Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
In our busy lives, we often bypass our emotions for the sake of ‘doing’, but our wellbeing pays a steep price; it’s time to shift that cycle.
Sometimes we are so busy taking care of business that we forget about taking care of ourselves. My titles convey the impression that I am okay in the best sense of the word. I am a motivational speaker, author, life coach and an Access Consciousness facilitator (a life coaching empowerment modality). In essence, these terminologies indicate I am a positive person. Almost, all the time. It seems I am one who can fix any unfavorable situation by casting a spell with a magical wand of positivity over it. Better still, I can sprinkle a few feel-good words and spruce up a conversation to cheer up someone who is feeling low or sad.
And voila, all of life is pink and shiny again. This presumption cannot be farther from the truth.
To let you in on a nugget of irony — my latest book, Dancing with Riches, starts with an incident depicting how disconnected I was from my own truth at one point in time. Let me share an excerpt of that chapter here. You will understand better what I mean:
It had been a while since I had connected with the expansiveness of nature… I remembered one of my friends had suggested that I attend to my pale-looking garden, sooner rather than later… Oh dear! How could ‘heaven’ look this sad? No worries; I’ll talk to my little green patch, and pump up the energy… After all, that was my specialty…
“Hi there, flower, how are you?” No response. I didn’t feel a thing. I waited a bit and asked again, “How’s it going?” I waited a bit longer. Still nothing… Alas, my magic wasn’t working. I’d done this drill in the past. It had always been a blissful experience, but today nothing was happening…
As my struggle to interact with nature continued, I took a couple of steps farther and reached my fence. On the other side stood two gorgeous-looking dogs… They looked me up and down and made an instant connection with me, as if to say, “Really? We mean, really? Honey, you’re the one who needs the communication and contribution here. Are YOU willing to receive it?”
Wow! My whole world melted instantly. My body relaxed, and the peace I had been trying so hard to give to nature, was delivered to me with a simple gaze from the doggies.
Dissection of the Disconnection
For many decades, I had led life following my to-do lists. Diligently. A perfectionist of sorts, I knew no other way to be. As Time and Life gifted their pearls of wisdom, I realized gradually that this algorithmic style of living was a slow poison. It was feeding off my ego. That tick in the ‘Done’ box gave me a high like none other, but not without nudging me towards the next ‘To-Do’ I had to accomplish. It was a ceaseless journey of achievements that sometimes did not equate to fulfilment. Something was amiss.
Think about this: You wake up at six in the morning. Meditate for half an hour. Follow it by doing a few physical exercises. After all, you are committed to paying equal attention to nurture your body and mind. Once you have gobbled up a nutritious breakfast (since getting to work on time is of utmost importance), your day begins.
At work, you get consumed by meeting deadlines. Alongside, each day, you learn a wee bit more about the fine art of people management. It is a constant struggle. Many times, you abhor it, but you have bills to pay or obligations to fulfill, remember?
In the evening, you usually have another list of roles to play. Those are the ones you could not carry out during the day. Maybe you are a father, a mother, a sister or a brother, or simply a friend, a granddaughter, a spouse, a pet owner, a nature lover… take your pick(s). Building relationships is an ever-evolving process. You cannot always avoid your commitment to all of them. If you want to be kind, contribute, fulfill your promise many times, you need to step up, engage with them and let them know you are there for them. That’s when you think you can have a guilt-free peaceful night’s sleep.
Finally, when the day has almost come to an end, you get some time to simply be you. An hour or maybe less is all you have for yourself. It is time to devour those unread forwards, watch something of your interest, catch a glimpse of what’s happening in the world. Peer pressure demands that you stay updated in order to be responsive when conversing with others.
This is what a day in the week looks like, doesn’t it? Weekends are rushed in a different manner. Strangely, they too end in a jiffy. Monday morning blues are back to bite you.
In this hurricane of life, when do you have a minute to stay still and acknowledge what you truly feel, especially when something unsettling occurs?
For instance, say, you got reprimanded at work today. You got extremely angry with your senior. You wanted to vent. Were you able to do that? Were you even able to acknowledge your emotions? Doubtful.
