Week 45: Undoing toxic positivity
When the sun goes down and you look back on the day, go easy on yourself
Nearing the end of my (second) Masters journey, I can’t help but feel a little anxious about what might happen next, as I try to figure out what the future holds. The process of applying and interviewing (not to mention getting rejected) for potential jobs is lengthy, and at most times, mentally taxing.
Add on to that the news about the Meta layoffs worldwide, and the plight of those affected on LinkedIn, especially those who were hired on work visas and are now facing the risk of having to leave the country they uprooted their lives to be in; this week hasn’t been easy.
So I took to writing. I had initially drafted this week’s story to be one full of hope, one that quoted Diana Ross’ The Land Before Time (trailer below) theme song.
(On a side note: The Land Before Time was one of my favourite movies as a child.)
But something felt off, something felt a little inauthentic. And I realised it might just be the lack of empathy, the lack of acknowledgement that sometimes we go through rough patches in life, and it’s okay to feel the way we do in the moment.
“When the sun goes down and you look back on the day, go easy on yourself. A little forgiveness goes a long way.” — Austin Kleon
Don’t get me wrong. I believe optimism is a good trait to have, I believe being hopeful in times of uncertainty is good. Most change happen because there is hope that things can get better.
But I also believe optimism and being dispirited are not the opposite ends of a spectrum. We don’t have to be either-or; we can allow ourselves the space to feel disappointed, disheartened, but at the same time, still have hope for the future (varying degrees of hope, perhaps). Perhaps what we need is a little more compassion, a little more forgiveness, for others and for ourselves.
Here’s a line I really liked from Austin Kleon’s Keep Going (I recently finished another of his book, Steal Like an Artist, highly recommended, by the way) — “When the sun goes down and you look back on the day, go easy on yourself. A little forgiveness goes a long way.”
Social media and the internet can be a little discombobulating (don’t you just love the way that word sounds) at times. Every scroll is filled with success stories and hearty congratulations, so much so that we forget that life is actually made up of more than that.
So the next time you find someone (or yourself) down in the dumps because something had just happened in their (your) life, instead of saying — “Stay positive, everything gets better”, maybe try — “Your feelings are valid”, or “How can I help?”
Life, after all, is multi-dimensional.
“Our contract with life is a contract that is brokered with fragility, and with sadness, and with anxiety. And if we’re going to authentically and meaningfully be in this world, we cannot focus on one dimension of life and expect that focusing on that dimension is going to then give us a well-rounded life.” — Susan David
I packed up 8 years of my life in Melbourne in December 2021 to move to Singapore to be closer to home and also to explore the world outside of what I already knew. This is a year-long series of reflections on #myvoyagehome. Thank you for being a part of my journey.