Toxic Positivity?

Sometimes we see people, online or elsewhere, that always seem to be positive and this can be frustrating since we all know life is not all sunshine and rainbows. Some people have suggested I am this way, like Suzy Sunshine. This is not the case. This is a misunderstanding and it is important to recognize the difference.

If someone is happy ALL the time even through the muckiest or most painful or challenging times of life, they are living in denial or they have a superpower I have yet to witness. Sometimes life really sucks. Frustrating circumstances pour down on us like a rainstorm; or something really terrible happens. It would be silly, or disingenuous, or absolutely toxic to be jumping for joy through these situations.

However, to lean into the negative side of the bad stuff and dwell on it is also not productive or healthy. So where is the balance? It’s really about acknowledging the hard stuff, but not staying stuck in it. It is about only sharing it when sharing serves a purpose. Sharing your suffering with someone not only transfers the negativity to them, but it also causes you to relive it. Denying it is not healthy, but sharing it in a limited capacity is absolutely healthy. Call it controlled sharing.

If you are having a bad day or are just emotionally down, do not deny it. Pick a person and talk to them about it. Even more important, acknowledge it to yourself. Today is a really hard day. I am just not in a good place today. When I admit that to myself, it reminds me that it is temporary and it will pass. That alone helps me feel better. Often in times like that, I keep to myself. I do not share about it on social media and probably do not share anything on social media that day. That is not hiding or denying my sadness or struggles. It is simply limiting their impact on my life and those around me.

e+r=O

As Coach James Stroker taught me, we cannot control the events in our lives (e), but we can ALWAYS control our response to them (r), which most certainly allows us to have the greatest possible outcome (O) under the circumstances.

If you see someone who seems authentically like Suzy Sunshine to you, it does not mean she is in denial or that bad stuff does not befall her; I bet you she simply responds by acknowledging the muck and then moving on quickly from it; or taking time to herself when she needs more time to recover. It is because of that response that she can stay emotionally healthy and positive overall.

Example: Tomorrow, August 3rd, is the day my husband died. The day we lost someone we love is a trigger day for most of us; a hard day; an emotionally down day. No problem. Yet August 3rd is now also the birthday of someone I really care about and I will be celebrating his birthday tomorrow. I am not going to be denying the loss, but dwelling on it would not honor my late husband. There are days, many days, to honor him, including Memorial Day, his birthday, and so on. The anniversary of the day he died is not a day I have to dwell on him; I could, and there would be nothing wrong with it, but it is a choice.

Choices have consequences and for me, there are far better consequences to celebrating the birthday of someone here now than to dwell on my loss. At the same time, make no mistake, tomorrow if and when my loss and my late husband pour through my mind, I will acknowledge my feelings and emotions with acceptance and validation. This is the difference. Deny them and they will fester and poison you. Acknowledge them and you can step forward and enjoy the sun that still shines.

No matter what happens, the sun will continue to rise. You can focus on the storm or you can see the sun.

Nikola Rosa