In another scenario, say, you had a hectic week. This weekend, your body requested you to take a break. How could you possibly get some rest? You had many more chores to finish. You dismissed its pleas in the throes of your mental chatter. How easy and how convenient to do that — ignore the body’s suggestions.
We live in a culture of Doingness. This means we Do, Do, Do and then Do more. Simply Being seems useless, redundant and boring. Dedicating some time to ourselves, paying close attention to how we feel is usually judged as an act of procrastination. Worse still, sometimes in a rush to feel better, we are unable to grasp the depth and power of acknowledging what we truly experience. In the bargain, we fail to understand the pressure-filled lives we lead most of the time. The work we try to accomplish by shoving our feelings on the backburner wins an adverse outcome. It is ironic, isn’t it?
A Complex Equation
Did you know that, per a report released by Grand View Research, the global personal development market size value in 2020 was USD 39.99 billion? The revenue forecast in 2027 is slated to be USD 56.66 billion. This means it’ll grow over 41% in seven years!
Everything we do to improve ourselves is a multibillion-dollar industry, yet, in mid-2020, the Census Bureau data revealed, post the pandemic, a third of Americans showed signs of clinical anxiety or depression. This trend (with varied statistical figures) is a global phenomenon.
The cause for this statistic seems obvious. When a calamity of such catastrophic proportion occurs, it makes many of us feel hollow, scared and vulnerable. We have not forgotten all those ‘Be Positive’ seminars we had attended in the past, but this is a difficult situation. Here, Death is lurking around the corner, waiting for its next prey. A tiny virus has reminded us of our humanness. A hell of a leveler, it has held a mirror to the fragility of the human race. How can we ‘Be Positive’ when Life, in all its forms, is falling apart?
Optimism vs. Positivity
I believe in staying positive (as much as possible), but more importantly, I advocate being optimistic. No, there isn’t a thin line differentiating these two philosophies of living. They are completely different ways of living, being and handling real situations in this world on a daily basis.
Toxic positivity is when life is throwing volleys at you, but you are too busy pacifying yourself with falsities like ‘It’s okay.’ ‘It is important to stay positive now.’ ‘These are the times I need to get a handle on things.’ ‘This too shall pass.’
Optimism starts where fake positivity ends. It acknowledges the evolutionary truth of life. Indeed, this too shall pass. However, NOW, as much as I try, survival seems like a herculean task.
If I allow myself to recognize and acknowledge my feelings and emotions now, it will equip me to deal with my truth in a pragmatic manner. When life is being tough to deal with, it is most important that I do not make myself wrong for feeling blue. Acknowledgement of what is really going on today creates more possibilities for tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is a new day. If I allow myself to be authentic now, who knows, maybe I’ll have the strength to approach Tomorrow as the first day of my life! After all, it is a matter of deciding to make a choice.
Almost everyone in the world is affected by the ongoing pandemic — emotionally, socially, financially, personally and professionally. In such dire circumstances, if we tell ourselves (or another), ‘It is okay.’, ‘Stay positive.’, we strip ourselves of our right to recognize and acknowledge what is showing up for us at the moment. I call this ‘acknow-legize’. We rob ourselves of our dignity by patronizing and by demanding to push our feelings and emotions under a carpet of ‘positivity’ — the one that eludes our reality and creates immense stress in our minds and bodies in various hidden forms.
Injecting toxic positivity into our psyche makes us believe we are weak and stupid. This could leave serious damaging effects on our confidence, self-esteem and self-worth. Most importantly, it could make us believe we are inadequate and inept to handle any situation. Not only are these judgments untrue, but they are also crude and harsh.
How do we resolve this predicament? We pause. We breathe. We acknowledge what we are truly feeling. We honor ourselves by being in allowance of our thoughts, feelings and emotions without judgments. We need not be in a tearing hurry to feel better. We recognize vulnerability is our strength — the one attribute that unites us in such distressing times. It is a catalyst of change. It’s an alchemy of sorts. It empowers us to be empathetic towards ourselves and others. Together, we can ride the waves of change and face the fear of the unknown. Tomorrow is another day, thankfully. Today, it is okay to not be fully okay.
You may also enjoy reading My Life As A Widow: Growing Through Grief and Reclaiming Self by Dawn Nargi