A couple weeks ago I had an accident. While I was walking across the road on my way to university I was hit by a slow-moving taxi. I knocked three teeth out, fractured some bone in my jaw and broke my toe when I hit the road, but other than that my injuries were pretty minor. I didn’t lose consciousness, I had some surgery and I’m recovering. I’m very grateful that it wasn’t any worse than this, that I’m healing and I have some temporary false teeth.
I want to talk this week about toxic positivity. Why did I begin with a story about me getting hit by a car? Was it just an irrelevant addition to gain sympathy? Nope, I’m trying to make a point about perspective. After it happened and even as it was happening, I was kind of in denial about it all. I insisted I was fine even though I very obviously wasn’t. I was determined not to let it get me down; to stay positive. I went to uni the next day as a way to show myself everything was okay! That it was so lucky there was no brain trauma, I could walk around, I didn’t have any badly broken bones… All the while I was guzzling painkillers in order to hold up the pretence. But there was blood and there was pain. There was difficulty speaking and anxiousness at crossing that road again. It wasn’t as rosy as I tried to convince myself and everyone else.
It’s great to be able to look on the bright side. But no good will come of ignoring problems. If anyone has ever broken something that didn’t belong to them, you know you can’t just hide the broken pieces and pretend the object never existed. You have to face the music; admit that it’s broken, then fix it or get a new one. Don’t be a hero and pretend you’re fine when you aren’t. It’s silly. Who are you trying to fool? If you have a hole in your teeth and don’t get a filling, it’s going to get worse and rot down to the root. If you have a badly broken bone and don’t get it set correctly, it’s going to heal wonky and continue to cause pain.
The reality is, there is suffering and pain in the world. The is sickness, there is poverty, there are disasters. We can’t ignore it and hide behind a pretence of positivity and optimism. It’s toxic because it creates an environment where people don’t want to admit pain because they’re afraid to bring everyone down. People don’t want to seem weak for feeling discomfort. Guess what? You have pain receptors for a reason! We experience pain so that we can take action and remove ourselves from whatever is causing the distress. Fear is okay. Sadness is okay. Disappointment is okay. Look after yourself.