“Keep your chin up.”
That’s what we hear and say to everyone who’s going through a tough time. We throw yellow paint over the brown, and tell each other to look on the bright side.
Having a more positive outlook can have a lot of benefits, including knowing how and when to take action, and having better mental and physical well being. But an important and neglected part of this experience is to avoid denying feelings of unhappiness or pain in the effort to just “stay positive.”
Contrary to what we are lead to believe, avoiding unhappiness doesn’t make us happier people. Masking negative emotions is a trap that can have some pretty nasty side effects. Think about it: We’re taught that certain emotions are bad. Anger and unhappiness are labeled as negative, in contrast to contentment, positivity, and joy. So what do we end up doing with these “negative” emotions? Shut them out. Because the idea is, we’re supposed to be better than that.
Labeling emotions as “bad” makes us feel like bad people for experiencing them, and can lead us to act out in ways that we can’t really make sense of. And yes, they are unpleasant, aren’t they? No one particularly likes feeling down, especially for longer periods of time.
No wonder so many of us try to numb out our feelings.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t learn to look at the positive side of things. It’s just important to accept the bad in the good the same way we accept the good in the bad.
Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it. – J.K. Rowling
It’s okay to be unhappy
It’s okay not to be happy all the time. No one is! Yes, not one person on this planet is happy all the time, even optimists.
Don’t compare how you cope with the things that happen to you with the way other people do. It can be helpful and inspiring to see how other people deal with their setbacks and tragedies, but allow yourself to fully experience what’s happening to you right now.
You can’t learn about yourself through comparison. You’ve got to do the work. You’ve got to feel and see things for yourself. So while some people may have a more positive outlook on life, others may be more pessimistic. And that’s okay. You don’t even need to label yourself as either. What’s important is to accept what you’re feeling in this moment.
If you feel that you are consistently negative to the point where you’re bringing yourself and others down, then perhaps it’s time for a change. But if you’re just going through a rough time, and you’re sad and/or pissed off, let yourself feel it. No, I mean, really feel it. Don’t self-destruct by shutting off your emotions. Sooner or later, they will catch up to you.
So ignore those quotes you’ve seen on Pinterest to always look on the bright side. It’s not all black or white. We’re all human, and you need to let yourself experience the full spectrum of emotions. And that’s more than okay – it’s necessary.
Keep things in perspective
Something that is important to remember is that things will pass. One thing that is guaranteed in life is that things, whether good or bad, won’t stay the same. And for the most part, they’ll end up being okay.
This, too, shall pass.
Simple, but really powerful. Being too strongly attached to what happens to you can throw you off course. Once you truly understand that change is inevitable, and that no matter how bad things are now, they’ll eventually get better, you’ll gain a much stronger sense of ease in your life.
Get back up… in your own time
It is really important to allow yourself feel sad and miserable. But it’s equally important not to keep yourself down by wallowing in your misery. You believe the stories you tell yourself, so don’t let a negative mindset completely take over your life. If you need help with this, talk to someone you trust or seek professional help. There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help, and you’ll feel so much better for it.
So dust yourself off when you’re ready – even before you’re fully ready to move on – and just get out there. Leave the house, go to a cafe, catch up with a friend, pick up a new (or old) hobby, and set things in motion again. In your own time, slow or fast, let yourself heal. And be patient.
Life is a cycle, and things come back to us so we can learn a little more from them each time. Sadness isn’t so bad, if you learn to sit with the pain for just a little bit and be kind to yourself. Respecting your emotions is an essential part in leading a healthy life. You can always control how you act on things. Emotions in and of themselves are not shameful. So don’t be afraid to let yourself feel.