The Problem with Self-Confidence Memes

Lynn Schreiber

I know that some people sneer at them, but I do love a good inspirational quote. You know the ‘memes’ that are shared on social media, a photo with text superimposed on it. But some memes make me grit my teeth and click [hide] on Facebook. And not just the ones that ask me to click [like] to help save children with cancer (who believes this crap anyway?!). No, I have a real problem with self-confidence memes.

eleanor roosevelt


Sorry, Eleanor, but I’m calling BS on this one. The underlying message is that the person who is cruel or nasty is not responsible for any hurt caused because the victim should just not let it affect her. There are echoes of the old adage ‘Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you’.

What does it tell a child who is being bullied, being made to feel inferior, if they read that they are actually responsible for their unhappiness? That they should be stronger, not that the other person should be kinder?

Perhaps this is not what Eleanor meant when she said this – in fact, it seems that she didn’t actually say this, which is another problem with memes. They are often snippets of writing or conversation, taken out of context, which alters the meaning slightly.


susan gale


Why do so many of these quotes start by putting DOWN the reader, in order to build confidence? And how is that supposed to work? If a person is insecure, it can hardly be helpful to tell them that they are holding themselves back. I’m pretty sure they are already aware of that, and pointing it out seems cruel and unnecessary.


mark garvey


Gee, thanks Mark. I’ll just go back to bed now.


I often see these quotes on Instagram or Pinterest, sites that are used predominately by women. Particularly Instagram has a bad rap when it comes to dimming the self-confidence of young women. It does concern me that young girls are taking this advice to heart, and instead of feeling better about themselves, they end up feeling worse.


Of course, not all memes and quotes are bad. Here are some of the ones I really like.

louisa may alcott


Life is tough, and there will be storms, but we’ll get through them and learn as we go along. This also makes me think that mistakes will be made as they are part of learning. In a similar vein, this from Elisabeth Edwards.


elisabeth edwards


The full quote was written in a book excerpt, about what she hoped her three children would tell their children. “When they are older and telling their own children about their grandmother, they will be able to say that she stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her way — and it surely has not — she adjusted her sails.”

brene brown


If you haven’t watched Brene Brown’s TED talks on vulnerability, you can find them here.

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