No one can tell what goes on in between the person you were and the person you become. There are no maps of the change. You just come out of the other side.—Stephen King
One of the guys that I dated in my first year of university was such a huge fan of motivational talks. Naturally, as a result of our proximity, he tried to get me hooked into them too. But he failed. I never found resonance in someone telling me how to become my “best self”. Being given “10 simple steps” to become wealthy and live my best life seemed a little off.
There was something about motivational talks that felt cringeworthy, arrogant, and pretentious. I also couldn’t shake off the feelings of guilt and shame that I felt after watching each “motivational” video. Which my then-boyfriend said was meant to inspire a change in me. And by then, unfortunately, I didn’t have the vocabulary to thwart his stance and articulate why that couldn’t be right.
I was only 19 years old, but the kid in me saw motivational speaking for the blatant scam it was. And being the avid Christian I was, at that time, I also laughed. I laughed at the realization of human beings’ tendency to want to play God and convince themselves that they can create a formula for life to get outcomes that might not even fit God’s plan for their lives. But today I am grateful that I have the vocabulary to better articulate why motivational speaking is really not the girl she thinks she is.
We have each been given a different set of “question papers” and “assignments”. However, here we are trying to copy and paste from motivational speakers and so-called thought leaders. You will fail. Dismally.
We can only share our experiences and take from each other certain lessons and insights that resonate, at a particular moment, and help us on our own journeys. But to replicate what someone else did and get the same exact results? Life is not a science lab. What worked for me might really not work for you because my life “scope” is different from yours.
We set ourselves up for disappointment because we try to do what others are doing but end up getting opposite or different results. And motivational speakers sell us the illusion that we can replicate their ‘foolproof’ strategies to get the same exact results as they did.
This brings me to the second point, motivational speakers have this arrogance of setting themselves up as the ultimate standard and picture of success that people ought to aspire to. “If I can be it, then so can you,” is their anthem. Again, as I said, different assignments.
Motivational speaking, I personally believe, has also created a culture of looking to other people and their lives for answers. We don’t trust our own voices. We don’t trust that our own lives hold the answers we need, to point us in the direction that we need to go. We don’t have dreams of our own because people with the loudest voices tell us that they are the people we should dream of becoming. Lol, the audacity! Then you wonder why we never feel enough, why we constantly want to be other people, aspiring for the things that other people have?
Lastly, motivational speakers are masters at convincing people that they are living less than what they are meant to be living. You are not thinking right, you are not talking right and you are not even breathing right. Those are the messages they give to you. You start feeling guilty about yourself and your life.
But you see, from a psychological standpoint, guilt does not produce real-lasting change and transformation, just actions to mitigate the feelings of guilt, and once the guilt has subsided, back to where you started. Which is the very reason why Christianity would later prove to not be a great fit for me. Shaming someone for not living up to a certain standard is not going to speed up the process of them reaching it.
And such spaces rarely even make room [or make it okay] for people to not ever have to live up to those standards because just maybe, those are standards people might NOT even be “called” to ever reach for, to begin with. And my biggest gripe with motivational speaking is that it rarely ever makes room for people to want different things, to set different standards of success for themselves that may be different from current social standards.
Ultimately, I believe, life is not a strategy. You cannot strategize your way through life. Motivational speaking conflicts with the hard truth that we cannot manipulate life (even with the best tactics and tools) to get out of it exactly what we want. And motivational speaking sells because it invigorates those very dominant parts of ourselves that believe that we can control and plan for every aspect of life. But I think life has proved to us countless times, and probably in painful ways, that there’s only so much we can plan for and control in our lives.
I may not “believe” in motivational speaking and all that it stands for but this is what I believe:
Our own lives will always have the answers. If we are living far below our potential, life will ALWAYS bring our way tools, resources, and experiences that will perfectly fit where we are at and successfully ensure that we are raised at the level we need to be. I believe that if we need to be anything other than what we currently are, life will bring (often without our help) into motion encounters and experiences that facilitate that transition and elevation. And that’s what I’ll always believe in. Because I would be life’s greatest scammer if I ever said, all that I am and all that I have is because I planned it. I’ve always found myself haphazardly colliding with moments, people, and experiences that took me to paths that brought me closer to who life has called me to be.
Anyway, this is just me. Maybe I just don’t like another human being, who is just like me, tell me what to do. 😊❤️
Y’all be safe though. 😘