I’m going to confess something here. Sometimes when I’m really bored I go on pinterest. And after a few minutes of scrolling through crockpot recipes, if I’m really bored, sometimes I search for “inspirational quotes.” And I watch the swirly thing swirl and wait for the sunsets and calligraphy to pop up on my screen.
But that’s not my confession. My confession is that I hate myself for doing this. And I hate “inspirational quotes.” Why? Because a lot of them are wrong.
“Make your own happiness.” Um… okay is there a recipe for that? Like do I have to smile all the time because my face gets tired easily.
“Just go with the flow.” Okay sounds great thanks. But what exactly is the flow? Is my flow going the right way? Probably not…
“When nothing goes right, go left.” Awesome! Cool! That seems easy. Wait… which way is left again? Can I go straight? What about east? Oh that’s the same as right? Wait shouldn’t I be going with the flow? Am I creating happiness right now? Ahhh!
Who comes up with these things? Do they really think that making sunshine is the key to life?
I used to love quotes like these. I would by lying if I said I didn’t have them hanging in my room. In fact, this used to be one of my favorites: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.”
It seems like a good perspective to have. When there’s a storm cloud above you, don’t hide in your basement and pout. Go outside and dance! Be happy!
But there’s a problem with this perspective, and there’s a problem with the message this quote sends.
Yeah, it’s fun to dance in the rain. Until you get wet and cold and tired. So sure, if the storm is short or if it’s not raining that hard, dancing in the rain might work out. If you’re nervous for a test, you can learn how to motivate yourself with your nerves instead of waiting for them to go away.
But what do you when the storm isn’t stopping, and it is raining hard, and there’s thunder and lightening? Should you still dance in the rain?
According to the quote, you should. But that’s where it’s wrong. Because this quote suggests the false idea that we always have to be happy. That if we aren’t happy, we’re letting the storm win and we’re failing as individuals.
However, happiness is not a state of being, or an end goal, or anything besides what it actually is: an emotion. And having one emotion all the time is basically the same as having none.
It’s true that life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s not good to hide and let your problems, your pain, your sadness, and your fear keep you from going places and doing things. But life is also not just about dancing in the rain. Forcing yourself to be happy without taking time to feel your honest feelings, accept your challenges, and cope with your struggles is the same thing as hiding from them.
As a society we’ve created the dangerous idea that if we aren’t happy, something is wrong with us. That If we can’t figure out how to dance in the rain, something is wrong with us.
But it’s okay to sense the storm surrounding you and be upset. It’s okay to hear the thunder and be scared. Because sometimes it’s not possible to dance in the rain, and that is okay.
I dislike inspirational quotes because while they can help us seek out the positives, they fail to tell us that it’s also okay to recognize the negatives. They send the message that happiness is the best way to handle pain, but that isn’t a realistic approach.
No, life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about recognizing the storm and accepting it for what it is. It’s about pulling on rain boots and a rain jacket and borrowing your friend’s umbrella. It’s about going outside and feeling the wind blow through your hair but not letting it knock you over. And if you want to dance in the rain, go ahead. And if you don’t that’s okay too.
You don’t need to be happy all the time. Of course it feels good to be happy, but once in a while it’s okay to let yourself feel frustrated and sad and scared because those are feelings too. And even though you might always have to brave some kind of storm, if you’re not in a dancing mood, it’s okay. Because you don’t have to dance in the rain.