I am a relentless optimist.
That means I vehemently believe that things work out, that there’s always enough for everyone, that there is a silver lining – even if we can’t see it – and that whatever it is we are experiencing has the capacity to push us forward in ways we never thought possible.
The other day someone I was chatting with someone I like and respect said who told me “positive thinking is not healthy.” I stopped for a moment, because this made me mad. Like, really mad. And because I have embedded the lesson to always question a thought that hurts, and trace it down to where that hurt is coming from, I stopped again.
Positive thinking is healthy, and it’s part of a bigger package – it doesn’t happen in isolation.
Having a positive outlook is, I believe, an actual secret of living a life that makes you feel full, satisfied, appreciative, loved, and connected. It’s through positive thinking that we pause and give thanks for the simple pleasures of daily life, and have the wherewithal to know – even in our darkest times – that this too shall pass. A positive mindset is essentially having a hopeful mindset, and the tenacity to know that you have done hard things before, and you can do this too.
But thinking positively isn’t enough. And I will tell you, as someone who believes in a real way that thoughts become things, and that we speak things into existence, that just because we have taught ourselves to see the bright side, doesn’t let us off the hook to feel the rest of our shit, and ignore the bigger, deeper, dark, negative feelings that come up.
When we ignore how we feel, we ignore our truth; we invalidate ourselves through denial or shame for having negativity come up. When we tune out the heaviness that can creep into our heads, hearts, and bodies, we dismiss the messages we are receiving from all three, and pass up an incredible opportunity to learn, heal, and grow.
Having a positive outlook does not mean you get to tune out your shit: if you want to heal, you need to feeeeeel. Even when that feels scary, threatening, uncomfortable, or just plain gross.
Remember when you were a kid and you’d wake up with growing pains in your legs? That achy, uncomfortable, “WTF is happening to my body right now” state? Our personal and emotional growth is like that too. The experiences and situations necessary for our growth – that we are constantly invited to attend to, work through, heal from and move on – will challenge us. They will put us through the ringer and make us want to squirm away from them (or hit them with a hammer) until they go away.
When we have the bravery, we can meet those challenges, those exercises in adversity, and yes, the negative feelings that come with them head-on, we can also coach ourselves to know that this is just a part of the process. These are just the growing pains that bring us closer to ourselves.
That’s where we loop back to our positive mindset; it’s what gives us the courage to see the bright side, without being blinded by it and ignoring how we feel in the present moment.
In my darkest of days, the months – and frankly years – when it felt like life was over, and that there was no coming back, it did not serve me to dwell in the state of panic that was expected of and even encouraged for me by others; in order to make it through some of the stuff I personally have made it through, I had to be aware of what my truth was, and triage it to varying degrees: “Ok that’s fear, I can address that right now, that’s rejection – nope, can’t handle that one yet – oh hey, there’s depsair…probably going to park you for a hot minute while I catch my breath…oh – anger! Yes! Anger I feel ready for, and in the meantime, I know that everything happening is leading me in a better, healthier, more loving direction. So chin up, and off I go.”
Know that if you’re only feeling negativity you are doing yourself a disservice – likewise, if you’re ONLY feeling positivity, and using it as a comfort blanket instead of as a beacon for growth, you’re also doing yourself a disservice. Feel your feelings, have the courage to see the bright side, and don’t allow yourself to get blinded by the light.
It’s having the hope of a positive and healthy mindset that allows you to safely feel the shadow stuff, and navigate through in a peaceful, grounded, and secure way. If you want to go deeper and learn how to let yourself feel ALL of the things, read this, and consider working with me in private coaching sessions where I can teach you the skills to do this in a guided, secure way.