Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Power of Positivity

There aren't enough words in human existence to explain how much today's society irks me. I wasn't even ten minutes into my day before turning on the news and watching our country fall apart. I wasn't thirty minutes into the next hour that I heard my first shred of gossip. Within the next twenty minutes I'd changed outfits twice (fearing that my original two weren't adequate for the job I was still trying to prove myself in), re-fixed my hair four times (it was not cooperating...), and spilled a cup of coffee all over the countertop. Great.

All of which happened before I walked out the door for work. Remember, I work with small children, quite possibly the most perceptual humans on the planet. Good moods are crucial for teachers and nannies, and when children perceive a bad day they're bound to ask, "What's wrong?" Except they usually word it something like, "Why is there a stain on your shirt?" or "Miss Harper, you have two different earrings in!" Laughter usually erupts and I usually take a breath to remind myself that children make the most considerate statements in the most inconsiderate ways. They notice when my life isn't as together as it normally is and it worries them. They just don't understand that it's more polite to pretend they don't notice. 

In our best attempt to speak out about things that matter, we've become brutal towards each other.

Yes, the things that happen in politics matter, and the things our politicians stand for matter, and the things we support matter. But that does not give us the right to diminish, attack, or fight with people who stand for other things. Everybody has an opinion on everything, these days. And we get so offended when someone else disagrees! But if no one can change your mind on the issues you feel passionately about, what makes you think you'll be able to change their mind on the issues they feel passionately about?

Likewise, the way we look and present ourselves matters, but that doesn't give us the right to comment and judge those who look different than us, whether it be weight, style, or simple accessory choices. And yes, the way negative situations affect us matter, but that doesn't give us the right to shove our negativity onto others. Just because you're having a bad day doesn't mean you have the right to infect someone else's good one.

I've started following a few new blogs. I've unfollowed some of my old ones. And there's two things I've noticed since making this change:

1) I don't share my own struggles and experiences half as often as other bloggers do, which not only hurts the personality in the post, but also diminishes the realness of the point. 
I leave my writing bluntly professional, using vernacular that I know my readers will respond to rather than the tone and vocabulary present in my more private pieces. That's a fine thing to do for personal essays, but the goal of this blog was never for you to read a post and say Oh yeah, that's a good point, only to forget about it three minutes later.

The goal was for you to see a person behind the words. Somehow, I've created a beauty distortion platform where my readers think I'm some sort of expert on this stuff. I'm not. I'm no therapist, no psychologist, no dietician, and certainly no doctor. I don't work in the fashion industry, I wouldn't know the first thing photography, and I can assure you that there's no one on this Earth who would feel more uncomfortable modeling than the girl typing this post.

I don't write about beauty distortion because I'm an expert at conquering it. I write about beauty distortion because I'm a victim who is fighting it. Just like you.

2) My life has become significantly brighter. 
I can't tell you how many posts I used to read about the "right" way to do things. The right way to lose weight. The right way to start a blog. A "quick and easy confidence booster." Or "5 guaranteed tips to fight insecurity!"

Let me save you the time. Those five tips don't work and I didn't learn anything about myself except that I haven't done a single thing the "right" way. In an effort to improve myself, I wound up feeling more and more inadequate. I'm guessing you've felt that way, too.

So let me tell you what I do know:

There is no quick and easy confidence booster. Confidence takes time.

Nothing is guaranteed when it comes to insecurity. That'll take time, too.

There's not always a "right" way to do something.

After reading all these articles, I was reminded of a recent debate I had in a classroom full of other teachers. There is no one correct way to teach. To learn. To play. And no, there's no one correct way to look. To love. To live. Standardization is not, and has never been, the answer. Not in school, and not in beauty. Just as different children learn in different ways to accomplish different goals, women look / act / think differently to fulfill different purposes. We've got to stop tearing each other down for the sole reason that our friends' / mother's / daughter's / etc. plans look differently than ours. Those women were designed for other things.

I stopped reading posts about the right ways to do things because I'd come to accept that I was never going to do it "right." I was never going to complete life the way other people wanted me to. But I wasn't called to fulfill their plans. I was called to fulfill God's plan. And I was designed perfectly for that.

Now I'll be the first to admit, God's plan was the last thing on my mind when that cup of coffee splashed across the countertop. After a huff and a silent curse, I was convinced my day was ruined. And over what? A cup of coffee.

It's amazing how quickly our gentle, quiet spirit can be turned into brutal negativity. All it takes is a cup of coffee. Not that I wake up ready to sing and make my bed with the birds like a Disney princess or anything, but once that cup of coffee spilled, my ears were steaming. I was out for blood. And it wasn't the cup of coffee that had done it, it was was everything leading up to the cup of coffee. The feelings of inadequacy that rushed through me when I couldn't get my hair to straighten. The frustration that consumed me when I realized I had a closet full of nothing to wear. The eye rolls that accompanied the newscaster's speech about the current presidential election.

I wasn't even an hour into my day and I was ready to escape from it. And that's no way to live.

I'll never forget the day I met my dad for breakfast at a local restaurant. I had just returned from a doctor's appointment, certainly not my preferred way to begin my day off; I can't stand doctors. Especially ones with needles. But after three tries for blood work and a full physical, it was time for breakfast and that restaurant was packed. Grouchy old men complained about the wait time, old ladies were fighting to hear the cashier over the commotion, and middle aged women were struggling to keep their parents in high spirits while entertaining their kids. Realizing the poor host was already having a terrible day and it was only 9:30 a.m., I waltzed up with the biggest grin on my face. "Hi!" I said in my perkiest voice, despite how my morning had gone, "There'll be two of us, but take your time."

The man looked stunned. Speechless, actually. But he regained his composure quickly and said, "It's so nice to have a smiling face around here."

We were seated right away.

I'm not going to ask you to imagine how much better the world would be if we could all remain a little more positive. That sounds so stupidly cliché. But I am going to ask you to imagine how much smoother your day would go if you were met with half as much positivity as you were negativity. You never know how much one smile means to you until no one is smiling. You don't realize how much you enjoy laughing until you haven't laughed in awhile. You don't realize how blissfully joyful it is to be happy until your circumstances are robbing your happiness.

And what I've learned more than anything? That smile, that laughter, and that happiness has to start with you. I can't tell you how many times I've heard my parents and roommates tell stories about the pessimists involved at their jobs. Half of them work in a hospital. The others work in public schooling. I'm sure you can only imagine some of the venting sessions that have taken place in my living room. It's hard to slap a smile on your face and react with genuine kindness when the rest of the world is meeting you with hatred. But someone has to start it, and it might as well be you.

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