Spare me your inspirational how-to-live-life Marilyn Monroe quote.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Aug 1, 2012
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Marilyn Monroe? She didn’t deserve our sexist projections then, though she fulfilled them. She doesn’t deserve our feminist projections now. She deserves to be seen for the full, sad, remarkable human being that she was, now.


Source: via Wendy on Pinterest


We all love to love Marilyn, including me.

But every time I see someone “pin” or share a quote of hers about how to live life…well, I’ve read about her life, and she was (as many of us are, and that’s okay) miserable. She was used. She was alone, and often lonely.

Source: via Daria on Pinterest


Yes, she was lovely, full-hearted, and full of life. Yes, there’s nothing wrong with suffering and depression and misery. We all go through our inner torments. But was she some icon of feminism? Hardly.


Eleanor Roosevelt, on the other hand…y’all should be quoting her a little more often.


PS: one of your favorite quotes by Marilyn? Not by Marilyn:

“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”


The above inspired by the rude, but accurate, below:


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


27 Responses to “Spare me your inspirational how-to-live-life Marilyn Monroe quote.”

  1. Parisa says:

    I’m glad someone else has thought this too.

  2. Vanessa says:

    Absolutely true. The woman spent her life pretending to be someone she was not and being treated like a whore. A woman to feel sad for, not to emulate.

  3. Andréa Balt says:

    "Only parts of us will ever
    touch parts of others –
    one’s own truth is just that really — one’s own truth.
    We can only share the part that is within another’s knowing acceptable to
    the other — therefore so one
    is for most part alone.
    As it is meant to be in
    evidently in nature — at best perhaps it could make
    our understanding seek
    another’s loneliness out."


    "Life –
    I am of both of your directions
    Somehow remaining hanging downward
    the most
    but strong as a cobweb in the
    wind — I exist more with the cold glistening frost.
    But my beaded rays have the colors I’ve
    seen in a paintings — ah life they
    have cheated you."


    "I’m finding that sincerity
    and to be as simple or direct as (possible) I’d like
    is often taken for sheer stupidity
    but since it is not a sincere world –
    it’s very probable that being sincere is stupid.
    One probably is stupid to
    be sincere since it’s in this world
    and no other world that we know
    for sure we exist — meaning that –
    (since reality exists it should be met and dealt with)
    since there is reality to deal with."

    ~ From her Fragments (personal notes, letters & poems):

    She owned 400 books, took literature and history classes at UCLA at night & succeeded in not only starting or pretending to read but actually finishing James Joyce's Ulysses. Maybe what she didn't succeed at is not life, but not knowing how to properly combine beauty and brains in a society that demanded (and sadly, still does) either / or.

    She was/is an icon & people tend to misunderstand & misquote icons. But does this mean they're not worth quoting? Every great mind has been misunderstood & misused at some point.

    PS. For instance, let me misquote you: I'm curious to know why/since when/how & by whom is she considered a "feminist" icon? And if there's no real basis for that, why should there be a counter-argument?

    I can only wish more women were as aware of their beauty and sensuality as was and as humble, sad, sensitive & wisdom-thirsty to take refuge in the greatest minds in literature & be OK with spending their nights alone at the library and be OK, as well, with being misunderstood not only by their contemporaries but for generations to come.

    (But you know me, I just like to argue).

  4. Mariucc says:

    Thanks Andrea,
    When I see videos/interviews of Marilyn, I feel her sadness beneath that beautiful bubbly light personality; both seemed to be part of her. I was thinking how purely feminine she was, and how it must have been difficult being that in the extreme man's world of the 1950's, how they probably treated her as their property rather than her own person. That was before the feminist movement, so today we do have more support and voice, but back then it just was very difficult to be a gorgeous feminine woman who anyone took seriously. Even today, when I was in college I brought my poetry to a group which turned put to be all young men and the leader looked at me in my dress and said, "What are YOU doing here?" As if I had nothing to offer to the world of poetry???? And that was the '90s!! So imagine HER in the '50's!!!

  5. elephantjournal says:

    If we see her as her, she is a wonderful, amazing, powerful life to look to and learn from. If we see her as a Pinterest quote, we are (again, again) not seeing her as her. She deserves being seen, instead of projected upon.

  6. elephantjournal says:

    Well, she was awesome, but extremely—more perhaps than any other woman in America, at that time—desired, used, put upon, projected upon. Wonderful but troubled. The point is not that she isn't wonderful, but that sharing her life quotes without knowing her life story is just another form of projection. We can appreciate her for who she was, now, finally—not some romanticized Hallmark card version.

