You know someone like the person I’m about to talk about. It doesn’t matter what awful thing has just happened, they always have this giant smile on their face and a super cheery attitude. Car wreck fifteen minutes after mailing off the last payment? Oh yay! I get a new car! Someone died? Lucky them, they get to visit with all the other relatives who have already died. We’re out of coffee? I’ve been just dying to try that new tea!
Those people exhaust me. I’m not entirely sure that we are of the same species, and I suspect their attitude is chemically induced. I refuse to believe that people are naturally that full of endorphins. I make up little fantasies that they’re so sunny all the time to hide the fact that they have a basement museum full of torture devices.
You can call me cynical. I won’t deny it.
But I want to get all negative for a moment about positivity. I’m not talking about a good attitude – you should have that – or a positive outlook – you should have that, too. I’m talking about toxic positivity. The kind of manufactured, relentless positivity that masks reality and denies the existence of real ugliness.
Toxic positivity tells you to smile when you don’t feel like it. Toxic positivity tells you that everything will be all right when, in fact, it won’t – maybe you just got a stage four cancer diagnosis, or you found out that your house is in foreclosure. Toxic positivity tells you that with the right attitude anything is possible. Um, no. I can have any attitude I want, but I will never be a supermodel, a ballerina, or six feet tall.
Seriously. When I’m sad, and you tell me to put on a happy face, you’re telling me that my sadness has no validity and I should cover it up. When I’m anxious and you tell me to calm down, you are telling me that I am choosing to be anxious. When you tell me to smile when I don’t feel like it, you’re telling me I should face the world with a face that does not reflect the real me. “Oh no,” you’re saying. “No one likes you when you’re sad or angry or worried. They only like the happy you! Cover up those feelings like a good girl!”
I’m happy a lot. I have this really obnoxious, loud laugh that embarrasses my kids because of how far it carries in inappropriate places. I have no interest in learning how to tame it. When I laugh, I laugh hard. I throw back my head to straighten my neck so it doesn’t get impeded by the curve in my throat. When I cry, I cry the same way. Go big or go home. If that makes me unladylike, so be it. It’s not the only thing.
I feel what I feel. You feel what you feel. Let’s make a pact – let’s not tell each other how to feel, or whether or not we should express what we feel. If you don’t like the less-than-joyful expression on my face at any given moment, just wait. I’ll be happy soon enough. Sooner, I think, if you let me process – and express — what I’m feeling right away.
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Lori B. Duff is an award-winning author who practices law on the side. Her latest book, “If You Did What I Asked in the First Place” was awarded the Gold Medal for humor in the Foreword INDIES awards in 2019. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook. For more blogs written by Lori, click here. For more information about Lori in general, click here. If you want Lori to do your writing for you, click here. If you want Lori to help you market your book, click here.