How 'Cancel Culture' Can Impact Your Mental Health Journey

Life is all about growth and change. You do not come into this world a finished product. Part of the human experience is about making mistakes, getting called out on them, learning from them, and eventually embracing the wisdom gained from your failures — but is "cancel culture" threatening to ruin this important avenue of personal growth?

The term "cancel culture" has different definitions and applications, depending on who you ask. According to Verywell Health, cancel culture is when a person or business acts in a way that is deemed offensive, therefore causing them to lose public support. Some people see cancel culture as an opportunity to hold people accountable for their actions and a way to call out harmful behavior like racism and bigotry. Others view it as censorship and the act of shutting down anyone with an opposing view (via Pew Research).

While "cancel culture" can lend essential support and strength to those who have been victimized and marginalized, when left unchecked, it can easily lead to intolerance toward anyone with an unpopular opinion (via Britannica). Canceling or shaming someone you don't agree with can prevent opportunities for learning, inclusion, and growth and can also wreak havoc on someone's mental health.

The effects of 'cancel culture' on mental health

While cancel culture is usually relegated to social media and public platforms, therapists, counselors, and mental health professionals are beginning to see its effects seep into their counseling sessions (via NBC News). Psychologist Dr. Maggie Mulqueen explained to NBC News that part of a therapist's job is to help promote self-awareness in their clients. Thanks to cancel culture, however, many clients will withhold their true feelings for fear of being judged. This self-censorship during therapy sessions leads to a lack of meaningful conversations, insights, and breakthroughs important for growth and personal enlightenment, per NBC News.

Dr. Mulqueen gave an example of this, explaining that she has a client who is the mother of a transgender teen daughter. While this client loves her daughter and supports her journey, she needs time to process these changes and feels that she can't be honest about her complicated feelings on the matter for fear of judgment and criticism. Dr. Mulqueen explains that hiding your feelings in this manner ends up causing fractures in your relationships and a blow to your self-esteem, per NBC News.

While certain instances of cancel culture can help empower those without a voice, it can all too often disallow meaningful conversations due to a fear of opposing viewpoints. This ends up blocking opportunities for growth, wisdom, and understanding of ourselves and the world around us.