Five things your friends say that are total bullshit

March 30, 2015
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Long before status updates and the character-count tyranny of Twitter, people loved repeating neat little soundbites that reduced complex issues down to slogans. Most of these babies have their roots in pop-psychology from the ’90s, and continue to propagate today. While some are well-intentioned, they are nonetheless total bullshit.

Here’s why.

“Just be confident.”

This phrase implies that confidence is simply a state of mind, that you can somehow think your way to confidence without doing any of the groundwork. This is possible if you know what confidence feels like and you know how to get there – but if not, when you fail to achieve that magical confident mindset, you’ll feel bad for failing, and end up feeling less confident.

While it may come naturally to some, for people who lack it, confidence must be achieved by hard work, by pushing personal boundaries and attaining a certain amount of self-knowledge. It takes time and effort.

Telling an insecure person to be confident can be like saying to a paraplegic, “Just walk.”

Not super helpful.

“Once a cheater, always a cheater.”

Being cheated on is a horrible experience. But, while it may be vindictively satisfying to smear someone with the sticky social tar of “cheater”, it doesn’t really do justice to the fact that every relationship is complex and unique.

Some people cheat because they’re bored; others cheat because their partner is jealous and manipulative. Some are simply unsuited to monogamy, while others may be selfish or insecure.

Whatever the situation, people change.

Cheating is almost never justified, but viewing it as an indelible brand that indicates chronic or pathological infidelity is just a few lace gowns short of The Scarlett Letter.

“Just be yourself.”

Yeah, forget preparing for that job interview. Don’t try to reflect the attributes they would like to see in a candidate. Just act natural, and everything will work out. And if it doesn’t? They don’t deserve you!

While this attitude is probably helpful for preserving self-esteem, it’s unlikely to get you a job. It’s equally as unlikely to help you progress in anything else, either, whether it be academics, sports or relationships.

It’s one thing to feel comfortable in your own skin. It’s quite another to blind yourself to your own weaknesses; doing so prohibits personal growth and adaptation.

“All opinions are valid.”

Some opinions are based on reason, logic and empirical evidence. Others are based on ignorance, Coopers Light, and Fox News.

You’re entitled to have an opinion, but unless you can back it up and have it actually make sense outside your own head, why should anyone call it “valid?”

This is another tactic for preserving self-esteem by bundling people up in emotional bubble-wrap. Unfortunately, it has little to do with logic, true psychological health, or reality.

“How can you love others if you can't love yourself?”

Seriously, who thought it was a good idea to guilt people into having self-esteem?

The idea that self-love is a prerequisite for loving others is demonstrably false. Do we really believe that people suffering from depression or self-loathing are cold-hearted monsters incapable of love? Are we really going to delegitimise whatever compassion these people can muster while they struggle simply to function?

This idea is not only absurd, but potentially harmful. It serves to further isolate the already isolated by putting them in a little box labelled “loveless,” rendering them apart from, and unable to contribute to, society.

This phrase exemplifies pop-psychology’s worship of self-esteem, and fear of its opposite, self-hatred. If pop-psych had a map, there would be a big sign where depression is that read “Here there be leprosy dragons – stay away!”

Joel Svensson

Business major, journalism minor and sometime voice-actor, Joel Svensson pretends to be smart at La Trobe University in Melbourne.

Image: mendhak, Flickr Creative Commons license