  7. yogijulian says:


  8. Paula says:

    The thing that bugs me about those quotes–and the "Albert Einstein" and "Mother Theresa" and 99% of the "George Carlin" quotes–is that they are completely misattributed. Folks, don't be gullible. MM and AE were not feel-good self-help philosophers. Just because something is set in a pretty jpeg and is on "Brainy Quotes" doesn't mean it's a real quote. Do a little fact-checking and stop contributing to the dumbing down of our society by perpetuating these fake sayings.

  9. I agree about Marilyn. She's a sad, lovely icon. I love Joyce Carol Oates' novel Blonde that is loosely biographical. Portrays her (I believe) more accurately as the sad, longing for acceptance, confused woman that she was. But! I also love Pema's quote: “If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.”
    ~ Pema Chödron (I'm pretty certain Pema actually wrote that, and more than certain that she's a good role model.)

    Even if the source is flawed or not the source we think it is, we might still learn something.

  10. Jesse says:

    People are being a little shitty to my girl Marilyn Monroe. You need to do some research before you wade in here. Supficial knowledge will no excuse you. I think that she was not miserable because of her choices in life, she was miserable because she was miserable. Happy does not depend on making the perfect choices (fairy tale) and living the “perfect life”. Happy means being happy no matter what circumstances you find one self in. She was not unhappy because she was “undereducated”, “slept her way to the top”, “a serial dater”, or “a drug addict” and she doesn’t have to be a role model to be ABSOFUCKINGLUTELY CORRECT about her statement.

  11. Jesse says:

    You seem to be under the impression that there are right things to do to be happy and to be able to speak your truth a truth that people are obviously echoing by re posting (by the way, the misquote is the tacked on first two sentences “I’m a girl, I cry for no reason” which were not included in this articles quote. This should obviously be omitted) Most of life’s wisdom comes from doing the “wrong “things and making mistakes acquiring knowledge that cannot be acquired any other way. You do not need to "Live like Marilyn" for this to be truth. _

  12. LynnBonelli says:

    While I respect and admire Eleanor Roosevelt let us remember that she silently stood by while FDR had his affairs (he even opted to have his mistress by his bedside at his death) rather than demanding the respect and fedelity of her spouse.. If we want to focus on only the sad, non-feminist actions of our 'heros' we are sure to find plenty of fodder. But looking for the good, the things that provide motivation or inspiration, in the words and actions of someone who maybe some feel isn't as perfect as we are =) is to honor our simple and fallible human race.

  13. ann says:

    beautifully articulated…neither john lennon nor gandhi can stand up to the perfection test, and the only person alleged as perfect has got the world up in arms about whether he even actually existed, and if he did, how much of his life was fabricated! i like that you use the word "honor." as much as she might have said that "life is a beautiful thing," i think even marilyn would agree that it's also damn hard for just about everybody…if we can walk away proud of more that we've done in the grand scheme of things than we're hanging our heads for, we've done pretty well, i think.

  14. Sorry I can't go along with the notion of there being should/shouldn't people to learn from. We can learn from Marilyn, Eleanor or anyone we darn well chose. And I don't care if they are/aren't perfect/flawed, etc. Worthy icons or not. Wisdom comes from the broken places as well as whole ones.

    Different people will have different teachers, icons and role models as they want and need them.

  15. Kirsten says:

    I disagree. She is a picture of feminism for her time and her inclination. Not all of us think that being sexy and adored for it is a bad thing. She used her attributes to spread a message that she wanted the world to hear and she used her power to be who she wanted to be in a world of restrictions and sexism.

    She was a broken woman that had glimmers of bliss and happiness in her own way and I feel it is disrespectful to try to put a mantle of what you think we should hear over her own words. You don't know her private life, her private joys, her open love, and her battle with bi-sexuality. All we can know is what we read, the mind of this woman is gone, but there are so many great things that she did do. In fact, did you know at the time of her death, she was pursuing an adoption of a child. How's that for purpose and feminism.

  16. Kirsten says:

    I'm sad that you would want to restrict her quotes or say they aren't important to another generation. What about all the girls that grew up as she did – alone, lost, neglected, afraid, and look to her to as a story of someone who did battle with deamons, achieved sucess, inspired so many, even if it ended on a sad note, there were so many stories of happiness too. Life is in moments, this is what we know in yoga too.

