Be like a sunset

When I was in high school and college I always tried to be optimistic, positive, and NICE! But instead of making me feel good, it actually felt pretty bad.

I thought that optimism meant being positive no matter what even if I was blinding myself and ignoring how I truly felt.

My old definition of optimism:

Scenario #1: HUGE EXAM

Internal Dialogue #1. “You know what? It doesn’t matter that I have only 8 hours until my Biochemistry exam and I haven’t studied at all.  I’ll overcome it anyway. I’m so SMART! I’ll be fine. I’ll just try and get an A and study REALLY hard all 5 chapters right now.”

Scenario #2: BODY GRUMBLING

Internal Dialogue #2. “I don’t like my tummy… /Alia! You shouldn’t say that! Your tummy is fine!/ No it’s not./ YES IT IS. You shouldn’t say that! Everything is GREAT. LOVE YOUR BODY”

Scenario #3: NOTICING A PATTERN

Internal Dialogue #3.  “I’ve been feeling really low for the last 6 months. But maybe that’s how I’ve always been. I’m sure if I keep trying, everything will be better. Yes, everything’s fine.”

So while these thoughts may seem perfectly innocent and well-intentioned, what happened is, these ‘optimistic’ thoughts actually ended up hurting me. Why? Because I was pushing aside how I really felt. And trying to mask the feeling with a false layer of sugar-coated OPTIMISM.

That just kept me in denial. And feeling like shit.

True optimism feels really good. Not by masking what’s wrong, but by shifting focus to what’s right.

The point is not to fight the dark. We are living creatures of dark and light. flawed and perfect. wrong and right. And that’s the natural duality of who we are.

But you see, fighting the dark takes a lot of effort and leaves us feeling drained. What I am proposing here is a mix of acceptance and a little bit of searching. Searching for what is right, what is good, what IS working.

DSC_0164

See! Dark and light is so beautiful together. Like a sunset. See what I’m going for here? Get it? Hm? Hm? Ok, nevermind.

Let’s look back at the Scenarios with my new found belief of optimism:

Internal Dialogue Shift #1. Damn, this is a lot of material! Um, okay. What chapters do I feel more comfortable with than others? Probably better to focus my efforts on the material I feel excited about and fortify my knowledge on those areas. So, maybe I won’t do perfectly on the exam, but I’ll do well on some sections and hopefully that will compensate. In the last hour of study, I can do a sweeping overview of everything else. (Being realistic in this scenario gives me more fuel because now I have smaller chunks to focus my time and effort on)

Internal Dialogue Shift #2. Grr. I don’t like the way my tummy looks.  Hey wait, look at how lovely my waist looks when I straighten my back and lengthen my posture. Mmm, and my legs. They are so tan and long and muscular. (See what I’m doing here? I’m not trying to fight the voice that says it doesn’t like my tummy. But rather, I hear it, and then bring my attention to what I do like)

Internal Dialogue Shift #3. Okay, Ali, it seems you’re having a really hard time living here. What can I do to help you? I know you’ve been considering that you might have depression. Why don’t you reach out to some women and ask if they know any good therapists here so you can get that checked out? (Now, I’m admitting how I REALLY feel instead of running away from it. Acknowledging it gives me power, because now I am in a position to do something to help it)
Some of my favourite ways to bring LIGHT to a situation

1. Love Letters (to myself, to a partner, to my mother…)

2. Gratitude Lists (I do this at least 3x a week and share it with a huge community of women. It’s an incredible practice!)

3. 10 Frustrations and 20 Happys (I have no idea how this game got started, but I think one day, I decided to rant to my guy in 10 pulls and then end it with 20 things I am happy about. We do it every now and then and it’s a lovely shift if there’s something occupying my mind.)

This is a muscle that I will be working on my whole life. Seeing the glass as half-full rather than half empty. But it’s a practice.

So dear friends, what are your favourite ways to feel optimistic or better about a situation? Do you find yourself pushing away how you feel in efforts to be ‘positive?’ Share below!!! And thank you for reading :)

xo
Alia

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7 thoughts on “Be like a sunset

  1. I like your sunset metaphor and have definitely tried ways of doing this before. Back when I was an RA we used to start our meetings with ‘roses and thorns’. I think knowing what’s good and bad in your life is important and sharing is equally vital. In that safe space, there was nothing I couldn’t share and yet I never felt that anyone was prying – it was only what I wanted to offer. Hearing about other peoples’ ups and downs was very grounding for me as well.

    A friend and I used to share one happy thing per day. It wasn’t to say that everything else was perfect, just that every day had at least one good thing to share. We lived in different states but we still shared every single day for over a year via phone calls, text, email, or letters.

    Since college, I found myself getting into the opposite habit of what you described – I began to complain a lot. Well, it was a lot for me. I was unhappy with several things in my life and the negativity was only made worse by dwelling on things. So, two years ago, I gave up complaining for lent. Now this had a rule to guide it which I think is in keeping with what you said. It wasn’t that I was never going to acknowledge bad things happening, I just decided that after talking something out (usually with my then boyfriend, now husband), I couldn’t bring it up again with him or anyone else until I had taken action to make the situation better. For me, complaining wasn’t about the observation, it was about the repetition with no effort on my part to improve what it was I was bemoaning. This change made me more a person of action and energized my significant other, too, as he knew the goal of the conversations was to find a thoughtful plan to carry out.

    Regardless of the method, I think the examination is good. Thanks for sharing, Alia!

    • Andrea! I love that action rule. What a powerful practice in a relationship and/or marriage. You are so self-directed and I’ve always admired that about you :) thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. They are invaluable here :)

  2. I love this post! I was raised to put aside my actual feelings and just act positive all the time. It’s exhausting and completely inauthentic. Embracing both the light and dark of our lives may be more difficult, but it is so much more real.

  3. Oh, Alia, this is Beautiful. It’s so eloquently stated and so right on target. So, I shouldn’t cover a pile of dog shit with powdered sugar and say “oh how pretty!”? No? Instead, ahhhh the green grass surrounding the dog shit is so lush and beautiful! (Can you tell I’m sitting in front of a dog park as I type this.) :D Seriously, this post is Divine. I never thought about this distinction re: the real definition of optimism. THIS IS SO HELPFULL. Thank you for writing it. You are a Genius, that is for sure.

    • Ohh Rachel, your comment really makes me feel GOOD! I started this blog so I could share what I have to offer. You receiving it is the best feeling on earth! Thank you goddess :)

      Sent from my iPhone

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