You Need To

I’ve been having a hard time writing lately; I’ve been mentally blocked. I’m even having a hard time reading some of my favorite blogs. I’m chalking it up to a temporary fatigue not just with cancer, but with the way damn near every issue is discussed. I hit a boiling point the other day that made me immediately start laughing. And I realized I am just sick of EVERYthing.

What caused this?

Well, I’ve griped here on this blog about some of my dislikes with certain words and phrases in CancerLand (see Some Word Problems). I know many others agree with my thoughts on some of these major language gripes—you know, “fight, battle, awareness…” all those. They are so overused! The word awareness is now meaningless to me. I’m sure I’ll delve into that subject (again) in some future post.

But I’ve found lately nearly all kinds of words are so overused that I’m reacting like I’m hearing nails on a chalkboard. I’ve been reluctant to complain about them because I know most everyone else uses these words, and are OK with them. But I’m gonna go out on a limb and say I’m sick of these words anyway. I’m not criticizing anyone for using them; this my fault for being too immersed in media. I’m not suggesting anyone amend how they speak or write, on the contrary, I’ve used these words myself, and only want to change my own habits. And I’m just trying to clear the cobwebs out of my mind with a few random rants.

Words/phrases that I’m not going to gripe about in this particular post—but will likely confront later—are common and simple, like “powerful/empowering”. So tired of those two being used to describe stuff. And “journey”—ugh, that one makes me nuts. The incident that made me laugh as I mentioned in the first paragraph? I ran across a blog about weight loss and the author said something like: why does my weight loss program have to be called a “journey”? And then I knew that “journey” was not just overused in CancerLand (stuff like “your cancer journey” has always made me retch). It seems society just uses words like “journey” or “struggle” for anything these days. And clearly I’m not the only one disliking it.

Like I said, I don’t want to concentrate on ALL the little words driving me crazy in this post—I’m sure more posts about one word/phrase at a time will pop up here and there in the future. What is driving me most crazy today is this one: “you need to….”

Whenever I’m told I need to do something, that pretty much guarantees I won’t do it. And yes, I’ve said the need to phrase myself on this blog (Somebody Needs to Buy These Media People a Dictionary—and I stand by the thoughts in that ancient post), so obviously I’m just as guilty of trying to modify others’ behavior to suit me.

What irks me about being told I need to do something—and yes, I’ve been told in my comments I need to rethink my points—is that I view it a shortsighted, and illogical as an argument. And even if the argument made is valid, the rudeness of the need to phrase undercuts the strength of the argument. When I was told I need to think or educate myself about an issue in an old comment, I was annoyed because it was such a poor argument. I had indeed reviewed/thought about the issues brought up by the angry comments. My mistake was poor writing, and not making myself clear to show that I’d considering many angles of the issue. That is a sticking point for me in fact—I try to see ALL sides of an issue, but sometimes that is a bad thing, it paralyzes me into not taking a stand or making a decision (that’s a post for another day).

I’ve seen the need to phrase used and the one using it is quite right, but the rudeness of the phrase, the smug superiority I perceive when I read or hear the phrase, undercuts the point. I remember a rant blog post making the rounds last Pinktober asking why other cancers are not sexualized like breast cancer. A VERY angry reaction by a patient with a rarer cancer included the directive “you need to think about…” It undercut her rant for me totally. I happened to agree—comparing illnesses, comparing how cancers are “sold” is a bad move. When discussing the sexualization of breast cancer, those of us criticizing should keep in mind the dirty benefits reaped from the campaigns (awareness begets funding—this is a post for another day, again), and bring the fact that breast cancer is the most “popular” (read: funded) cancer into the discussion. But being told we NEED TO do it just rankles.

I started writing this over 30 minutes ago and could not remember what set me off. I mean, the need to phrase is so damn overused! I researched and again it was a rant I agreed with—but the “you need to” command at the end ruined it for me. A woman had written about how racism, fat shaming, and income inequality were health issues. Someone had pointed out that fat leads to strokes in a comment to her. You know those types of comments—I see them in EVERY post written about weight. Turns out the woman had a hole in her heart that led to her weight gain, strokes and other illness. If she’d had money to be tested earlier, all those issues would’ve been prevented. It was a great lesson; I was on board with her 100%. But her directive that her commenter NEEDED to stop cosigning this crap just killed it for me.

Are there things we NEED to do? Of course. But this cultural habit of wanting to “school” someone in this manner is driving me crazy.

OK, just my stupid little random rant for today. I know it must seem odd—a curmudgeon who rants A LOT fussing about counter-rants. But, this is just my point of view today. Maybe I’ll change my mind. I’m just dealing with a great amount of cancer culture (or all health issues culture) fatigue at the moment.

Author: Cancer Curmudgeon

Oct 2010 diagnosed with Stage 3, HER2+ Breast Cancer. Completed treatment Jan 2012. Waaaaaay over pink. Applying punk rock sensibility to how I do cancer.

16 thoughts on “You Need To”

  1. In spite of my fear of being chastised, I have to admit that I’ve used the “you need to” or “they need to” phrase in some of my….ok, in most of my political rants. In light of your comments, I understand that it was used in instances where I didn’t really want to spend a great deal of time or effort in providing detailed research on an issue; so, it was much easier to demand that “they need to” yada, yada, yada.

