3 Ways Perpetual Positivity Negatively Affects Well Being and Personal Growth
Around two years ago I wrote an article named In Acceptance of Being Real and Expressing Your Pain. What I’m writing here on the effects of perpetual positivity is an extension on that work.
The Land of Perpetual Positivity?
Each time I see a post or article that highlights “positivity only”, “good vibes only”, “clear toxic people” … my heart drops. Where is this land of perpetual positivity where everyone is happy, smiling, problem-free, and shining like a brand new uncirculated coin?
Why does this “land” that shames people into forcing a smile in order to feel accepted by their friends/family, or society sound so appealing? And what is so wonderful about shunning people when they don’t measure up to the positivity brand? What message are we sending out and supporting?
This place of constant positivity does not exist. Thankfully, it is not real, nor would I want it to be. The pressure to be positive all the time is highly damaging to a persons well being and personal growth. It is not a healthy default setting. Because if you are not embracing the fullness of all that you are then it means you are denying a vital part of all that you are. Life comes with its challenges, darkness and inner pain for every individual. We should not be hiding our tough times, or pretending they don’t exist. We should feel brave enough to explore them and supported enough to share them. Evolving requires us to meet discomfort rather than close it off through a twisted ideal of positivity.
The umbrella of forced positivity
Under the umbrella of forced positivity, we begin to feel a sense of shame in expressing what we feel- because it may impact how someone else sees us and how we perceive ourselves. But the fact is, we cannot be positive all the time. It’s just not human. We seem to have lost our elemental skill sets of compassion and empathy to the whims of a self help initiative that has gotten out of hand.
If you can’t be there for someone in their time of need because you can’t handle their honesty, their depth, their pain or sorrow, then what does that say? If you feel the need to attach someone with a label of “negative” or “toxic”… again what does this say? What are you denying within yourself that inspires you to shut down another person because they don’t fit a “good vibes” only approach to life. If you are irritated by anothers pain perhaps it is because you have not faced your own…?
Don’t get me wrong. There is a place for positivity, but there is also a place for the opposite. One without the other is neither real nor an honest picture of the strength we all hold within our humanness.
There is a great beauty in being real, being seen and courageously met as you are. Authentically you, and showing up to life in the fullness of both negative and positive. As a person, I’ll take hard truth and discomfort over the falsity of perfection and fake positivity- because at least then I know what is solid and what is real.
Isn’t this all we request from love?
A brave, vulnerable and sincere exposure,
To be candidly seen in all our faults
Blemishes, quirks and flaws
Yet still be so implicitly loved
And most of all,
Wanted” — Christine Evangelou
How the cycle of perpetual positivity hurts well being and personal growth
1. The affects on well being when we feel we cannot express emotions
As human beings, our emotional compass plays a crucial role in our well being. When we are able to express and show our emotion, we are able to release and let go of pent up energy. Moving through our emotional processes encourages flow and movement- we become emotionally agile. Whereas shutting ourselves off from feeling certain emotions such as anger, sorrow and grief creates inner conflict. It keeps you stuck in that emotion because you have not met with the difficulty of working through it. From a physical perspective, our emotions are heavily tied into our gut. Stress and anxiety from holding in emotions can bring on ill health, digestive issues, and even stomach ulcers.
Suffocated emotions end up as repeated cycles of pain that impact our mental well being also. If we cannot speak our truth and share our pain for fear of stigma and judgement then those emotions rattle inside our mind as shame, non-acceptance, and fuel an impaired sense of self image.
Currently, 1 in 4 people are suffering from poor mental health. Many of them suffer in silence. What they need is greater awareness and acceptance- not more judgement, isolation and labels.
“Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.”- Carl Jung
In terms of relationships, if we are constantly having to scrutinize and sieve through what we say, how does this help us build trust and openness? The fact is, it doesn’t. Fighting truth harms our spirit. We can only meet others as deeply and honestly as we have met ourselves. Sometimes we may shut others down because we cannot deal with the crushing depth of what they are feeling. But empathy asks that we meet another person where they are. Compassion asks that we show some understanding for what they are feeling. And love asks that we practice acceptance of our humanness- all parts of it.
