I didn’t even know what this meant until very recently. But when a friend explained this term to me, it made perfect sense! This was the term that I had been missing all my life to explain why certain people annoyed me so much, with their forms of glowing optimism and perpetual rose-tinted glasses.
It used to make me feel like a pessimist until I realized that, actually, the problem wasn’t in me but in those other people. The fake optimists. The truth is, no one can look on the bright side 100% of the time. We are only human! We are going to have bad moments, we are going to feel sad, angry and frustrated from time to time. There is no need in denying it or trying to mask those feelings with exaggerated layers of positivity. On the contrary, trying to deny your feelings will only make matters worse. Same thing goes for denying others their own emotions!
This is why in the early days of the pandemic the popular phrase “everything will be alright” made me so anxious. It’s not that I didn’t understand the importance those words carried for some, in an attempt to alleviate their doubts and concerns for the future in the midst of a very serious situation. I understand it was a very positive message to send out, in theory. I get that it helped some people, especially children. But at some point, it felt like it was being shoved down the throat of anyone who dared to express legitimate concern. I, personally, hated it. I was in such a fragile situation, so much of my life was being forcefully changed (and not for the better), that I could not bear to hear those words being directed at me.
I am a positive person. At least I try to be. Yet, I have struggled with mental health issues and I have a dark side to me that I know will always be there. The day I acknowledged it was the day it started becoming more manageable. Forcing a smile and agreeing to “yes, of course, it will all work out fine” was something that caused me physical pain. I couldn’t stand being told “everything will be alright” because I had to nearly bite my tongue off to prevent from screaming “you can’t possibly know that!”.
At the end of the day, I don’t know if everything will be alright. No one can know! Instead, what I do know is that I am strong enough to face whatever may come. I am more resilient than I give myself credit for, I have overcome difficult times before and I am still standing.
That’s my brand of positivity. Not throwing empty optimism around or smiling when I really feel like crying. My positivity comes with the knowledge that nothing lasts forever and this too shall pass. With knowing that we, as humans, are more resilient than we know and we can, after all, adapt and evolve. And with being grateful that, despite all the bad, there is a lot of good in my life too. My positivity makes me look around and appreciate the small things, the little victories, the blessings in disguise, at the same time that it allows me to be human, less than perfect.
I am lucky enough to be surrounded by people who understand this. People that will avoid saying things like “just smile”, “you’ll get over it”, “think happy thoughts”, “focus on the positive” or “it could be worse”. None of these help me. Do they ever help anyone, really? If it was this easy, surely, we would all be little floating bubbles of pure joy!
We are all trying to do the best we can. There’s no need to put an added pressure on our shoulders to be happy all the time. Yes, we try to look on the bright side. But every now and then it is perfectly understandable to be a little negative. It’s part of our experience. We stumble, we fall, we get hurt. As long as we get up again! There’s nothing more positive than regaining your hope after you thought all of it was lost, being able to look back and learn from your failures.
The only way is forward. One day at a time. No need for toxic positivity.