We are plagued with nonsensical phrases in the English language. Hardly a day goes by that we don’t hear lines like, “I couldn’t care less,” “If it’s meant to be, it will be,” and of course the ever popular, “YOLO.” Even though these sayings have the ability to make us cringe upon hearing them, they are usually no more than just an annoyance. There is a certain saying, however, that holds far more weight than many others. I’m referring to the dangerously popular saying, “It is what it is.” As innocent as these little words may seem, they could end up having a largely negative effect on our personal development and the way we live our lives.
This phrase is worrying because it is far more than an autopilot response people use; it is a complete mentality. The basic meaning behind these words is that we are unable to change our circumstances. All situations are concrete and any attempts we make to fix them would be pointless. This is an incredibly destructive mindset to have. We have a basic need to feel a sense of control over what happens in our lives, and deprivation of this need could lead to heightened anxiety and even depression, according to Diane Dreher, Ph.D., professor of English at Santa Clara University. You should not surrender to the notion that you have no say in what happens you. The thought that we don’t have control over what happens in our lives is both terrifying and mostly untrue. Yes, we have no control over the weather or what others do. We do, on the other hand, have complete say in how we react to these circumstances and the actions we will take in response. Also, many things in life are nowhere near as concrete as we make them out to be. Many situations are malleable to some extent and can be shaped by our actions. We just have to make the conscious decision to take those actions.
Another issue is that it’s oftentimes used as a scapegoat phrase. It is easy to give up after failure or to not even try in the first place. This is actually a very common human response. We develop a fear of failure early in life due to being taught that failing is purely negative and should be avoided. This is according to Martin Antony, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Ryerson University and co-author of “When Perfect Isn’t Good Enough.” By saying, “It is what it is,” you are ridding yourself of all personal accountability. Some people claim that everything will unfold the way it is meant to or in the way the universe wants it to. As comforting as this may be, it is also a complete dissolution. It’s a cleverly disguised way of saying that you no longer want to take responsibility for what will happen and what you’ve already done. We know full well that we are to blame for the mistakes we make. No person enjoys admitting they they’ve done wrong, but part of life is owning up to our wrong doings and not pawning them off onto a cowardly way of thinking. An overused cliché cannot shield you from your poor choices.
This mentality also deprives you of the chance to learn from your failures. The main benefit of making mistakes is being able to reflect upon them and decipher where things went wrong. This process is critical if we want to grow as individuals. Saying “It is what it is” is essentially like closing a book. You are claiming that the event or action is over and there is no need to contemplate it any further. This completely stifles the opportunity to determine what poor decisions were made and ultimately find ways to make better decisions in the future. As difficult as it may be for us to revisit our mistakes, it is an essential part of our emotional and logical development. Adopting this mentality leads us to become stagnant in our way of thinking and unable to learn, thus enabling us to make the same mistakes over and over again.
In closing, we all choose to follow different mantras in our lives. Some hold great wisdom that could help guide us, while others are best left being used ironically. However, “It is what it is” should not be used in any context at all. These words promote a life view that discourages upholding personal responsibility and learning from our failures. Life can be difficult and sometimes we may not think we have a say in what happens around us. Though we may not be able to control everything that happens in life, we can always choose to learn, grow and become better versions of ourselves.