With everything going on in the world I try and stay positive. So, when my friends and family call me, and the topic inevitably turns to the latest COVID spike, the election, personal grievances, I find myself saying things like:
“well, it could be worse…”
“I’m thankful I….”
I say these things to be helpful, to give myself (and the other person) perspective. I say these things to serve as a reminder there is always someone who has it worse. At least the election is over. It could be worse; I could be sick. I’m thankful I can work from home when some people don’t even have a job. You get the idea.
For the longest time, I felt that reminding someone of what could happen would help them see the good right in front of them. It helps me, why shouldn’t it help them?
It’s the same reason I love posting positive infographics on my Instagram. I want to internalize these mantras so I can say to myself and others: stay positive!
I honestly believed that looking on the bright side of life helped others see the bright side as well, and smooth over those tough feelings.
That is, until recently.
If you recall my last blog about protecting your peace, you’ll know that cute memes and silver linings don’t actually make me happy or help me feel positive. What makes me happy is being active, connecting with my loved ones, and keeping up my hobbies. So I had to ask myself, why the hell am I sharing positive insta-quotes and silver lining one liners?
What I’ve come to realize is being the “look on the bright side” gal and cutesy graphics are the way I show “the world” (aka my 300 followers of friends and fam) how I feel. Or, at times, how I want to feel. They aren’t a real reflection of my internal peace or my true happiness, but rather a reaction that I’ve been conditioned to give because sadness, loneliness, and depression are all tough emotions that are uncomfortable to address head on.
So we don’t address it head on. Instead, we push it to the side to be dealt with at another time or not at all. Then we layer on a thick helping of a “stay positive” mindset and feel we’ve done our job for the day. If only you changed your mindset, you could change your life.
But, in my experience, this cycle of “positivity” rarely helps. It never helps you take on another bad day, or make your bad days any less potent, it just helps you push those feelings down to get through the day.
We all know the feeling of putting a smile on even though we’ve had a bad day; this is the virtual equivalent.
I want you to think about it for a moment. Think about the last time you were feeling less than yourself, and you were talking about it to a close friend or loved one. How did they react? What did they say? If they said, “all you have to do to cope with X problem is to have a more positive mindset” did you tell yourself, they’re right! To overcome my severe anxiety and depression – I just have to be positive! I’m going to bet the answer is no. Or at least for me, it’s a no. I’ve never felt better or more positive after someone has tried to tell me to look at the silver lining.
In fact, I’ve felt more pissed off because a flippant phrase doesn’t acknowledge any of my pain or hardship. It’s not a helping hand, it’s a wave from the sideline.
It was really hard to acknowledge that I engage in this behavior. It was tough because I only have the best intentions in supporting my loved ones. But whatever my intention is, it may not be the result. I’ve unintentionally put down the feelings of others to make the conversation more “comfortable”.
So, after considering my experience and listening to some wonderful podcasts/youtube videos shared by my friends, I decided on a new path of positivity.
It’s actually not positivity at all, it’s simply unabashed support with no commentary.
Sometimes things really suck. Elections suck. Pandemics suck. Your husband being a jerk sucks. Your holidays being ruined sucks.
But I will never again try to smooth over a tough conversation with a pinterestable-quote or a silver-lining one liner. I will tell you it sucks. Then I will tell you that you are strong, you’ve gotten through worse before, and you will get through this suckiness. Essentially, I will let you open up the floodgates of your emotions and I won’t try to stop it.
You deserve to have your feelings validated and accounted for without judgment or commentary. I deserve that. We all deserve it, because truly no one knows what you are going through and how that feels except for yourself. Please join me on this path. It’s a little different than what we are used to. It’s not familiar terrain and I’ll be honest it will lead to tough, probably tear-filled, conversations. We’re all struggling in our own ways. But it will also lead to the best connection you’ve ever had with your friends and family. It will lead to honesty, and support, and validation. I’m positive about that.
I’m just like you. My life can be hectic and cooking, cleaning and getting that workout in are sometimes the last thing on my mind. But, I’m here to share my tips and tricks on how to make adulting a little more enjoyable.