When Motivational Memes Are Actually Subtle Emotional Abuse
A subtle undercurrent of emotional abuse is interwoven into spirituality on the internet today. I understand why that is, but I can’t let it stand any longer. If you’re looking for a feel-good article that you don’t have to think much about, then you should probably keep scrolling. But if you want something that will open your eyes in a way that you will never be able to close them again — keep reading because the perspective shift will blow your mind.
The image above on the surface looks like a powerful statement of personal empowerment, but it’s actually an internalized form of emotional abuse.
Let’s break down the concepts:
- Be Strong When You Are Weak — what this is really saying is that your feelings don’t matter, that you don’t deserve support and love, and that you are under a constant state of attack, so you can’t afford to be weak — toughen up or die. The healthier version of this is: Lean On Trusted Others When You Feel Weak — They Will Hold And Support You Until You Feel Strong Again
- Be Brave When You Are Scared — this one is actually OK — it’s saying not to allow your fear to run you. Did you know that you actually lose 10 IQ points when you are afraid? So leaning into your courage is a great way to take back those IQ points. What it doesn’t say though is to face your fears so that you may dismantle them — that is the ultimate bravery — especially when you are looking deep into the hidden places inside of you.
- Be Humble When You Are Victorious — This is codependency at its finest. You worked hard to win, but you shouldn’t enjoy it, instead you should feel bad for the person who lost. Your accomplishments don’t matter, your hard work doesn’t matter, your acknowledgement for those things doesn’t matter — that’s what this says. Yes, don’t be a bad sport and rub it in the other person’s face, but take your damn victory lap already. Enjoy your accomplishments and let others acknowledge you for them — you earned it.
- Be Badass Everyday — OMG, I don’t know about you, but that sounds exhausting — and, for the record, I am a serious badass. But even I have days where I veg out and do nothing, where I cry my heart out, where I have self doubt or wonder what’s it all for. NO ONE can be a badass every day. Asking yourself to do that is setting yourself up to NEVER be good enough because it is an unattainable goal. This is actually the most abusive statement of them all.
I don’t blame the people who create and share these memes. Within their internal context, these memes look powerful. But they are actually internalized emotional abuse and they illuminate the coping mechanisms they embraced to survive it.
But surviving and thriving are not the same thing.
The spiritual world is designed to bring you into yourself — the person who is underneath the weight of all of those coping mechanisms. It’s designed to bring that authentic, powerful, beautiful, absolutely perfect just as they are person to the surface. If what you are reading asks you to stuff your feelings or makes you feel like you have to be better, do better, work harder, then it’s probably toxic spirituality.
Yes, when you get deeper into the spiritual practices and begin to engage in your shadow work, it will be challenging and you will need bravery to get through it. But the difference is that you are doing it because YOU want to — not because you are trying to look OK or powerful or perfect for someone else.
So many people come into spirituality to find the magic pill to happiness. Maybe it’s in a meme or an affirmation, right? Nope. Sorry to burst your bubble, but there isn’t a magic pill. I’ve been in this world for 45 years and I haven’t found one yet. But I did find the path to happiness. And it comes from being really honest with yourself and from finding world-changing perspective shifts that make everything look different.
Do you see it? Did I get to perspective shift across? As I said, it’s subtle when you’re in it. But if you can find it, then change is inevitable. I’d love to hear how it works for you.
Kelle Sparta is a Transformational Shaman specializing in helping empaths build lives and businesses they can love. She is also the host of the popular Spirit Sherpa Podcast. If you are an empath and you’re having trouble separating yourself from other’s emotions, download her free Boundaries for Empaths program. You can find out more about Kelle at www.KelleSparta.com.