The bridge collapsed.
A fire destroyed the hotel.
You got retrenched.
The project failed.
“It is what it is!”
Inevitably, whenever, and wherever I hear conversational snippets the phrase above pops up.
But what is “IT?”
IT can represent a sigh…
A symbol of resignation — Maybe even defeat.
We’re done! There is nothing more we can do!
It is what it is!
I dislike the phrase — Even though I’ve also been conditioned to mouth it without thinking.
“It is what it is” often gets used in conjunction with failure, and not an opportunity for growth.
This phrase can be innocuous, but it can also lead to continued programming that prevents us from facing issues by merely getting used to declaring our idea of the inevitable as being the end of the process.
The phrase becomes a scapegoat.
We experience failure, and we use the phrase as the very reason why we failed. Finding an enemy to blame absolves us of accountability.
Using the phrase is akin to closing a book, instead of even being curious as to whether there are more chapters.
Some things will remain immutable — At least from a personal perspective.
Let’s say you were born without the physical height you would have liked.
You’re shorter than average.
It is what it is.
But what you do with that shorter-than-average body is not “What IT is!”
Should you spend a lot of time declaring the inevitable — Or use your energy to explore that which can be changed?
Only recently did I have the following conversation, yet again!
Lots of men lament hair loss.
“It is what it is!”
They utter that phrase and might believe their lives are over regarding status and attractiveness.
And then they forget some actors boldly show off their shaved heads.
Buddhist monks see a shaved head as “freedom from hair!”
So what is the “IT” that holds you captive?
Do you have a tough boss?
Is your work sucking the soul from your body?
Are you dissatisfied with other areas of your life?
“It is what it is?”
But is IT really?
Is there something inside that “IT” that you can still choose to change?
If there is, then do it.
It is up to you to find it.
Thinking about the term and deconstructing it creates the potential for freeing yourself from this self-imposed constraint of “It is what it is!”
Rephrasing works for me.
It is what you see.
It is what you would like it to be.
It can become anything.
It is a choice.
Here’s to finding more words of empowerment inside that short sentence that often closes the discussion.
Many parts inside “IT” might not change, and I hope to be “ok” with that. And I will seek wisdom to change what I can.
3 thoughts on “It is what it is. Or is it a toxic phrase?”
I first heard this phrase in the movie “the Irishman”. It is addictive. I always take it to mean a circumstance that arises over which none had control and over which no blame can be apportioned, yet which requires dealing with. I like your deconstruction of it. 🙂
Thanks for the feedback Michael.
I do recall that movie.
I used to work for many guys who used it as a blanket-term to throw over many travesties.
But yeah, It’s just this habit I have of digging into these terms that have always been around.
Travesty is a much better word for it. 🙂