    The phrase has become an easy out for those who have become frustrated with the recurring behaviors of people they disagree with. It is like using the cliched phrase, “just do it!” Perhaps, what I “need to do” is stop preaching and start teaching! 😤


    1. Nope, no chastising. As I admit I’ve used the phrase myself. It has just started to get under my skin–again, my fault for consuming so much media! If the phrase makes me feel this way, I wonder if others have had a similar reaction, and if so, this means it’s time for me to keep my own language usage in check. I try never to point a finger anywhere without first pointing it at myself. Thanks, Ron!


  2. I use the phrase “you need to” mostly with the non-cancer people when I need to explain myself over and over again about why I am not done with cancer. I wonder if they view it as me being condescending. I never thought a lot about the wording I use because I am usually just frustrated, but I do try to be careful not to sound like I know everything, because I certainly don’t.

    I have had people use that phrase with me before about personal stuff — like family drama — and I never liked it. To think of it, the phrase does sound superior a bit. hmmm…

    Anything that suggests we are in the military when dealing with cancer, I dislike — battle, fight, lost, won, etc. so I try not to use them at all. I never liked the word “journey” either, but I have used it before, especially at the beginning of my diagnosis. I dislike it less and less as time goes by.


    1. I’m sure I use the need to phrase more than I realize–and yes most likely out of frustration. But it has begun to irk me, so I’m sure it is bothering other people who hear it. Hopefully, I can be more mindful of my words, even when I’m in thr grip of trying to get someone to understand something for the millionth time!! Ugh!


  3. ‘You need to’ is right up there with ‘should.’ I’ve been a grownup now for a long time, and I am perfectly capable of making my own decisions, thanks all the same. I don’t ‘need to’ be told what I ‘should’ feel or do. Another phrase that’s made the rounds of the blogosphere is ‘words matter.’ Yes, they bloody well do.

    Rant on, my friend. xoxo, Kathi


    1. Yes words matter–and I’m just in a low point right now and everything is plucking my nerves. And this phrase, which has bothered me a while, my frustration overflowed today. Sigh. But thanks for listening to my rant! xoxox


  4. My mom has said, “you need to” all my life so it’s a particular trigger for me. She tells me what I “need to do” all the time. I think when anyone says it it’s condescending and doesn’t acknowledge 1) your intelligence, 2) your ability to listen to another point of view and consider it carefully or 3) your ability to reason. It drives me nuts.
    I hear you on the other words like “journey” but I personally haven’t found another word for it (and others) yet. Maybe we should do a new word (or phrase) brainstorm together!!!


    1. Ha ha, oh crap, my mom did too–that would explain a lot!
      Yes, I used to think maybe cancer was not the journey but a detour, but I realized how insulting that sounds to metsters. I mean cancer is not a detour for them, is it? I get a little sick of the over-reliance on metaphors and euphemisms, but they are a reality I should stop fighting I guess. If I think of a better word–I’ll let you know!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I hadn’t really thought about this particular phrase, but yes, you’re right. It’s totally annoying. It reminds me of when I took a chemo class and the nurse running it told me I’d definitely lose my hair. I felt she was implying I might as well shave it off sooner rather than later. And to this day, whenever I hear someone even imply this is the way to go, it grates on my nerves. So sometimes even implying what someone else “needs” to do can be irritating. I guess moms are good at this! I probably do this with my kids all the time come to think of it. And calling cancer a journey really bugs me and always has. As does much of cancer language. As you know. But at the same time I try to respect everyone’s right to do cancer shit however they want. It just bugs me when it seems society is trying to force us to do it a certain way. Cuz we “need to”. Yeah right. Great post. Listen to me ramble away…


    1. Oh ha ha, another person mentioned their mom saying it, and my mom STILL does too. Her “you need to get in the left lane and pass this car” phrase is why I refuse to drive her places–I let her drive! Hmm, sounds like I had many long-time underlying issues with the phrase that caused me to flip out and write this.
      I try to respect how others do cancer too, but I’ve gotten a bit fed up with being “schooled”, as it someone lecturing me with stuff I already knew. Or even if I did not know/consider something–telling me I NEED TO think about it or I need to not say something–that ain’t gonna work on me!


    1. Ugh, should is another word I’m trying to be careful of in my speaking/writing. I guess “you could try this” is a good suggesting phrase–but I know I’ll get tired of that one too (there’s no pleasing me, really).


  6. Hi Cancer Curmudgeon. This is an insightful post, reminding us to watch what we say and how we say it. I hate being preached to and told what I need to do by well-meaning people, but sometimes I want to tell them to keep quiet. My most recent “need to” was told to me by a reader: I needed to work harder to fix my failing marriage. Oy. Excellent post on an important topic.


  7. I understand your thinking. I try to take the words you need or your should to you could. What a difference in meaning. Mostly for everything we do when you could do it is giving you the choice and you should is telling and almost demanding what action you take. Everyone’s experience is their own way .. Watching out for journey word although I use it a lot. Great post!


    1. Thanks Susan, it is the air of superiority in you need to or you should that makes me nuts. And as I’ve discussed in some older posts, it is maddening to me at times when people give advice–I know they mean well, but I always think, “what makes them think I didn’t try/think of/explore that?” Crazy! Thanks for visiting!

      Liked by 1 person

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