Social media comes with a lot of triggers pertaining to food and body image and if you've been following me for awhile, you know I address this a lot. We are also exposed to various triggers regarding the self. One of my favourite triggers to address is the expression “just think positive”. This appears harmless at first and there is good intention behind this statement. We want people to feel happy after all! However, it completely dismisses that we will experience several different emotions in our lives, and we need to deal with the hard stuff to create a purposeful life!
“Just think positive” - Wait a minute? Are we saying as human beings we don’t have a right to our challenging feelings and emotions? Are we not allowed to experience the complexity of being *gasp* human? Unfortunately, much of society feels that emotions such as anger, sadness, fear, etc are "bad". In labelling these emotions as "bad" rather than allowing them to exist without judgement, we actually create and suppress shame.
The great thing about challenging emotions is that when we allow them, we can learn from them! Personal development requires processing challenging emotions. There's no getting around that and self growth will not always be comfortable. We can’t embrace abundance by hiding behind fake smiles and reciting a bunch of BS affirmations. Now, I’m not saying that gratitude and positive affirmations don’t have their place. They do, if they’re executed strategically and meaningfully while we are taking the initiative to truly work on ourselves.
What I am saying is we don’t grow by resisting the challenging emotions that we have a right to FEEL. So how can we benefit from our negative thoughts, feelings and emotions?
Top 5 Tips & Tricks
- When a negative thought pops into your head, allow it without judgement. YES! You have permission to experience feelings and emotions that society has been brain washed to believe are “wrong”
- Understand that the negative thoughts are here to tell you something. It’s not pleasant to sit with challenging emotions, but it’s one of the greatest teachers in self development. Feel it to heal it, you know? First, identity the emotion and contributing emotions you're struggling with, then FEEL YOUR PAIN. I help my clients through this process by providing them with an emotional wheel to reference. This tool shows which feelings and emotions are linked together, and helps us discover what lead us to the really challenging ones. For example, feeling discouraged can lead to confusion which can intensify the emotion fear
- Find the lesson. Okay, so let’s say you feel angry for example. Perhaps the anger began in skepticism, which lead to criticism and intensified anger. There’s nothing wrong with that, anger is a natural emotion that we all have a right to feel (and one of my favourite emotions to teach others about). Okay, so once you've allowed the anger to exist without judgement, what can you learn about yourself and the scenario you found yourself in? How can you better manage a similar situation down the road, or how could you change your perspective? Maybe the anger is telling you that a person in your life is bringing you down and that you need to detach from them? There is always a lesson. In fact, this question changed my entire perspective on anger and how I learned to manage it "What am I making this anger mean about ME?" Interestingly enough, anger is typically an expression of self judgement
- Become an observer of yourself. Have you ever felt upset about something then blamed other parties and external factors? Of course you have because we all have! Step outside of yourself and observe yourself. How did your actions and interactions play a role in your situation and as such, your reaction? What do you need to work on shifting to create a more positive longterm outcome? This may involve creating more personal boundaries, strengthening your own values, facing your own fears, etc. It really depends from one case to the next
- Take personal responsibility. They should really teach personal responsibility in kindergarten. Luckily, people like myself teach it to adults all the time. Own your feelings and emotions! There’s raw truth in them and you have a right to them. However, it is your responsibility to work through them and clear them, and know when you need to reach out and ask for help in this process. Acknowledge when you need to apologize to other people. Conflict with another person is a two way street. The only thing standing in the way of an apology is shame. No, not pride, shame. Here's a helpful life tip - people LOVE receiving apologies when they are due. Think back to a time someone owned up to their mistakes and apologized to you. Didn't it feel good? On the other hand, have you ever felt like someone should apologize to you, but the apology never comes? Find the compassion for that person is struggling with shame. You don't have to condone their behaviour, but try on their perspective and discover how to move forward. Learning how to appreciate other people's perspectives, even when you don't agree with them is very freeing and a key component in forgiveness
Just like physical exercise, self development is only successful when executed with consistency and dedication. It's highly fascinating to dive into the subconscious part of your brain. Trust me, once you start you will be hooked as self development is an ongoing process.
The next time you’re having a bad day and someone on social media tells you to “just think positive” don’t allow it to make you feel wrong or unworthy. The term ‘self love’ gets misused a lot out there in LaLa-Insta-Land. Because true self love is a place where we live in humble acceptance of the self, negative thoughts and all. It takes courage to love the parts of ourselves we don’t like and transform but that is the road we take to empowerment.