This morning I found myself sobbing on my yoga mat in extended child’s pose. Quite childlike, I suppose… an extended toddler’s pose, if you will.
My brain is in the trenches of an internal war of attrition between the negative and the positive. Between the side of me that sees the glass half full, grabs life by the balls and laughs loudly, versus my tendency towards cynicism, sarcasm and anxiety.
I find myself analysing and counter-analysing my feelings constantly. Why can’t I just be happy all the time? Always take the positive stance? How come I’m not leaping out of bed and rushing out the door to go and be awesome every day? To be the best I can be?
I count myself as a striver. A do-er. An achiever. You want something sorting out? Talk to me, I’m already on it.
Does that mean that when I am not striving and thriving – when I don’t want to get out of bed, or am struggling to shake off worries – I am failing? Absofuckinglutely not. So why does it feel like I am?
Because positive is The New Thing.
It’s hip to be happy. Easy-read, click-farm self help has replaced chick-lit in popular culture. We’re surrounded by inspirational quotes, pop-psychology, and easy-to-read lists of sure fire ways to be happy. To be fulfilled, be our truest selves, have amazing relationships, be healthy, find wellbeing, bring joy into our lives. Grab opportunities with both hands, but don’t forget to take time for yourself. Find an amazing relationship, but make sure you find yourself along the way.
It’s fucking exhausting trying to be positive, happy and fulfilled all the time. You want my opinion? I think it’s critical to our wellbeing that we’re not happy all of the time.
I think it’s vital, healthy and just plain practical to acknowledge those feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, sadness or fear.
The worst thing you can do is ignore these feelings. Box them away. ‘Think happy thoughts’. Read a few Instaquotes to pep you up and remind you that ‘you got this’ or ‘life is way to short for bad vibes’ (that’s an actual Instaquote. FFS). That’s going to do jack shit and you’ll find yourself further down the line hitting meltdown point.
Listen to these feelings, understand what might be causing them, give them their due space in your mind.
Let them be (just for a little while), then find yourself to a way to let them go.
Stressed? Like boxing? Go punch seven shades of shit out of some pads, that will do it. Up ’til 2 in the morning scouring RightMove for the tenth time in a day? (not me, obv) Jot any floating worries down in a little notebook and pop on a guided meditation (yes, I did just say that) to help you sleep easy. Had a shit day and feel like crying? Bawl your bloody eyes out, then put on a face pack, some trashy TV and let it go.
I’m not suggesting we all sit around indulging ourselves in misery every time we feel negative. I’m just saying that we can acknowledge bad feelings positively. We should be able to let them out, and pro-actively deal with them without adding to that the judgement that we are being too negative.
I worry that otherwise, we are not leaving ourselves the space and freedom to fail. To feel have bad days. To feel overwhelmed.
Importantly, if we feel we have to be positive all the time, we deny ourselves the option to ask for help.
I’m as guilty of this as anyone. I was raised to be tough; to dust myself off and crack back on again. As my Dear Dad would say, not to ‘let the bastards get you down.’
But more recently, I’ve realised I can’t do everything on my own. I can’t keep control of every situation; rock at my job, grow my professional profile, volunteer, find and buy a house, keep our flat tidy, be a kitchen goddess, a yogi, a good friend, super girlfriend and everything else in between.
I’ve realised it’s okay not to be okay.
That I need to talk. To let things go. To delegate. To ask for help. To have a cry now and then. To let myself be sad so I can understand it and move forward.
It’s pretty shitty that in this day and age, mental health issues still come with a huge stigma attached. The Cult of Positive isn’t always helping. At its best, it gives us useful solutions, helps us better understand ourselves, leads us to self-help that actually helps. At its worst, it makes us feel inadequate if we can’t find the strength to smile, go forth, and be awesome.
Those instagram feeds, pinterest boards, and facebook news feeds that display perfectly-lit lives, beaming smiles, and painfully inspiring quotes that embody the person you wish you could be? It’s all an illusion. A freeze-frame. Carefully constructed, longingly engineered, representative of one fleeting moment. Who’s to say that perfectly-turned-out kids aren’t screaming and hurling food around out of shot? That the smiling yogi isn’t using their asanas to battle through depression? That five minutes later the adorable, handbag-sized dog hasn’t shat on the White Company egyptian cottons – for the second time that week?!
So if you’re struggling to find your positive side today – however small that side might be – don’t berate yourself. Let those feelings be, then find your way to let them go.