Source: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

By Ryan Chou

There are more than a few problems in society. Today, mental health is becoming a societal crisis, and with an estimated 300 million people suffering depression globally, self-loathing and nihilism are easy traps to fall into. But accompanying this are motivational speakers. At first glance, their message seems pure; they want to help people, and drive them to be the best they can be. But this is not the case. The message from so many of the most influential speakers is toxic, and it only deepens the troubles of the suffering. 

Usually, regardless of who it is, these speakers have a common message: you have to work almost every waking hour to be successful, and if you don’t, you’re a lazy wuss. This is insane—there are so many problems with this idea. This mindset does not help. Burnout, self-hate, and grouchiness are all most people achieve from taking it to these limits. And with all this, there aren’t even that many benefits to it: no real gains in academics, health, or happiness. There’s a balance between work and leisure, and almost nobody can live this lifestyle healthily. Yes, there are people like Elon Musk and Gary Vaynerchuk who work at extremely high levels, but not everybody are these people, and that’s okay. But this isn’t the message being portrayed by speakers. According to them, this is the only way to succeed—the right thing that everybody should be doing. 

They also have a tendency to take responsibility to absurd levels. Accountability is absolutely necessary for succeeding and becoming a better person, but there’s no reason to feel the need to take the blame for things out of your control. This is the message that is implied by too many speakers: every failure is your fault, and if you don’t accept that, you’re a snowflake. Lost a loved one? Get over it. Encountered immeasurable failure that you didn’t cause? Boo-hoo, move on. Serious mental problems? Oh, well. Especially right now in the middle of a pandemic, people are in struggles that they should not be in to begin with. This message does nothing to help them. Yes, it is important to take the heat when it is your fault, and yes, it is important to move forward through tragedy, but badgering people to just “get over it” just isn’t the right message. 

It’s important to work hard, and it’s important to handle obstacles maturely, but there’s a limit on these ideas. More often than not, you can’t spend every hour of your life working and expect to not be miserable. Furthermore, you shouldn’t be made to feel at fault for things that you had nothing to do with. Pushing these messages hurts people. It pressures them into acquiring detrimental work habits and self-loathing attitudes. It isn’t the way to go, yet motivational speakers say it is anyway.


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