*Written Virgina Baker*
Everyone, including myself, is tired of hearing about “what a crazy time we are living in.” This idea has become such a cliché, and as with most clichés it is rooted in reality. We are living in a crazy time. Our world was rocked, and we adapted to a new “normal” quicker than anyone could have expected. These changes can be very traumatic, especially when coupled with all of the other curveballs life has to offer. It can all just be so much sometimes.
No one is expected to navigate this alone; we have to lean on one another sometimes, and that is OKAY. Finding and identifying the right kind of people for life’s biggest and smallest trials is key. One trait that I have found makes all the difference is positivity. The people who you surround yourself with amplify different areas of your life: positive people amplify the positive aspects of your life, whereas negative people amplify the negative. In a time as challenging as this, we cannot afford to be wasting our time on any more negativity. For our own sake, as well as others’, we need to remain optimistic.
As author Wayne W. Dyer expressed in his book No Excuses!, “as you think, so shall you be.” This quote drives home just how important your state of mind is. There are so many things in life that you cannot, and will not, change, but the one ever-malleable part of your current situation is your mindset. However, this can also feel like one of the hardest things to change.
The best advice that I’ve received for integrating positivity into my daily life is to begin with gratitude. It’s simple: by acknowledging the parts of our lives that we are thankful for, we automatically become more aware of their existence. The more energy you give to something, the bigger a role it will play in your perspective of the world. When we feed negativity by entertaining life’s downfalls, we grant pessimism power over our lives.
Being optimistic and incorporating positivity into your life does not mean that you are always happy. It is imperative that people understand the difference between authentic positivity and toxic positivity. Toxic positivity is when people mask real feelings with a brave face and a fake smile. Positivity should never be used to dismiss how someone feels. So often people brush over feelings of sadness, loss, or discouragement in an effort to feel better. Do not be fooled: this is SO unhealthy. Feelings are meant to be felt, not dismissed.
Toxic positivity can take many shapes: repression of one’s feelings, dismissive platitudes towards others’ (e.g. “it could be worse,” “it’s fine,” “just cheer up”), guilting yourself or others for feeling down…the list goes on forever. The thing about toxic positivity is that it almost always comes from a place of good intention, yet still causes real problems. For me, when I see one of my friends struggling, all I can think about is relieving some of their pain, but it is often hard to know how to do so. There is no one answer, as every person and situation is different.
There are two things that I always try to remember:
- Sometimes all people need is someone to be there so they are not having to endure it alone. Just make yourself available and show ‘em the love. Let them take the lead and show you how they need you.
- Validate their feelings. This one is so important. When people’s feelings are made to feel “wrong,” it can lead to feelings of shame and further discourage them from seeking help. Isolation can feel like Sisyphus’ boulder: fighting and fighting, only to have it all come crashing down around them.
Not only is it important for us to be positive but to also make sure our positivity is doing more good than harm. The best way to combat negativity is to find people who fill you up with joy and to try to spread that joy to others — remember that positivity is about more than just smiling through the pain, it is a tool that helps us find the good in each moment, enabling us to illuminate even the darkest of days.
In the midst of this pandemic, so many of us have felt the need to accept our “new normal” and carry on, but nothing about this situation is normal. Growing pains should be expected — there is so much that has shifted over the past twelve months. No one is expected to be able to navigate all of this without a misstep (or ten). If we perpetuate a facade that we are all “doing fine,” we will continue to isolate those who are not.