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  • Writer's pictureJessica Mckasson

The thin line between toxic motivation and healthy empowerment.


From inspirational quotes to success stories, motivational content can be a powerful tool to ignite the fire within us. However, beneath its well-intentioned facade, lies the potential for toxicity. When I googled "motivational quotes", a few of the examples that came up were quotes like this, "No guts, no glory", or "If it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you", or "Never wish that life was easier, wish that you were better", or "Perfection might not be attainable, but if you chase perfection, you can catch excellence." I don't even know if I can put into words how frustrated I feel reading quotes like this . Quotes that imply that we are not good enough as we are, or that if we don't kill ourselves, we won't achieve success. I personally find these kinds of implied messages to be very harmful for our well-being, so I want to explore the duality of motivational content and how it can both empower and undermine our self-worth.

Of course there is no denying that motivational or inspirational content can be a force for good. Encouragement and positive affirmations can truly inspire us to believe in our own abilities and make changes in our lives. There have been times in my life where I have relied on the power of this type of content to get my ass into gear. However, when I think back on these times, I can recognize that this version of me didn’t truly love or accept myself. There is no question that I was being motivated by messaging around becoming the “best version of me”. The issue is that I was trying to become this better version of me because at my core, I didn’t actually love and accept the version of who I was. So while being inundated with content that was encouraging me to “evolve” had some benefits, on the same token, it also tore me down and created a space for even deeper self-judgment and criticism. Any time I felt like I was falling short on becoming that “best” version of me, or I wasn’t doing “enough”, or evolving quickly enough, I would fall into a dark hole of self-deprecation. Unfortunately, not all motivational content is created equal. There are so many messages out there that imply that unless we are pushing ourselves to the limits every second of the day, we are somehow falling short. They suggest that if we're not hustling, grinding, and seizing every opportunity, we're unworthy of success or our desires. And frankly, I’m tired of it. This toxic form of motivation just breeds more feelings of inadequacy and fuels an unhealthy obsession with constant achievement, even when it comes to “achievement” in our own healing journeys.

I remember times of being on a real emotional rollercoaster; one day I was flying high and patting myself on the back for how much I was “achieving”, and then next, I would be completely berating myself for falling short. I remember watching Tony Robbins videos or watching these different motivational speakers and feeling so bad about myself because I felt so inadequate in comparison to them. If Tony could get up at 4am and accomplish 82 things before 7am, why couldn’t I? This brings up another issue around toxic motivation; the good old comparison game. The game where we start comparing ourselves to others and measuring our own worth based on someone else and their accomplishments. I used to always think to myself things like, “That person is so far ahead, and I’m just so far behind in comparison.” Or “I’ll never be able to achieve or accomplish what that person is achieving.” My worth was so inherently tied to what I was DOING, instead of who I was. And when we are flooded with content from people talking about how much they are doing or who are telling us what success looks like, it can be so easy to forget that every single one of us has a unique purpose and life path. And every one of our paths is going to look so different. There is no such thing as being ahead or behind, we are always exactly where we need to be in our journeys. And whoever you are, or whoever I am, in this exact moment, is PERFECT. We ARE worthy just as we are. We ARE enough just as we are. We ARE deserving just as we are. The deeper in my own journey of self-love and acceptance, the less I believe in trying to become a different version of myself and the more I believe in the power of simply loving and accepting myself as I am today.

I didn’t realize any of this UNTIL I healed the part of me that was striving to be something other than I was, the part of me that tied my worthiness and my “enough-ness” to external validation, and until I stopped buying into the bullshit that was telling me that I wasn’t good enough just as I was. It wasn’t until I started really looking in the mirror and accepting and loving all of who I was that I began to truly heal my relationship with myself. Where I was once motivated by someone telling me to do all sorts of different things in order to be the best version of me, I found myself simply wanting to have love and compassion for the present version of me. Does this mean that I don’t believe in becoming a more evolved version of who I am? No, definitely not. I believe our souls came here in order to evolve. But I believe that this evolution comes simply by loving ourselves and accepting ourselves as we are. Because at the end of the day, as cliché as it might sound, love truly is everything. We can try a million different healing techniques, make 1,000 habit changes, or be the most “successful” person on earth, but if we don’t actually just love and accept ourselves, if we don’t feel peace within our being, what’s the point? I think most of us go on these quests of bettering ourselves because in a lot of ways, we are searching for internal peace. We think that by doing things that will make us feel better about ourselves, it will lead to us feeling more at peace with who are. But the irony is, we can feel that sense of peace simply just by loving and accepting who we are today. It really is that simple.

Now I don’t want to say that there isn’t a time or a place for motivational content, it certainly can serve a purpose and can empower us. But it can also be a double-edged sword, capable of tearing us down. I just think it’s important to be aware of the fine line between healthy empowerment/inspiration and the potential for toxic motivation. If reading something or watching something ends up having an adverse impact on our well-being, we gotta step away from it and recognize that it’s harmful. I love coming across messaging that inspires me towards more self-compassion and self-acceptance. This is the kind of content I want in my life, not content that is going to tell me to push myself to my limits or make me feel like shit if I don’t accomplish 82 things before 6:30am.

So in conclusion, I hope that today you just embrace your wholeness and your worthiness. I hope that you practice self-compassion and self-acceptance, and remember that you are more than enough just as you are.


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