Why Do I Always Need to ‘Keep Going’?

There are many ways to combat mental health challenges, and one of them that I’ve been reflecting on recently is motivation. Using motivational techniques has been very helpful when it comes to my mental health. I’ll watch videos, listen to speeches, or find quotes that give me a boost. I want to find things that will give me the energy I need to get through this moment and on to the next. I was doing this recently when I came upon a phrase I’ve seen hundreds of times on the Internet: “keep going.” And I don’t know why, but this time it rubbed me the wrong way. Even though I understand the good intentions of the phrase, I want to challenge it. What does it really mean?

I know it might sound like I’m being a bit nit-picky, but language is important to me. The words we use around wellness matter, and how we talk about mental health matters. There are many words and phrases that have good intentions, but are based in unhealthy cultural norms.

Let me be clear, I understand the intent behind this phrase. There are many similar phrases used to motivate and inspire, and have helped me many times. When I’m going through a tough time mentally, a reminder to “keep going” is sometimes what I need to hear. No matter what we have going on in our lives, sometimes we need to push through the muck to get to the good parts.

I also know that “keep going” can often be a very serious phrase for people (and has been for me) when depression hits hard. So let’s be clear – that’s not what I’m talking about today. What I am talking about are those times when we’re uncertain of ourselves, when we’re not sure what we’re doing. When we need motivation and someone tells us to “keep going,” what do they mean? Keep going where? And to what end?

I guess I’m feeling this way today because it leads me to another question I have. I do my best to keep going through exhaustion, through stress, through challenges that come up in my life. But if I’m always going – and if I’m constantly told to keep going – how I do I make sense of where I am?

We don’t know where we’re going unless we can make sense of where we are, or where we’ve been. Reflecting on these things takes time – and it means making time not to keep going, but to stand still. Sometimes it’s okay to be still. It’s okay to find peace. It’s okay that in certain situations, we don’t keep going. That way, we find our footing and figure out what the next step is. I don’t know about you, but some of my biggest moments of growth have happened because I stayed where I was and figured it out.

It takes a lot of courage to stand in the muck sometimes, but it can often pay the biggest dividends. Regardless of whether you agree with my post, I hope you know you always have a choice, and that empowers you on your mental health journey. I know it’s empowered me on my journey.


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