“Don’t cry”. When we were young, I’m sure most of us heard this. But was it really useful?
Contrary to popular belief, all it really did was make us feel more ashamed for crying.
I was also told not to let bullies affect me, which made me feel weak when they did.
They told me to control my emotions, especially if they were negative, which made me wonder why I wasn’t able to do it.
When we give this kind of positive thinking advice to children, we think it’ll make them tougher, but it actually makes them think they’re not tough enough.
So below are 7 common pieces of advice that we all give to each other, but they might not be that helpful.
1) ‘Sticks and stones can break your bones, but names can’t hurt you’
In fact, it’s quite normal for names to hurt you. Getting teased mentally can be just as harmful as physically.
By believing that names can’t hurt you, it ignores all the suffering people have experienced from verbal bullying. It also ignores racist, sexist, homophobic and oppressive comments.
Of course, the people saying this advice really mean that it’s within one’s power to choose not to react to name calling.
There’s value in this, but it’d be better to say that what people are calling you aren’t facts and they usually have more to do with the person saying them, but it’s still normal to find them hurtful.
2) ‘There’s no use dwelling on the past’.
This implies that you’re mentally weak to be hurting over something in the past.
But the truth is, we can’t always control what unpleasant memories resurface and we can’t always get over hurtful incidents.
If someone wronged you and never apologized, it’s acceptable to still be angry. In fact, analyzing the past can help you learn to avoid those situations in the future.
3) ‘Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent’
This is a famous quote that certainly has value to it. But many people have taken the phrase too far and used it to shift responsibility from people who make others feel inferior toward those who are feeling inferior.
It’s great not to let other people’s opinions affect us, but it doesn’t make their opinions okay. If someone makes you feel bad, the right thing for them to do is to examine what they said, not blame you.
No matter how thick your skin is, we’re all responsible for how we treat others.
4) ‘Offense is taken, not given’
Again, this phrase is designed to empower people to reject other’s opinions, but it’s usually used to defend people making offensive remarks.
We should encourage people to speak out about why they feel offended. Listening to these people is valuable in stopping oppressive ideas propagate.
It’s also great to consider why someone is feeling offended, so we can learn to be more mindful of each other.
5) ‘We seek confirmation of what we already believe’
When you hear someone say this, you immediately think that all your thoughts stem from preconceived notions, rather than genuine observations, which can make you doubt your intellect.
The truth is, the fact that you’re thinking about the issue makes you more credible.
It insults someone’s intelligence to say their observations are merely the result of chips on their shoulders.
When people tell you to smile or not to cry, they’re really saying that they struggle to deal with any sort of negativity and they wish you’d be happier.
However, what you’re feeling and what you do with your face is nobody’s business. When you tell someone not to cry, you’re telling them to try harder to fight their emotions. You’re basically telling them to be inauthentic.
We need to learn to express our emotions more often, rather than hiding them.
7) ‘Thoughts shape reality’
Saying that we can choose how we feel trivializes mental illness by implying that we could just get rid of anxiety and depression through the power of positive thinking if we tried hard enough.
The truth is, positve thinking is useful, but it’s limited. Sometimes all the positive thoughts in the world cannot make you feel better, and that’s not any failing on your part.