15 April, 2011

You can achieve anything? Yeah, right.

Lisa (who inspires a lot of my posts) wrote about the “don’t give up hope” brigade here.  She comments that hope without knowledge or action can be dangerous.  I agree with her one hundred percent.

I regularly see the danger of hope without knowledge or action on another site:  Women who maintain hope, in the face of all odds, that they will still have a child.  I am not talking about women who actively pursue IVF or other avenues to have a child.  I’m talking about those who seem to live in denial, women who torture themselves, holding themselves in a miserable endless limbo, with this hope.  They grieve every month when they are not pregnant, but they don’t do anything to help themselves conceive.  And they get angry if family or friends suggest that, if they are not going to take action on X or Y, then perhaps it is not going to happen.  How dare anyone suggest that they should give up hope?

I am not heartless.  I can understand that indignation, that determination that they surely must get what they want, the disbelief that others don't share their hope.  And I acknowledge that when I had hope, it was a positive good thing.  But I think there are times when we have to give up hope: for our own good, for our sanity, for our relationships, and ultimately for our future.  Giving up hope is not in fact a bad thing.  But in our society, “giving up” is a phrase with such negative connotations.  It implies we are weak, that we have not tried hard enough, that we are quitters.  It leads into that whole “if you try hard, work hard, you can achieve anything” misconception (pun not intended) so prevalent in society today.  Well, um, no.  It doesn’t actually work that way, and we there are times we need to acknowledge this.  Unfortunately, giving up hope or even beginning to acknowledge that it is time to give up hope, are the hardest things to do.  Carrying on is easy; we know how to do that.  Giving up is scary, and hard.  A level of courage is required.  And that is admirable, not shameful.

Lisa said that being without hope (for a child for example) does not mean that we are hopeless.  She is right.  Putting an end to the hope for that one outcome, the child, opens up avenues for all areas of hope.  Hope for the future, for an achievable future, springs anew.  Hope for our relationships, hope for a healthy and happy life, hope for all those new opportunities that had been shut down by our focus on the goal.  Suddenly, hope is a good thing again, not something that ties us to misery, despair, sadness.  Ironically, giving up hope is the very thing that allows you to hope again. 


  1. I don't think of it as 'giving up hope', but moving forward; no matter what lies ahead. Knowing when to move forward can be tough. Sometimes I read blogs and wonder where these women find there endless hope. How are they so positive it will happen for them? Does that mean it is a deeper feeling knowing it will? If so, do my lack of 'knowing' it will happen mean it likely won't and its time to move forward?

  2. This is an awesome post. I think that holding on to hope is a horrible thing in the face of insurmountable odds. Hope can keep you stuck in a cycle of failure. Why else gamblers throwing away good money - but for the chance of "striking it rich?" Folding a loosing hand is not giving up, it's getting out with what little money (sanity) you have left. Getting to the point where you can acknowledge that you are never going to succeed - letting go/giving up - that is actually freeing.

  3. The best way to think of it is as "moving on". I was reminded of a phrase I am sure I read on someone else's blog: "We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us." -- Joseph Campbell

    That said, I am not moving on... not yet.

  4. It's not that we're giving up hope. We're just learning to hope for something different. : )

  5. I love it that you get it. And for "amiracleforus" .. I don't think that your uncertainty about the future is any indication of anything other than you are able to consider all options.

  6. hope can only exist if possibility does too and for some of us, the latter [unfortunately] doesn't and so hope has no place.

    it took me 11 years to realise this and finally walking away from the dream this year.

    is it final? definitely but it's also closure.


  7. Hi Mali! Thanks for your comment on my blog. Thanks for an awesome post here: it is so true. I recently read an article in Fair Lady magazine here: Positive Thinking Killed My Friend: about a lady who was so into "the secret" she thought positive thinking would cure her cancer. See how dangerous it can be...
    I really like what LoriBeth said: it's not giving up hope, it is hoping for something different..

  8. This is interesting. I think this attitude that if we are super-positive and 'want it' enough then we can get it, is an obstacle to happiness. Studies show that when people start to care less about drive & ambition,for example, their overall happiness increases - maybe it's connected to this type of thought process? Since I lost my own mojo after the events of my late 30s/early 40s, I think about this a lot - I spent years comparing myself to others who are more successful AND have beautiful kids at the same time, and felt like an abject failure, almost suicidal with it. You can't sustain that, though, it has to wane eventually, and I'm really interested in how people come through that