Toxic Positivity: Embracing the Lows

As I sipped my morning coffee, I scrolled through my Instagram feed and stories.

Procrastinating, I thought about starting a new routine, what I had to do today, and all of the things I’ve put on the back burner.

To be honest, I haven’t felt like doing any of it.

Highs and lows are a normal part of everyday life- from bustling with energy to feeling like staying in bed until noon.  Perhaps it’s the weather or maybe the moon cycle, but I’ve been on the “low” end of the spectrum this past week.  Apparently, I’m not the only one.

Just when I needed it, a friend of mine shared her feelings for the day, frustrated with people who encourage her to “think positive!” and to “stop complaining.”  No matter what the day, she fearlessly expresses her emotions, pretty or not- and that authenticity is something the world needs to see.

Sharing where we are mentally is not complaining.  It’s exercising our humanness.

When we deny our feelings and our unpleasant emotions, we are simply burying them, only to resurface later.  Our emotions, our stories, and our ups and downs aren’t meant to be hidden- they’re meant to be dealt with.

“Good vibes only!” and “be happy!” are cute and all, but what are we supposed to do with the bad vibes?  The depression?  The anger?  The fear?  Are we supposed to cover it up with pastel prints and add some sparkle?  Do we continue to mask the discomfort to please someone else?

Of course not.

Toxic positivity usually isn’t about the person who is going through the emotion- but it does has everything to do with the people who encourage them to “smile!” or to “be grateful!”  Why?  It makes them more comfortable.

We can be grateful and still be sad.

We can have a bad day and be excited for tomorrow.

How we feel at the moment doesn’t determine how we will feel the next.

Perhaps there are people who are naturally sunshine and rainbows, but my guess is most of us aren’t.  I embrace my moods.  I can see light through the dark.  I don’t have to package up my pain into a smile and a facade; because there is something powerful we can do with discomfort.

Although I do believe it’s a waste of time to tell someone to “just be positive,” I don’t think being in a slump is a negative thing.  Our moods help us to determine what is going right and what is going wrong in our lives.  When things change, they make room for something different.  If we no longer are going in a certain direction, we are given a choice to alter our path.

If we can use our problems and turn them into potential, whether it’s a learning opportunity or a new idea, the world may start embracing the negative- because that is when true change happens.

 

A Few Good Friends

I’ve always been the type of person who kept her circle small.

Growing up, I had one best friend- we were both artists who shied away from the more rambunctious children.  We didn’t participate in the gossip, nor did we play rough.  We spent time drawing, chatting on the swing set, and using our imagination to create a magical world around us.

As I got older, my habits stayed the same.  I wasn’t invited to parties and I didn’t sit with the popular group at lunch- nor did I try to.

I’ve always done my own thing- but I have been fortunate to always have a few good friends.

Friends who always “get” me.  Friends who have my best interest at heart.  Friends who encourage me to be my best self- and who see the beauty within that I may not recognize on my own.

As an adult, I realize that I won’t be liked by everyone.  I wouldn’t want to be!  Not everyone is on the same path- and that is okay.  We are all on our own journey.

Today, I don’t have to take other people’s criticism personal, and I don’t have to engage or acknowledge their drama- because I know that the people who do matter to me are all I need.

Save Your Energy

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It’s a snowy Saturday here in Boston! Although it’s been bitter cold for a couple of weeks, yesterday was the first real “snow day,” and I had the unreliable MBTA system to prove it.

After waiting for the 77 Harvard bus for 45 minutes yesterday morning, my toes felt like they were going to fall off and my nose was frozen. Shivering on Massachusetts Avenue, I empathetically looked around at all of the other commuters. “This sucks terribly, but we’re all in the same boat,” I thought.

In the past I may have wasted my energy on getting upset, anxious or even snapping at the bus driver when they finally arrived- but I didn’t. I was bundled, had my music, and emailed my boss to let him know I was running behind.

Yes, it was that easy.

It’s natural to default to that irritated, selfish state when things aren’t going your way- we all do it. Over the past few months I’ve been conscious of honing my energy on what matters; my work, being mindful of my current activity, listening more when having a conversation, and taking in each moment to pay attention to what is happening around me.

I started to do everything one step at a time. One minute, one hour, one day.

Even if you’re terribly late, standing in the freezing cold or your path seems to have gone off course, just remember to take in the moment and enjoy it- for you won’t get that moment back.

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Making the most of this New England winter, one bundled day at a time.