Excuse me if I am being a bit cynical in these times. The optimism! The cheeriness! The silver linings! It all feels a little hollow, and a little too familiar. A former “Pollyanna” myself, I often received criticism that I was TOO cheerful and TOO positive. I am asking you to not hide behind false, forced smiles in a time of global pandemic.
My chipper demeanor, while partially my personality, was something I discovered to be a coping mechanism. It allowed me to function without addressing negative emotions. “Everything will be okay!!!!” and “I’m doing totally awesome!!!” – exclamation points included, and emphasized – were phrases emblematic of the facade I held up daily.
While having a positive attitude, expressing gratitude, or consuming goodness can all have positive outcomes for both physical health and mental resilience, reckoning with reality is incredibly important. When I didn’t address emotions or anxiety because I didn’t want to “feel bad” or thought someone would like me better if I avoided anything negative, I ended up feeling like I was exploding on the inside.
Sadness had to be recognized as part of life. I had to figure out how to face fear with confidence and courage, not a made up radiance. It wasn’t helping me be me, for myself, for the people I love, and for the work in the world I want to be doing. It was a relief to finally learn that I didn’t have to be happy all the time. As humans, we experience a wide range of emotions. We can certainly strive to fill as much of life with joy and laughter as possible, and in between is reality. Reality, even in small moments, can be harsh.
What helped was learning to identify and accept my feelings, in the moment when possible, and to sit with that emotion. It may feel better right then, or it may take a while to sort out. In the end, I enjoy the freedom of not restricting myself to only positive emotions. Not everything is awesome all the time. Self educating on vulnerability and how to ask for what I needed guided the path.
So, yes, absolutely find the memes that make you laugh or the stories that fill your heart. There is a lot of goodness out there, and thankful for that! Wrapping yourself in only the good creates a false reality. Feel what you need to feel, and don’t hide it from yourself. The human experience is varied. Our happiness and moments of joy are richer because of what we overcome. Since learning how to feel all of what life has to give me, I am happier, more loving of myself and others, more confident, and more accepting. What if the same could be true for you, now and always?