Wisdom in Platitudes
I am constantly annoying my husband with perky platitudes. I’m one of those folks who finds them to be useful reminders when the going gets tough, and even inspiring when I’m feeling down. I also find myself quoting them at others.
My husband, on the other hand, is one of those people who thinks my perky platitudes are annoying bullshit. I’m pretty sure he wishes I’d drop them altogether. However, it’s probably important to point out here that positive sayings are part of the reason I became the self-motivated, successful person I am today.
Both my mother and grandmother, the two women who raised me, were platitude parrots. I grew up hearing, “You can move mountains with your mind, if only you believe”, ‘You are your own toughest critic”, “Your life is what you make it”, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”, “You can do anything in this world that you put your mind to” and the list goes on. I also truly believe all of these things because my life experience has shown them to be true.
Let me give you some background: I grew up with parents who believed in me, but who were also realistic and raised me with realistic expectations and a work ethic. Hard work was stressed in our house. We had daily chores like cleaning our rooms, setting the dinner table, doing dishes, and helping start dinner. Saturday was housecleaning day. Sunday was yard work day. We had rigid bed-times and house rules we followed. Six of us shared a single bathroom. I grew up in a world without today’s commonplace cell phones or home computers. I started working for the family business at age 11, and got my first real job at age 14. Self-responsibility was paramount in our house. We didn’t get to play until the work was done. Spending the night as friends’ houses was a treat reserved for summer vacation. Our birthdays weren’t overly fussed over. As-a-matter-of-fact, since my younger sister and older brother had birthday’s within a week of mine, we often shared one birthday party. It was easier on my mom, who had to deal with our birthdays while running the family business because my dad often went out of town for business that last week of June, first week of July every year.
While all of this is probably too much information, it lends some insight, perhaps, into why these types of sayings influenced me so much. When you’re raised in a structured environment like I was, certain platitudes, like those I grew up hearing, can provide rationale and structure to one’s aspirations.
My husband, on the other hand, grew up hearing that if you work hard, you’ll get far. Do what your boss tells you and you’ll end up on top. Nice guys finish first! None of which turned out to be true for him. So to him, perky platitudes became ra-ra bullshit meant to motivate automatons.
I also tend to be the cheerful optimist despite the fact that I live by the phrase, “Expect the worst and hope for the best, that way you’ll never be disappointed.” My husband, while he insists he’s an optimist, only believes in pragmatic platitudes like, “Good guys finish last” and “The stupids are winning.”
Goes to show you that opposites really do attract.
I suppose what it comes down to is the platitude is in the eye of the beholder, and it lends truth to the fact that life (the good and the bad) really is what we make of it.