  17. wannabeyogini says:

    I post inspirational quotes everyday. I don't know the life stories of most of the people whose wise words I enjoy. But if their statement speaks to me, speaks of a larger truth, I'll share it. Marilyn has said a number of beautiful, wise words and written some beautiful poetry. As you learn more about people's lives, your thoughts about them change. I'm still reeling after reading about Ghandi's dark side. But I try to guard against the temptation to want things to be clear, black and white, to make people all good or all bad. I can appreciate people's wise words without investigating their biography or agreeing with all of their life choices.

  18. Simon Newton says:

    Those quotes of hers inspire me to be a better person, to be more forgivIng of myself and others and to accept imperfection in myself and others. Your words do not.

    In her words I sense sweet optimism, tenderness and insight regardless of the suffering she experienced. In your words I taste bitterness and resentment.

    In her life I see a bright star that touched millions in many different ways regardless of the paths she chose and the roles she played. A short but blazing journey across the sky of our collective awareness that leaves an imprint in our minds still.

    And you?

    What makes you so qualified to judge another?

    Do her achievements and successes despite her troubles not make her a more worthy hero?

  19. GeoffOfOz says:

    Everyone disagreeing. PLEASE re-read what waylon was saying. Its' about projections and misrepresenting a person based on a handful of quotes. Is there no wisdom in some of these quotes? Of course not, but I think the point is that these p[resent an incomplete picture. Simply acknowledging that the picture is incomplete is a very powerful act.

    Cheers big ears!

  20. Jason O says:

    I find this article is so judgmental and very flawed. I think Marilyn, and some other famous women and men who happen to be physically alluring, were fascinating for multiple reasons. If you think Marilyn was only an icon for how she looked I don't think you know very much about her or her work. She suffered from bipolar disorder back when very little was known about how to treat it. She medicated herself with alcohol and pills. For someone who came from multiple, harsh foster homes and orphanages, she accomplished a lot. All the while battling her own demons, deep wells of depression, and a somewhat misogynistic film company that was constantly underpaying her for what she brought in. She was the first actress to ever a to start her own production company. There remains a lot of unanswered questions about her death and this is not conspiracy theory mumbo jumbo. She was found in an unnatural position for someone who overdoses on pills. She had a post-mortum bruise on her backside that means she died on her back but then was moved into the position she was found in, prone on her stomach. If she had a affairs, took drugs, drank champagne, who gives a sh_t? I would still take the best from her and be inspired by her quotes. It is all the more heartening because of the human flaws and tribulations she faced.
    That goes for a legion of artist, writers, and humanitarians that suffered from mental illness, drug and alcohol addictions, and just the human condition in general. I am not going to devalue their contributions because of their humanity.
    if you think this new breed of self help spewing, celebrity yoga teachers and their bumper sticker mottos we see all over the place are a truer form of inspiration, ha! For many of them it's even more of a performance and a quite trite one at that. At least with an actor their performance is a part of their job and expected.

  21. If you’ve done extensive research into Marilyn, you’ll find that she was KILLED by an enema filled with drugs so it would LOOK LIKE a suicide. And they did it because she was pregnant with one of the Kennedy’s babies. She wanted a baby more than anything and she wasn’t going to kill it. So they killed her. Gotta love the government.

  22. dsknight says:

    While I can agree, to some extent, I have to point out that quoting John Lennon like Jesus isn't any better as the ban was a very huge hypocrite of his own wisdom. Also, I think many of you undervalue the power that image has on a person, female or not, and quoting a beautiful woman who had many wonderful things to think and say does give a person-especially a female one-confidence.

    Also, is sending out legions of quote of Susan B. Anthony or any other trailblazing woman from our more distant past any better than doing so with a woman from our more recent one? I think there is too much quoting inspirational people and not enough doing what the inspiration suggests. So rather than sparing us the overwhelming amount of Marylin Monroe quotes alone, why not spare us the deluge of inspirational quotes altogether and do something productive for a change?

  23. Rachael says:

    Thank you very much for your kindness and efforts to helping us in many ways. More powers to you.

  24. Sierra says:

    In my experience i have the same thing happened to me, so you've got it right to the point

  25. sarah says:

    I think this is so important for the future of the environment.

  26. Horror says:

    Very informative post thanks for share this with us i highly appreciate you for this information

  27. Julie says:

    too easy to throw stones at others…. while we stand in perfection.