It’s hard to avoid all the negativity and pessimism in the world today. Even if you try to surround yourself with more positivity, the darkness somehow finds a way to creep in.
It’s taxing on our overall health. We lose hope, purpose, maybe even the motivation to live. Left unchecked, this negativity will take us all down.
So one strategy is to ignore it. Just push it aside. Maybe we can invalidate it by not acknowledging it. Maybe not thinking about it prevents it from becoming real. I agree to a point. Sometimes things are not as big of a deal as they may seem.
But if you’re like me, suppressing the negative emotions also meant suppressing the positive ones as well. I never took risks and instead settled for ease and balance. The bad times weren’t so bad and the good times were good, but it’s been a pretty shallow experience so far. If we want to experience deeper positive emotions, it’s only fair that we experience the deeper negative ones as well.
Not addressing the bad stuff can still lead to a decent, comfortable life. You’ll get a good paycheck, you’ll be able to save money to do the things you like to do. You can still be happy. Not everyone has to have extremely ecstatic moments in their lives.
It’s a problem when the bad stuff starts bubbling up and getting in the way of where you want to go. The deep insecurities and fears have taken hold of our subconscious and now we’re feeling stuck, alone, doubtful, and unmotivated to do anything. Ignoring the negativity has only worked so far. Now, no matter how hard we try to stay “on top of it,” the negativity knows to just surround us instead. It’s like trying to contain a black, liquid glob that constantly wants to engulf us.
At some point in my own journey to increase my emotional intelligence, I realized that I’ve been emotionally constipated for most of my life and it’s been limiting my capacity for growth. I was told that showing feelings was “too feminine,” that I was being too sensitive, that showing the flaws, mistakes, and imperfections were signs of weakness. So I numbed those feelings.
I put on my ‘best face’ for my friends and family. Everything looked good on the outside. I have a great job, career track, a house, a car, fun dates. I never asked for help, but I never challenged myself. I avoided expressing myself for fear of being criticized. Now, I don’t know what it is I want or value exactly. All I know is that showing too much positivity is beginning to feel fake.
How do we beat this?
Let Negativity Win
It seems counterintuitive, but one idea I’ve been exploring is to just let negativity win. This is not giving up or letting it consume you. It’s acknowledging and embracing it as a worthy being. It’s seeing it not as a competitor, but as a partner.
I know this might sound like “hippie-dippie” stuff to you. Just let it be, maaaaaan, don’t resist and let it be. Stereotypes aside, there is value in adopting this mindset. If you’re feeling like you’re in a never-ending battle, always fighting against something that never goes away, it’s because you don’t understand what you’re fighting against.
This black glob of negativity doesn’t care how powerful, resilient, effective, and positive you are. Because it knows how to immediately flip all of that and use it against you. It’s sort of a sadist in the sense that it likes to see you struggle. Revoke its power by not resisting. Learn the art of stillness.
All it wants is your acknowledgment. It just wants to feel like it belongs, that it has meaning for being there. It wants to be part of you. It’s just a child that wants to play the game. So let it win. Let it feel heard and validated.
This doesn’t mean letting go of positivity altogether. It doesn’t mean go and be a dick to everyone and say “you’re just being ‘authentic.’” There’s a way to make space for both because you need both to be grounded. Life is like a sinusoidal wave, going from low, tough times, to high, fun times and back down again.
WTF is Authenticity Anyway?
I hesitate even saying the word ‘authenticity.’ I feel like pointing it out as a goal ruins the true authentic nature of it. It’s like telling someone to act natural, and they freak out because they’re trying too hard to act ‘natural.’
Instead, what I mean here is more of an acknowledgment of who you are and what you feel, positive or negative. Authenticity is about staying as close as you can to your grounded self, to your true character. It’s about not giving yourself and your values away to anyone else, no matter who they are.
So many us have been told to always keep our heads up, which to be fair, is what we all want to do, for the sake of both ourselves and for others. You’ll be a lot more of pleasant person to be around rather than the “debbie-downer.” But then we forget how unrealistic and tiring it is to smile all day. When you’re treading water just to stay afloat and starting to feel your muscles give in, just let yourself sink in for a bit. Relax, lay back, and let yourself float. It’s OK to be still.
All this to say, embracing the idea that I don’t have to be positive all the time feels a lot more true to me. Again, this might be different for everyone, maybe there are people who are always optimistic and it’s real and they love it.
But for those who don’t have that natural inclination, forcing positivity only creates a sense of fraudulence. When our external and internal emotions are misaligned, we’ll get dishonesty, deception, and evasion.
Negative emotions are always going to be there. Even those who seemingly have it all together will still feel the lows at times. You only hear about other people’s success and triumphs, you didn’t hear about all the times that they’ve failed, repeatedly. You didn’t hear about all the times they were knocked down, made fun of, criticized. But it happened.
The hard part is to balance this with “faking it till you make it.” Sure, there is value in convincing yourself to be optimistic in order to attract positivity, but it has to come from a truthful foundation. You have to check-in with how you’re really feeling and ask yourself, what caused you to feel that way? Then express that to someone else for a sound check. Is your internal and external voice in-tune?
How This Works
We’re all culprits of this. We show our best self. We stay positive, optimistic. We keep our heads up so that we don’t burden anyone or bring them down.
But if you’re feeling like you’re starting to lose sight of yourself, it’s time to step back and observe.
Try this, imagine you’re watching a movie about yourself from an outside perspective. How do you see them? How are they behaving? What are they doing? Is that how you feel inside? Does that feel like you?
Then, also try not being positive when the time feels right. Embrace the fact that things are sh*tty. Don’t force yourself to see the green grass on the other side if it doesn’t feel honest. Sit with it and acknowledge how that feels. Then reach out to someone and express that. Be real about it and own it.