Times seem to be apt for sharing a perspective, my view on positive attitude.
First, let me start with a story that I have told myself a few times. From my early growing years, I recollect being unconditionally cheerful and a high achiever. I continued to keep a positive attitude as all things usually fell in place. This worked for many years and a few more, until there were times in my adult life where situations were not great. They were to the point that some values I upheld, principles I lived by, dreams I built up came down one by one as though a house of cards was falling. Now, at this point, my story should have shifted a little bit. However, conditioned to be positive in any circumstance, here I was continuing to narrate to myself the same story and went on smiling to the outer world. That worked for a while, although, not for too long.
What did I do? Again conditioned I was, yet fearful of being exposed or being rejected, I turned towards the vast internet for ways to bring me back to my story. I also turned towards my social circle in cryptic ways. I got no dearth of advice from all sources; least to say they left me overwhelmed.
The world wide web is so full of positive quotes, affirmations, TED talks, newsletters, and questionnaires that will literally put a new labeled mental disorder to my symptoms. Some of my connections recommended spa day, girls night, a vacation, a therapist, time off from work and so on. I just wanted someone to listen and help me find my own way, so I politely heeded to some advice while dismissing the rest.
At one point, trying to find answers stopped as if it were an epiphany. I chose to turn inward and that’s where my story took a rather abrupt turn, and I hopped on a journey steering me through a winding road. My mind wandered from thinking I wanted to regain that positive attitude to finding purpose, then to reclaiming my identity, and finally, to discovering my life.
I began to realize that no one size fits all, and that some of my learning might be of use to encourage someone else, hence I decided to share what has been working for me.
Be happy in your own company
Today’s world revolves around smartphones, social media, and digital networking. It is often easy to forget what true happiness feels like. One can get momentary fulfillment from external sources and when left alone with your own self, FOMO can crawl in. I started limiting use of social media, held back the urge to post, and check back in for any update compulsively. I deleted certain apps on my phone, and invested more time in finding things I can do alone that brings me joy. I started developing a deeper connection with my yoga practices and picked up more frequent biking. These are activities I can do alone if I wish to and through this pandemic, they have proven to be gratifying. This also required me to consciously dismiss thoughts to fall back into my old ways.
Define meaningful boundaries
Growing up in a culture consisting of codependency and large extended family, I had not quite learned how to define boundaries in relationships. By nature, relationships mean a lot to me and I would go far out of my way to prioritize harmony in relationships instead of setting boundaries to ensure self-care. I started drawing meaningful boundaries to see if it diminished my value in those close relationships that meant a lot to me. I learned to acknowledge my guilt trips initially, but gradually learned that it is important for my well-being. This too is a habit to be broken and requires immense energy.
We now have an environment that makes it impossible to hide information which doesn’t really serve you well. People with good intentions send you myriad news articles or things they’ve observed. With online media it is easier to set up filters, and see only what you want to see. However, there are multiple other ways through text messages and chat applications, and there is not much you can do. Alternatively, you can choose to respond mindfully by accepting those good intentions. For this, I had to break the habit of being judgmental, an area I aspire to work more on for myself.
This journey on the winding road is far from over, however, where it all started to shift for me was how I interpreted the saying ‘stay curious’. Instead of finding answers, I started to come up with questions. Instead of having a goal in mind, I started to observe my journey. Instead of achieving a target, I started to imbibe an experience throughout. And naturally, positive thinking made ways into my life as an outcome.
As we experience a global pandemic in many ways, there are some upsetting events or news hitting us in most of our waking hours. I beckon to those I meet and urge readers of this piece, that you to find your own way to be positive. One thing that works for someone may not work for you and that’s alright. As the quote from Rumi goes “we carry inside us the wonders we seek outside us”, this is also the feat of strength that holds its course in uncertain times.