It is the emotions and thoughts that we repress and resist that continue to reverberate through our heart-space and negatively impact our well being. We should not fear to show our emotion. There is no shame in being who we are and feeling what we feel in all our humanness.
2. The ability and courage to embrace our personal and spiritual growth
If we aren’t prepared to do the deep inner work toward healing and acceptance then how are we growing as a person? Life is messy. Human beings are messy. Growth is messy. We are messy in what we feel and how we perceive what we feel. Because that is humanness. It is an emotional and rocky terrain of ups, downs, highs, lows and all else in between. Ultimately, we should not expect it to be anything else. We should not prey upon those in pain under the umbrella of fake positivity to find weakness in their depth. Through our darkest times we can find spiritual substance, integrity and a backbone of strength. And so no one should feel the need to dismiss their suffering in order to feel loved or accepted by another. We evolve as human beings through facing the dull ache of all that hurts inside.
Everybody hurts. No one is immune to pain. Pain does not discriminate between the rich and the poor, the enlightened or the ignorant, the loved or the lonely.
We have all experienced the hurt of a broken heart. Shouldn’t we open our hearts to people that are hurting rather than reject them? Shouldn’t we open our hearts to ourselves and respect what we feel enough to intelligently work through it? Because we are all deserving of a spiritual approach to growth that is grounded in truth, compassion and empathy. This is how we nourish our inner strength.
“Too many of us move through our lives with our true selves buried below layers of repressed emotion. With so much energy channeled toward sustaining the repression, there is little left over for the deeper questions. The consequences of our evasion are profound. Our stockpiles toxify into a cache of weapons that turn inward against the self: quick fix, long suffering. As Rumi said, “Most people guard against the fire, and so end up in it.” If we don’t deal with our stuff, it deals with us.” ― Jeff Brown
3. How we show up to life
If we are only willing to accept the positive aspects of life then we inadvertently close ourselves off from our most important relationship. And this is the relationship to self. Self awareness is how we grow and transform as individuals. It’s how we meet our higher potential and become the best of what we can be. If we limit ourselves to just the positive attributes of ourselves or aspects of living, we truly are missing out on a wealth of self knowledge that expands our experience of life. Life is a rounded experience of both the shadow and the light. We cannot show up to just the good or happy instances in life. We need to poise ourselves and show up for the whole thing. In doing so, we naturally build upon our coping mechanisms so we become stronger emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Isn’t that what life is fundamentally about?
We are not born with the emotional or mental strategy that we need to navigate life. How we get through life depends on what we are prepared to face, acknowledge, and empower ourselves to overcome.
Through self awareness, we inspire self acceptance and love- all our intuitive intelligence is fortified. We cannot continually override our emotional processes through a lens of what the world or society wants to see. We cannot allow others to hinder our relationship to self. It is what we build and create within ourselves that moves us toward worthy relationships, a fulfilling career, and a deep sense of belonging and purpose.
“Wholeness is not achieved by cutting off a portion of one’s being, but by integration of the contraries.”- Carl Jung
We belong to ourselves first and foremost, we can only nurture that relationship through a wide scope of negative and positive alike. We can only authentically show up up to life by embracing all we are, all we are not, and all we desire to be. In nurturing and nourishing ourselves, we amplify our ability to do the same for those we love and care about- and humanity at large.
We do not know the extent of someones suffering. Perhaps because we have not yet acknowledged the full extent of our own. But we are all beautifully human. Sometimes we break, sometimes we get angry, sometimes we lose hope, but most importantly, we are still beautifully human. Vulnerable. Unique. We are no less a person for our hurt. Look deep within your heart for your truth and support others through theirs. Perpetual positivity is not something we should be forced or shamed into. Perpetual positivity steers us away from our inherent truth. What we should be cultivatiing is everything that is inexplicably real and human within us.
Ram Dass said it best- We are all just walking each other home.
“We’re all going to the same place, and we’re all on a path. Sometimes our paths converge. Sometimes they separate, and we can hardly see each other, much less hear each other. But on the good days, we’re walking on the same path, close together, and we’re walking each other home”- Ram Dass
I hope you found value in this read. Please share to someone you care about, thanks, Chrissy 🙂