Why You Don’t Always Have To Be Positive
Ever feel down? Like giving up? Crappy?
Recently, I experienced extreme disappointment. Without going into the details of what happened (just not ready yet), I realized I was coping with these feelings by minimizing them.
As a recovering perfectionist, I am always aware of the expectations that I set for myself. It’s not that I don’t set them high, I just make sure they are realistic, trusting myself that I can manage if I don’t meet them.
There are 4 ways that I manage expectations:
I’ve gathered these tactics over the years from conversations, articles, workshops etc. and they’ve been working for me in my recovery so far.
That was until recently…
I set an expectation, put a ton of effort, invested my time, my emotions and energy into it.
On “game day”, it didn’t work out.
So being that well-oiled, “expectation managing” machine, I instantly began my tactics.
I reassured myself that I did everything I possibly could. I treated myself with kindness. I told myself this is something I could not have controlled, reminding myself to not be so hard on myself.
I started making lists of things I should be grateful for, the people in my life who I should appreciate.
I told myself that it could have been worse and reminding myself of others who are less fortunate than me.
I glazed over the details of what happened because I thought the quicker I could change my mindset, the quicker I could apply the learnings and the quicker those feelings could be “corrected.”
I did all those things but I didn’t feel any better.
I still felt like shit.
What was I missing?
I forgot to feel. I jumped into problem-solving without fully understanding the problem. I wanted to be “perfect” at feeling better.
It’s as though my perfectionism had returned, this time disguised within my own recovery mechanism.
I know for myself, I have a tendency to “put on a strong face” or to be the “calm in a storm.”
It’s also in my instincts as a mom to be the one that everyone goes to, staying positive and providing encouragement and support. I strive to remain resilient and unflappable in crises. And for the most part, things roll off my back.
But this day, I just want to say “fuck the world” and be bitter.
What I needed was to give myself permission to have a bad day.
Before you read on, I want to say that the permission I gave myself didn’t mean I could lash out at people and take my anger out on someone I love.
It was more about being able to take a day for myself to process what happened, allowing me to express my emotions in a healthy manner.
And on this day, I got to do the following:
- Embrace negative feelings
- Stew in toxicity and bitterness
- Swear, swear and swear some more
- Replay all the shit that’s happened in my life, all the bad decisions, losses, painful memories
- Drown myself in sorrows
- Find those inner demons and release them to surface
- Say aloud and/or write down those unfiltered nasty things in my head
- Act entitled, mad at the world, demanding the universe to pay up because it owes me for my suffering
- Express my anger, frustration, and disappointment
- Shout at the top of my lungs again and again as needed, “This isn’t fair! Life fucking sucks!”
- Eat whatever I want
- Eat as much or as little as I want
- Not bathe, shower, brush my teeth, change clothes
- Watch whatever I want
- Savour the uncleanliness
- Take a day off parenting duties
- Take a day off work
- Sleep, sleep, sleep
- Curl up into the fetal position and cry and cry and cry until my eyes look bee-stung
Then, the next day, I started my tactics for managing my expectations.
We all experience negative things in our life.
We all experience disappointment, pain, suffering, and loss.
That’s why we like and share positive daily affirmations, read self-help books, listen to inspirational talks, watch motivational videos etc. We google the best ways to manage our issues. We want to solve, solve, solve.
And it’s absolutely wonderful we have access to all this.
However, I think with all these tools and resources to help us, we are missing the first step to getting through a negative experience, a step that makes us human, which is to feel.
I’ve come to the realization that it is only when we fully feel the entire spectrum of emotions that we can realize how fallible we are as human beings.
And it’s at that point of humility where we can truly understand gratitude, practice self-compassion, forgive ourselves and others, and change our mindset to feel better.