Cliche & Wrong

Elisa A. Escalante/ LCSW/ 12-1-2022

Some sayings and expressions are just NOT helpful to our situation. It’s those types of things people say over and over again because it’s ‘supposed to help’ but it never does, and the more you hear it the more you realize how far off some people are in terms of life experience and mental health. It isn’t that advice never applies, it’s that certain advice only works for certain people, or perhaps its just not helpful to anyone at all. Let’s go over some of those overused lines that are unhelpful, triggering or outdated.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger– This is typically used when we are going through hardships whether it be mentally or physically difficult obstacles. Not everything that’s hard is beneficial, and not everything that is beneficial is necessarily taxing on us. For example, I would not tell someone that just got molested by a neighbor of family member a line like this. I would not want to imply that their sexual assault has ‘made them stronger’. Can you imagine?? I wouldn’t want to tell someone with a chronic pain condition like MS or fibromyalgia this either. Because the truth be told is that they are suffering more than I am. (As I do not have a chronic pain condition) That really sucks for them. And it’s wearing them down, not making them stronger. This line is often simplistic and it lacks empathy.

You know what you signed up for– This line is NEVER true. You don’t know what you sign up for until after you sign up for it and you actually get real life experience doing said activity. Whether it be enlisting in the military, enrolling in a degree plan in college, applying for a specific job, making the choice to start a family; children. This is often a line people use to imply that someone ‘should stop complaining’. Everything that we do can get hard sometimes, it’s human nature to want an emotional outlet. Sometimes this includes venting. If you are not a good listener, just say so.

Other people have it worse– Since when does the knowledge of ‘other people have it worse’ ever help alleviate someones in the moment suffering? It does not, it will never. Stress and suffering is not up to perception, it’s a feeling that an individual experiences in their own being. You cannot cancel it out with words, or even facts. Often, it is fleeting, like all other emotions. But this line has never helped any suffering being in the history of humanity. It’s a fact of life some people have it worse, and some people have it better. It’s irrelevant to a person’s suffering in their unique moment of suffering. They may need solutions, or validation, or time, or pursuit of joy. But, they do not need this cliche line.

They’re just doing it for attention– Here’s an important fact of life to remember, we humans are NOT mind readers. We will not know whether someone is ‘doing it for attention & manipulation alone’ or if it’s what we call ‘ a true cry for help’. But guess what? It really should not matter regardless. Maybe someone is suffering and doing something for attention. And? Don’t you think maybe we need to pay attention then? If they are making cries for help? Here’s the important take away, if you can give them the attention they do require, please do. If you cannot and you’re just going to invalidate them and make them feel worse, then don’t bother talking to them and refer them to someone that actually cares and is willing to listen.

You can do anything you set your mind to– This line is both unrealistic and sets many people up for failure. This line reaks of expectation management issues. Manifesting a dream is only step one, it takes a lot of behavioral modification and work in order to see something through. Even then, there are no guarantees. We need to talk about failure just as much as we talk about accomplishing our dreams. Why? Well failure is actually more common than accomplishments. Lessons. Mistakes. Dreams slipping away… and grief because maybe things did not go as planned (They rarely do). What happens to a kid or young adult that does not do everything they set their mind and intentions to do? They may see themselves as a failure vs a normal human that is making mistakes and learning through the process of elimination.

Be Strong– ‘Be strong’ is not advice. If someone is having difficulty coping, they need coping outlets. Not one liners. Also, some situations really do suck and only time can help take care of it. Some emotions and symptoms take a while to pass; hours to days. Some people even have horrible months or years. It’s what’s happening inside us and what is happening to us. We’re complex. Mental illness does not mean ‘weak’, and being fortunate enough to be mentally healthy does not equate to ‘strength’. It’s quite opposite. Sufferers of physical and mental ailments are typically ‘stronger’, they are suffering through more day to day, and they are still here.

Published by functionallymentall

Social Worker, Writer, USAF Veteran

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