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.

 

Stop Telling Women To Smile

A week ago I was sitting at my favorite coffee shop, notebook in hand and a coffee on the table.  I pulled out my mirror to see if I had anything on my face, quickly fixing my concealer that was out of place from my oversized sunglasses.

“Your makeup looks fine!” a stranger next to me declared.  I looked over, laughed, and continued to set up shop at my seat.

He didn’t stop there.  “You know, most men would say women look best without makeup.  It’s Sunday!  Don’t wear makeup!”

Newsflash: I wear makeup for me, not you.

I love to dress up, wear red lipstick, and don my Karen Walker shades.  Not looking for validation, on most days I simply want to write in peace; the last thing I want is to have strangers approach me to give me unsolicited advice or flirt poorly at a coffee shop.

Nevertheless, whether or not it was meant to be a compliment, it was still suggesting I change who I am or what I do.  That never sits well with me- flirting or not.  It’s manipulative, and it’s unwelcomed.

Here’s a comprehensive list of things women don’t need to hear from a man:

  • How to wear our hair
  • What clothes to choose
  • How long our hair “should” be
  • When to wear makeup
  • That we should smile

Maybe some women need the words of the opposite sex to gain their confidence, but I am not one of them.

“The sexualization behind telling women to smile is alarming. It makes women feel that we are only meant to be happy and pretty and it’s a passive way to engage into an unwanted conversation.” –

I’ve had ex-boyfriends try and dress me up in the shortest of skirts, 6 inch heels, and cleavage revealing attire.  That’s just not my style.  I’ve even had an ex ask me if I was going to a funeral because I was wearing all black.  Didn’t you know black is slimming and chic?  Just look at Audrey Hepburn.  I doubt she cared what other people said about her little black dress.

The guy at the cafe went on to later tell me how our meeting was “serendipitous,” in which I immediately rolled my eyes.

No, you just sat next to a woman and started telling her what to do and not to do.  Also, I have no interest in a divorced 50-something who was thumbing through his “Plenty of Fish” app.

Women can have it pretty rough out there, but as long as we hold our own and stick to our laurels, we will be just fine.

Just don’t tell me to smile.

Inspired by Stop Telling Women to Smile, a street art project addressing gender-based street harassment.