarily with that specific idea…the fault is with platitudes in general.
We are in an era of memes where everyone wants to share out quick tidbits of humor or wisdom and get likes and retweets and move on. BUT – there are a lot of things WAAAAYYYY to complicated for that. And the fault is not with the platitude really, because they’re all based in some element of truth. The fault is with anyone to pushes them out like truths that apply to the masses 100% of the time.
Take “Choose Joy!” which I’ve written about often here. There are definitely some days where I’m capable of shaking off the funk and just choosing to have a better day. And if my days were always those days, then I would struggle understanding why other people couldn’t do the same. And I would plaster “Choose Joy!” on my body in a lovely tattoo or on my car via sticker or in a Facebook meme because choosing joy makes my life SO MUCH BETTER!
But we are not all the same. And I have had some days where I’m suffocating under the weight of despair and “choosing joy” is about as easy as flying.
So, yes. There is definitely some truth to the idea that if you don’t find value in yourself and love yourself in some way, then you might not end up in a loving relationship where two people reciprocate healthy levels of love for each other. Either because you attach to the first person who shows you affection, or because you are drawn to someone who also has similar issues with self hatred. In those kind of situations, it’s easier to build healthy relationships if you find yourself worthy of love. Simplifying it to “You have to love yourself before you can love someone else” is kinda applicable.
But, as people with mental health struggles know, there are some days where you most definitely to not love yourself. But we also know that being honest about those vulnerabilities can create very deep connections when shared with the right people, and the most unique and amazing love can come from those connections. I am capable of loving very deeply, especially my friends with whom I can share my faults, no matter how I feel about myself. Donnie and I have created very new and strong bonds of love when we’ve shared our struggles with loving ourselves. In some ways, with some relationships at different points in my life, I feel like I love stronger when I’m not necessarily loving myself.
My point is? Platitudes are dumb. But they’re also nice and perfect for some people for some moments. So, yeah, share them out. But know they don’t apply to everyone at every moment in time. I think this person’s mistake came with the way she delivered the platitude. She did it with that clap emoji between every word which is a technique used when you really want to make a point look OBVIOUS and make people who don’t understand it feel DUMB. If she hadn’t done that? A method which basically says, “Hey! Here is this simple idea you morons still don’t get!” then I don’t think she would have gotten as much pushback.
If you ever see a platitude that you think is PERFECT and really applies to your life? Memorize it. Preserve it. Carve it into you heart. Just remember – it might not apply to everyone. And don’t be too hard on yourself if you realize some days, it doesn’t even apply to you.