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.
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.
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 :)