Disclaimer: Several of these topics are very important to me, so my writing may sound a bit heated, but I am not intending to hurt or bash anyone.
This is a collection of platitudes and cliches from various (often personal) experiences and journeys in life. Some of these I’ve heard, others are verbalizations of vibes or general messages I’ve picked up from people, or things that have been said to people I know. Can you relate to any of these?
You’ll get through this.
Well, I hope so. But how do you know that any more than I do? While this expression has a place, it is, IMHO, highly overused. A person who sees no way through the pain will not suddenly feel more hopeful because you tell them there is a way. In this instance, presence is more powerful than a claim to prescience.
If you choose to use words to communicate with this person, questions may be a more effective choice. This will provide the individual with an outlet for expressing his/her feelings, fears, and thoughts. The fewer assessments or confident responses to their situation that you provide, the more likely it is that this person will feel comfortable being vulnerable with you.
Like, I’d be doing that if I didn’t have a reason for being “down”. It’s not like I want to be glum all the time!
When you say this to a person who is depressed, that signals to them that you are an unsafe person, with whom they may never safely share their true feelings and struggles. They become afraid that you will judge them for being depressed and not “positive”.
(Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against positive, uplifting thinking.) 🙂
Smile, even if you don’t feel like it.
Said by people who have never been depressed (or who are, perhaps, denying that they are depressed and need help).
I know what you’re going through.
No, you don’t. No two experiences are alike.
I realize well-meaning people say this to try to relate to the sufferer, and may well have experienced deep depression themselves.
I’ve made this mistake before, when I was trying to connect with a suicidal former coworker. I told her that I had sort of been in the place where she was. This was my effort to gain trust with her, and let her know she could confide in me. However, it might have been more appropriate for me to say, “I’ve battled deep depression and suicidal thoughts before, but I can only try to imagine the pain you’re feeling right now. Will you stay on the line with me? (Or “keep texting me”, or something to that effect.) What is your unsolvable problem right now?” (I was at work at the time, so I couldn’t really be in constant contact with her, but I knew or thought at that point that other people were involved in helping her.)
The other option would have been to downplay my own personal experiences or not mention them at all, and simply ask questions, empathize, and make sure she got the appropriate help.
If you just spend more time with people, you’ll feel less depressed.
You can be surrounded by people and still be alone. And sometimes, certain social settings and relationships (particularly toxic or very superficial ones) can actually exacerbate depression.
You’re depressed? Yeah, I’ve been sad before.
Sadness is not depression. You can be sad that you lost your wallet, but you’re probably not depressed about it. You’re likely worried, and pretty frustrated about the hassle that will ensue, but once your accounts and cards are restored, you’ll be happy again. Sadness is typically circumstantial.
Depression is also frequently circumstantial, but not always. Sometimes, it comes out of nowhere. Other times, the cause is extremely covert. And often, you don’t even know you’re depressed. You’re going through the motions of life – numb, visionless, jaded. Depression can disguise itself as erratic sleep patterns, overeating, chronic fatigue, and general lethargy.
Depression typically involves sadness. But it goes so much deeper than that. It can seriously impact your ability to function in life. Depression roots itself deep in the body and changes your biochemical balances (neurotransmitter and hormone levels may become irregular).
A person may be sad about having to go to work, but they still show up, and likely function fairly well while “on the job”.
A depressed person (possibly) can’t go to work. (This is not true for all depressed people, but I have seen individuals become completely immobilized by depression).
You’re not depressed. You’re just lazy.
Tying in to the previous statement. When people see a depressed person not doing anything, it can be easy to assume that that person is lazy.
What is, in fact, happening, is that the individual’s limbic brain (which responds to stress and is linked with our survival mechanisms) is forcing them to go into fight, flight, faint, or freeze mode. They no longer have control over their brain or actions. They are in survival mode.
This will drive some individuals to fight – to charge forward in life, and perhaps deny their depression. They may become more irritable or numb over time, from fighting so hard.
Other individuals will flee, freeze, or faint. They will move away from a stressful situation, or stop moving at all. The limbic brain is incredibly powerful, and it can hijack the rational brain.
The outworking of this effective limbic response, for some, can be as severe as staying in one’s bed all day, because the survival-oriented brain will not permit them to do anything else.
If you just work hard enough, you’ll accomplish all your goals and be successful.
While I’m not one to discourage hard work or the motivation behind it, I am a proponent of working smarter rather than harder, when given the choice. Planning, creating systems, and leveraging your talents and abilities will pay off more in the long run, with less cost to yourself. Also, I do not believe that true success is found at the end of a long tunnel of sweat, isolation, and workaholism. It is found where happiness and joy are. If the thing you are doing is in consonance with your heart chords, you’ll find true fulfillment, and you will be truly successful.
