Banish the Bromides and Purge the Platitudes

I once saw a poster on the wall of a dance studio with a photograph of a gorgeous professional ballerina and the admonition “Believe in Yourself and All Things Are Possible”. What a foolish and inevitably disheartening message that is for most dance students!

I believe that every dance student benefits in many ways, both physical and emotional, but those who have all the gifts that are required to pursue a dance career are rare indeed. Believing in oneself simply won’t result in looking like that photo on the poster. Similarly, you can’t become a major league baseball player or a brain surgeon or an operatic soprano simply by believing in yourself. In my case, regarding that last option, my vocal range is female baritone and I famously cannot carry a tune. When I was in elementary school, the chorus teacher actually asked me to mouth the words of the songs during concerts! My mother was furious, but I wholeheartedly agreed with the teacher. Why spoil the performances with my off-key singing when I had other talents to pursue?

My point is that I strongly dislike the bromides, platitudes, and clichés that are now so prevalent on Facebook and elsewhere. They offer false hope and bad advice to young people and adults alike. Here are some examples I’d like to eradicate:

  • What the mind can conceive, it can achieve.
  • Good things come to those who wait.
  • Everything happens for a reason.
  • It was meant to be.
  • It is what it is.
  • Time heals all wounds
  • You’re as young as you feel.
  • Age is just a number.
  • What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
  • This too shall pass.
  • Nothing is impossible.
  • Happiness is a choice.
  • He’s in a better place.
  • There is someone worse off than you are.
  • Life doesn’t give you things you can’t handle.
  • I feel your pain.

Clearly I disagree with Margaret Thatcher, who was quoted as saying “Platitudes? Yes, there are platitudes. Platitudes are there because they are true.” Most of the examples I listed are not, or at least are not always, true. Some of them can be downright offensive, such as telling a person in mourning that “He’s in a better place”. Maybe the widow doesn’t believe in an afterlife or maybe she thinks a better place for him would be right here with her. Not only that, but the examples that can be true such as “There is someone worse off than you are” diminish the extent of a person’s suffering and offer no sympathy at all.

Far better than platitudes are simple, honest observations as well as expressions of support and encouragement. Instead of “Everything happens for a reason”, you could say “I’m sorry you’re going through this”. Instead of “Nothing is impossible”, you could say “I respect you for going after your goals”.

Here’s to purging foolish platitudes from our lips and our social media posts. Oh, and I fought the urge to take down that ballerina poster. However, I’ll bet the dance students know that the message isn’t true and aren’t letting it kill their joy in dancing!

you may also like

Recipes We