There’s a page on Instagram that I follow that belongs to a therapist – her handle is @lisaoliveratherapy – and she is awesome. She’s truly #TherapistGoals! If you don’t already follow her, I recommend you check her out she has something for everybody on there. Anywho, the other day she posted about strength and positivity and it really put some things in perspective for me. The photo read “Your strength is not determined by how positive you are. Your strength is determined by how much space you hold for ALL parts of you.” In her caption she went on to dissect that quote and explain in depth how it applies to life. The first line of the caption read “There is a myth that positivity is strength.” This post really spoke to me especially in my current situation and I’m here to debunk that myth!
I felt the need to write about this because over the past few months I’ve been getting messages and comments speaking to how strong, positive, and inspirational I am. Now, while I may be all those things to some people, I want to make something clear (because I think transparency is important, especially when I know so many people going through situations themselves) this statement applies to me also. My positive outlook is a focal point for a lot of my posts and my interactions with those who see me in real life but it is not a direct result of me being strong and it doesn’t determine my strength. I want people watching me to know that you don’t have to be positive in the face of adversity. I also want you to know that I’m not always positive myself. The truth of the matter, is my mom died and it sucks, it is miserable, heartbreaking, hard, frustrating, and lonely. It is a lot of bad things and I can acknowledge that. It makes me resentful at times and mad at literally everyone at other times. Those feelings are there and they are real but for me personally it makes me feel better to at least try to find the good in every situation. It’s my coping mechanism, it helps me process what’s happening, and it is what allows me to find peace. Nonetheless, I definitely have my days. I’m not always positive but I am ALWAYS strong!
In Psychology, we learn that correlation does not prove causation, the same is true in this instance. Your level of positivity does not determine how strong you are. Furthermore, you can still be strong but not be or feel positive. They are not one in the same. You can also be positive and not be or feel strong, these two characteristics are interchangeable, you don’t have to be all or nothing. It is okay to feel angry, sad, frustrated, or hurt at what has happened or what is happening. It is okay to acknowledge that a situation sucks or that it’s just overall a negative situation to be in. Give yourself the space to feel whatever it is you feel, even if those feelings aren’t too pretty. That’s what Lisa meant when she said “Your strength is determined by how much space you hold for ALL parts of you.” Those negative feelings are still valid. You don’t have to force yourself to feel happy about something that you truly aren’t happy about. You don’t have to put on a brave face and disregard your actual feelings all in the name of strength. While you may not want to dwell in an area of negativity, those feelings are still 100% valid, 100% yours, and you should own them. True strength lies in acknowledging those feelings and making the conscious effort to continue putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward. That is it. True strength does NOT lie in how much positivity you exude.