You’ve got a cold? Better take your vitamin C!
Vitamin C is good for you! But in my experience, there are lots of faster-acting or equally/more effective remedies, like apple cider vinegar (unless you’re sensitive to it, like I now am), elderberry, echinacea, and goldenseal. Ginger is also great. And unless you’re vegan/vegetarian, don’t forget to add some homemade bone broth to your healing regimen!
If you’re sick, you’d better go to the doctor and get some “medicine”.
If you’ve got a common cold, save your body the shock of synthetic chemicals and treat it to some gentle – yet powerful – home remedies (like those listed above) instead.
If your symptoms persist, then you definitely should visit a doctor and get it checked out. There are situations where a powerful synthetic antibiotic is needed, but it should not be the go-to, because this can lead to microbial mutations and reduced treatment effectiveness in the future.
You’re depressed because you’re not getting enough natural vitamin D.
While that may be partially true, there are many, many factors that can contribute to depression. Biologically, certain genetics and a deficiency in vitamin B6 and zinc can also play a huge role. Additionally, work, family life, inner tension, and incongruence between one’s inner self/desires/goals and one’s external actions/situation can be significant factors.
You don’t need any makeup. You should be confident in your own skin.
While this is nice in theory, trust me: you DO NOT want to see me without makeup. 😛 I know there are other girls who feel similarly about themselves. Women should never feel ashamed for making the facial presentation choices that they do – to wear or not to wear makeup. They are not wimps if they feel they need makeup. They are simply trying to present themselves to the world in a way that will match and express who they truly are.
The guest/customer is always right.
And don’t they know it! I’ve seen many customers manipulate this mindset that has been ingrained into customer service workers, in order to essentially commit fraud against the company.
Of course, within the margins of sanity and rationality, everyone wins when you do your best to provide the best possible experience for your customers/guests/patients/clients. 🙂
Your family member is autistic? I really have a heart for the “mentally ill”. They’re such special people.
While such statements are meant to establish a connection with the family members of someone “on the spectrum” – or with the diagnosed individual – “special” is not a compliment. “Special” implies mental illness. And autism is not a mental illness. It is, in essence, a unique wiring of the brain.
You’re not sick because you’re allergic to everything. You’re just not getting proper nutrition. C’mon, eat some pizza!
Okay, maybe I’m the only one who’s gotten this. I really am allergic or sensitive to nearly every food on the planet. I don’t consider myself anorexic (at least presently). Yes, I probably am missing out on some nutrition because of all the foods I’m missing, but eating those foods would only stoke the fire of my body’s inflammatory response.
Thankfully, the body is engineered with the ability to convert what little it’s given (within reason) into useful, nutritious compounds. My new doctor has said that I would receive adequate nutrition by simply eating bone broth.
And pizza does not count as proper nutrition!
I’m concerned about how much weight you’re losing. Do you need to talk to someone?
Again, I understand that this typically comes from a place of genuine concern. People have many reasons for being thin – thin skeletal frame, allergies and food restrictions, and simply being physically fit. Unless their skin is stretched over their bones, thinness is not a problem. And even if their skin is paper-thin and you can see their bones, that doesn’t necessarily mean they want it to be that way.
All that matters is internal beauty!
While I agree that internal beauty is the anchor and the core of all true beauty, let’s face it. External, natural, temporal, and physical beauty exists as well. It’s gotta be there for some reason.
It’s kind of like saying, “All that matters in a garden is fruits and vegetables!”
So…why do we bother planting flowers at all?
Feeling anxious? Take a deep breath.
If I could actually take a deep breath when I’m feeling anxious, that might help. But this is usually quite challenging (if not impossible) for me in a moment of panic or anxiety. What does help me: prayer, meditation, journaling, drinking tea that contains valerian, and playing the piano.
If you have ever been the recipient of any of these statements (and more than likely, you have), I just want you to know that I love you. That regardless of how people have made you feel in the past (intentionally or unintentionally), you are beautiful. Your feelings and struggles are real, valid, and understandable. You matter. You have unique gifts and abilities and insights that you were meant to share with the world.
I also want to acknowledge that there are situations in which some of these statements/questions – or similar ones – may be appropriate. So I’m not trying to say that people gotta walk on eggshells around everyone. Life’s too beautiful to hold grudges and brood over poorly chosen words.
If any of this resonated with you, let me know in the comments below, or contact me privately. I care about you, and would love to hear from you.
Disclaimer: My health advice should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult your physician before trying any remedies.
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