We all go through rough patches in our lives, and as we get older they seem to get rougher. More challenging circumstances arise that call on our growing bank of experience and wisdom to help us through. And yet, sometimes, we still feel defeated in the face of these tests. We go through phases of our life where things don’t work out the way we anticipated them to. We find ourselves overcome with feelings of failure, standing in front of walls to climb, not even able to see to the other side and questioning ourselves. The reason for my seemingly depressing introduction is two-fold. The first being that I myself have struggled with some of these realities in the face of my own work the past few months and felt it was my duty to open up about it. The second being that through all what we perceive to be hardship, is a lesson to be learnt. A lesson that when adopted into our perspectives on our lives, can really allow us to contextualize the issues at hand, and use them to grow as individuals.
I’d like to start by talking about this notion of being a “positive” person. People constantly approach me asking me how I’m always so positive. Even people that are close to me, question how it is possible to be positive all the time. “Do bad things not happen to you?You can’t just be positive all the time it’s unrealistic. You don’t know what it’s like to….” etc. I heard these comments and thought about them. It made me ask questions not about being a positive person, but about how that positivity was being portrayed, and where my outlook on life truly came from. For those of you who have been following my articles for the last few months, you will have noticed that I have tried to address these questions. Not by talking about negative topics instead of positive topics, but by dissecting negative situations and extracting from them a positive message.
I came to the realization that the positive attitude I carry so deeply does not exist because I don’t experience negative thoughts. Being a positive person, for me and for others like me, is not about being blind to negativity. There is a balance to be struck between the two, without one, the other can not exist. Rather, being a positive person to me means being able to believe in the power of a positive outcome, even in the face of a hard situation. I’ve trained myself to know that when I go through something difficult, I am not failing, I am not insufficient, I am not unworthy, but rather I am growing. I am testing the knowledge and the wisdom that I’ve gained, to see how it can carry me through the hardship I’m experiencing. That to me, is what being a “positive” person is all about. The last few months I’ve struggled with some issues tied to my work both in school and out of school, and my ability to do the things I really enjoy all the time. The last few months have tested me, and I’ve failed the test on multiple times. What gets me through it, however, is a reminder that the feelings I’m feeling are feelings of change. They are the growing pains of life, and from them I will learn. That is what it means to be a positive person.
Context is an important part of all this. Being able to understand the broader picture is crucial to placing your experiences in the timeline of your life. A hardship at 21 might end up being the solution to a problem you’ll face when you’re 35. There is longevity to our experiences, and when they don’t make sense in the moment, you have to trust that their time to make sense will come. Everything you know how to do now, was a challenge to you at one point.
The effectiveness of a positive mindset comes not when things are going well, but rather when things are not going so well. Train yourself to see your challenges in context, and trust yourself enough to know that what you are experiencing is temporary. It’s okay to feel consumed by negative experiences – that’s normal. It’s how we react to them that builds character and helps us grow into well rounded individuals.
2 Comments Add yours
ZE, I’ve never thought, as others you say have mentioned to you, that you convey positivity without considering how you get there. I am 71, and I continue to grow every day. Like you, I know the outcome won’t match a current state of possible angst, uneasiness, or anxiety about the future. However, it took me a lot longer than you did to realize that!
But that’s another part of your discussion that’s perhaps not been revealed. Growth happens at different paces depending when awareness of change is a natural aspect of being human. May I insert a common word used nowadays: it’s a Zen life! There is, indeed, a “flow” of sources of energy from everywhere. Those sources can be strongly pushed away, avoided, and ignored…but the “water level” still rises all around you. Nowadays, I can enjoy the swim, but that wasn’t always so!
Your posts are always vital in pointing to the ways and paces of personal growth. Additionally, I appreciate the changes of scenery in your accompanying photos.
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Thank you for your thoughtful response. As always you shed a unique light on all my work, something you’ve done my whole life. The comparison to Zen is extremely interesting to me. Drawing on cultural values and practices that help us navigate difficulty are incredible examples to follow.
Thank you again!