Skip to main content

Inspiration Is Overrated. Here's What Counts More.

If there’s one thing we can’t get enough of nowadays, it’s inspiration.

Pictures of dogs before and after they find their forever home get thousands of likes and shares.

Influencer proposal videos are a dime a dozen, yet somehow manage to be #couplegoals. 

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen drunk Chinese elephants or clips of octogenarians playing the acoustic guitar in my WhatsApp chat groups.

There’s nothing wrong with tear-jerking videos. (Goodness knows that after staying home for 10 weeks, I’m desperate to feel something again.)

But there are 3 issues with “inspiring” clips and memes.

1. A lot of them aren’t real


The drunk elephants? Fake. Dolphins in Venice? Filmed in Sardinia, a few hundred kilometers away. If you saw any photos of swans gliding through empty Venetian canals, then you should know that they appear all the time, not just when the city is deserted. While these hoaxes aren’t too problematic, the disappointment of finding out that they’re not real can make people feel even more cynical and discouraged in these already trying times.

2. People end up feeling like “inspiration porn”

View this post on Instagram

Today is International Day of Disabled Persons! My Deaf being is not an obstacle but an advantage — an asset — and it is a part of my identity. I absolutely love being my true self because that translates to confidence, taking me to places and bringing me opportunities I never imagined possible \ud83e\udd2f BE YOUR AUTHENTIC SELF For able-bodied/hearing people, it is important to note that we are not your sob-story. Not an inspiration porn that makes you feel better about your day... or life, even. Please try to avoid telling us that we’re brave or an ‘inspiration’. We are people. We have personalities. We have rights. And we are here to stay. Be our ally ☺️\ud83e\udd1f\ud83c\udffc #internationaldisabilityday #internationaldayofdisabledpersons #deaf

A post shared by Nyle DiMarco (@nyledimarco) on

Too often, videos elicit tears without actually…teaching us how to do anything. Psychologist and author Brené Brown said that the difference between sympathy and empathy is that empathy brings people together and helps them feel included, while sympathy creates an uneven power dynamic and can reinforce feelings of isolation.

So if a video about actual people makes you think “aww so poor thing”, “I’m so glad my life is not like that” or just leaves you crying, period, then maybe you should think twice before sharing it.

Neither are people who are different than us “heroes” for trying to live their lives in a world whose systems disadvantage them in the first place. What about videos that show us how to include them, rather than videos that “uplift” their efforts without teaching us how to accommodate different needs? There is no empathy without action and understanding.

3. Inspiration is good, but action is better

On any given day, we could benefit from listening to an inspiring TED Talk, reading an inspiring memoir, or yes, watching Thai insurance commercials. They can bolster our spirits during vulnerable times such as these. Or they can show us how to live our lives differently. But how much of that actually happens once the feelings wear off?

Too often, we wait to feel “inspired” before doing anything (why else would we make resolutions on January 1, when we could do them on any other day?). We reserve our romantic gestures for birthdays, anniversaries, and Valentine’s Day. We volunteer during the holidays. We go vegan after watching a Netflix documentary. And I write my stories only when a deadline is looming and I have no other choice.

I’ve got to hand it to all the volunteers distributing masks to the elderly, taking temperature readings, and sending food to frontline workers. While they could have easily put themselves first, they decided to take real, quantifiable action for people who don’t have the luxury of time to retweet heartwarming videos all day.

We’ve been dealing with COVID-19 for months now, and cases are only increasing. Taxi drivers, healthcare professionals, and other frontline workers have been working day in and day out, with no end in sight, and at a risk to their health. I’m sure they don’t feel inspired every day on the job, nor do they feel like an inspiration.

So don’t get me wrong: Inspiration is a good thing. You should WANT to feel inspired. But watching an hour of uplifting or “poor thing” videos won’t sustain the grit and the discipline required for you to change your world, or at the very least, your life.

Now, go and do that thing you’ve been meaning to do, even if you don’t feel like it.


For the latest updates on, be sure to follow us on TikTok, Telegram, Instagram, and Facebook. If you have a story idea for us, email us at [email protected].

Share with others!