Full transparency, today I feel like a pile stirfried dog shit. I started the day with a great workout, I did all the things, I was crossing stuff off my to do list like a ninja. Regardless, somewhere during the day I started to feel really raw. I still had quite a few client calls for the day but when I realized my mood was getting increasingly grey, I sent my clients the following text ” I would like to reschedule our call till tomorrow if it’s okay with you. I have let my bucket run empty today and I need to fill it up” I took care of myself and shared my truth. Over the past few years when I don’t feel quite right I don’t hide it, I share it, I make videos and posts or I write about how it feels to feel bad in the moment. I do it in order to normalize it for others. I want to create a safe space for everyone else to have their technicolor dream coat of emotions too. This life is not a movie set everything doesn’t have to sparkle all the time. I have a lot of muchness ( a term I use to describe all of my facets) my emotions are big my moods are wide and vast. Denying them or forcing positivity feels like holding back a tsunami.
I learned a long time ago is that when I hold back that tsunami and try to force positivity down my own throat a bad day is a bad week instead of just a day or a few bad days become a bad month. instead I clear some space and let the less than desirable feelings and moods come. Imagine sweeping ALL of the shit off of your desk with one swoop of your arm. It’s a very loving thing to do to create a space for ourselves to feel crappy in that space we can be genuine and feel rather than stuff or feelings with drugs or alcohol or food. The shame and stuffing and denying is responsible for so much or our own demise and destruction. I am not a fan of cooking that big pot of shame soup anymore.
What is toxic positivity? It’s basically the expectation of pervasive happiness and optimism across all situations. Toxic positivity results in the denial and invalidation of authentic human emotions. It accepts only positive moods, attributes and behaviors and disallows anything that we perceive to be negative. What does toxic positivity sound like?
- positive vibes only
- you’ll get over it
- other people have it a lot worse
- just stay positive
- smile, being sad won’t help
The first time I heard the term toxic positivity was in a comprehensive coaching webinar, I was kind of floored. I didn’t understand how positivity could be toxic. It wouldn’t seem that there’s anything really wrong with keeping a positive attitude. Everybody wants to feel good, we want to be around positive people so that kind of makes sense.
It doesn’t really make sense though when we only allow positivity in ourselves or when we view anything we perceive as negative to be a weakness, seems a very unrealistic standard to enforce. Maybe we are afraid to be unattractive because we perceive negativity to be so unattractive. I’ve never met anyone who is positive all the time not genuinely anyway. I am not positive all the time far from it sometimes I feel fantastic, sometimes I feel mad and sometimes I feel like total shit. I’m a human being so I have all of the emotions. I proudly wear a Technicolor dream coat of emotions.
In my profession as a personal trainer and a nutrition specialist people come to me wanting to lose weight. After investing some time in the process, we discover all kinds of undercurrents that are standing in the way of goal achievement. Shame is a big obstacle so are unrealistic expectations. I am sure you can see where the expectation of optimism in every situation can actually exacerbate the problems at hand.
OK so toxic positivity doesn’t exactly cause someone to drive to McDonald’s and order a big Mac, but it absolutely ignites the fires of destructive habits. The relationship can go like this; we feel like shit, shame and judgement don’t allow us to feel like shit because we’re supposed to be positive aren’t we? Now we are left feeling like we are swimming in a big pot of shame soup. What’s left to do but numb the pain with our drug of choice, food is a drug of choice for many. My personal favorite is Skippy chunky and about a sleeve of rice cakes. I have two teenage children you can only imagine how much peanut butter I have eaten as a result of fights with those two.
So what do we perceive as negative in ourselves or in our environment.
- perceived weakness
- perceived laziness
- being sensitive or emotional
If our insistence on ourselves and everyone around us being positive we are disallowing their feelings and in fact making them feel worse if they already may be aren’t feeling good. Think about yourself, when was the last time you were feeling really crappy, like really crappy, all of your bills were late, the house was a mess, work sucked and just you had no bandwidth left and then someone comes along and tells you to cheer up, things could be worse, What impact does that actually have? Does it ever actually make somebody feel better? It’s kind of like telling someone to calm down when they’re losing their shit. Never has that ever calmed anyone down. I understand that when people tell someone to maintain a positive attitude they mean well but, they’re unknowingly invalidating the other persons experience which can do harm to a vulnerable human. I like to think most people are well-intentioned and want to see someone happy but invalidating someone’s pain or suffering doesn’t do anything except intensify pain and suffering.
We are allowed to have our muchness, our technicolor dreamboat of emotions. We are all human. We have history. we have tiggers. We are just getting out of one of the darkest times in our history. We dont always have to “look on the bright side”
Fun fact, I have been sitting here and listening to some Tori Amos while writing this today which feels fabulous and creative and I am starting to feel a bit better. Creating works to help me process so thank you for riding this wave with me. It’s all about this fabulous technicolor dreamcoat of emotions.