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Darkly Positive

In the mornings, I meditate, usually with an affirmation. For the past few weeks, I’ve been feeling a little bit off, a little bit down. As a result, the following came to mind as I decided what affirmation best suited me in this moment:

Because I create my own reality, I choose to focus on the positive.

I do believe that what we focus on is what shapes our perspective on life. If I choose to focus on the negative, it becomes all to easy to only see the negative around me. It exacerbates any sadness, frustration, or anger I may be feeling.

Caveat that can never be said enough: I think all of this is true in as much as it relates to your personal worldview. For example, all the positivity in the world cannot magically overcome institutions of social injustice or cure mental illnesses.

 

At the same time, I feel a lot of social pressure to always be cool, calm, and happy. Especially as a woman. Especially when in Brazil. Expressions of anger and sadness are different here. They’re weaknesses, vulnerabilities that you don’t share with just anyone. Actually, now that I think about it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone else cry in public, except me.

I may not always show it, but I lead with my emotions 100%. My immediate reaction is emotional first, logical later. The question on the tip of my tongue at all times is: but how does it make me feel?

Owning your emotions can be a powerful thing. As a society, we like things to be placed in neat little packages. Clean and clear cut. Cheerful. Instagramable. The endless highlight reels of our lives. Even though we all know that isn’t the truth, no matter how many captions and hashtags spell it out for us. So when I’m angry, I want to show I’m angry. When I’m hurt and sad, I own my vulnerability to the best of my ability. In my view, it doesn’t do anyone any favors – especially myself – to hide or sugarcoat my emotions.

It’s funny because the best examples I can think of are during Crossfit. Maybe it has to do with the intensity of the sport. If I feel anything at all during a WOD, when I’m already tired and pushing myself, it’s impossible for me to keep my emotions in. Especially in this different culture, which has no context for my reactions. A lot of times the coaches here will focus more on my male partner’s progress than my own since it’s not as common for women to be athletes. My rage ignites, but the language and cultural barriers don’t lead to any more understanding. But I’m not going to hide my anger. No way.

Yet sometimes this spiral of negativity, frustration, anger, sadness – all the “bad” feelings – gets out of control. I don’t want to deny my emotions, but it seems as if I’ve tipped the scale from accepting how I feel to cultivating what feels more comfortable, even if that comfort is rooted in my own pain or sorrow. Then I need to find a balance.

It’s a challenge because it’s a process. It’s not like flipping a switch, but shifting a mindset, no matter how slight. This morning, I told myself to focus on something positive, but I couldn’t think of anything in that moment because of where my head was. And something like “It’s a nice day out,” while pleasant, wasn’t enough to tip the scales.

That’s why I came to this phrase and keep mulling it over. Because I create my own reality, I choose to focus on the positive. The word choose is what the whole thought pivots around. Choosing to focus on positivity gives me agency in my own feelings and mind. I’m allowed to feel down or angry as much as I want. But at a certain point, I need to shift in order to feel healthy and happy. I need to choose, repeatedly in small moments throughout the day, to focus on the good.

Even on the little things. Especially the little things.

As I choose to remind myself of these little positives – like working with the windows open, making myself an iced coffee, listening to music, reading an interesting article, sharing a joke with a friend – I can turn the scales. The little things can add up into something big until I can let the negative pull me down less and less.

It’s a balance, a choice, and a practice. Sometimes the little things just don’t add up enough or sometimes there’s simply just not enough of them. Sometimes there’s one big victory that you ride until it’s time to work through the darker sides of yourself. The goal isn’t to always stay in one mindset, one particular emotion. The goal is to ride the waves and cultivate yourself to grow, whether it’s growth from pain or growth from happiness.

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