*Warning: adult language ahead!
I was recently called out for being too negative.
It was said to me through teary eyes, and a quivering lip.
In that moment—thanks to the magic of body language—I understood that the person I was speaking to was not ready to face and deal with an uncomfortable truth.
There was a desperation to cling to hope, and I don’t judge that.
Denial is a powerful force, and I have found myself deep in its clutches one too many times in my life. I know that it’s hard to accept the reality of things that are hurting us.
Although my words were painfully honest, there was an inability and an unwillingness to delve into meaning, and I was then labelled negative.
I don’t care about the label, but I give all the fucks about the implications.
I give a fuck about the fact that on our quests for self-development—mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional—we are still expecting to be told what we want to hear, versus what we may need to hear.
That toxic positivity is still being promoted, while the “negative” is being negated, and where do we grow? We grow in the shitty situations of our lives because they force us out of comfort zones.
Fortunately, this friend and I were keenly aware of the fact that we were spiraling into disconnection, and that we needed to take a break from each other to soothe heightened emotions of defensiveness.
But I know on a core level that constantly connecting with each other in these kinds of states is damaging, lacks substance, and is disrespectful to support.
So, what is real, I’m-here-for-you kind of support?
For me, it’s when someone calls me out on my own bullshit. When someone challenges me when I am not living to my values, and vice versa. If you can dish it out, be open to taking it.
We don’t need cheerleaders in our life, blindly supporting our every move, and giving us encouragement to keep fucking shit up. How does that foster genuine caring? It doesn’t.
I remember a time when I was writing a string of articles for Elephant Journal, strong, powerful narratives, and then being confronted by a friend.
These were her words:
“Mands, I love your articles; they are strong, enlightened, and the crass I know only you can pull off. But in all honesty, they would have more meaning for me if you were living your words.”
Did hearing that make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside? Fuck no. I was immediately hurt. I could feel my anger welling up, but fortunately my head took over.
Her candid words showed me one important thing—that she respected me enough to be honest with me, even if it meant putting herself in an uncomfortable position, unsure of how I would react.
She was challenging me to take a good, hard look at how I wasn’t living my values. And let’s be honest, it wouldn’t have triggered anger or any sort of uncomfortable emotion if I had believed that I was living true to myself, and most importantly, what I was writing about.
She cared enough about me not to tell me what I wanted to hear; she served me what I needed to hear, and her criticism was the kick in the ass I needed. And I can tell you, I have a far deeper respect for her and her opinion.
When she speaks, I listen—because I know I am not going to receive some sugarcoated feedback with the aim of keeping my ego stroked and my feelings unhurt. Interestingly, her praise now means more to me because I know it’s genuine.
Praise and criticism are intricately linked; we can’t have one without the other.
We can become addicted to praise and validation, and it fosters an environment of false support and that detrimental “I’ll just be positive about it” mentality. It does nothing but keep us stuck.
The “negative,” those places that make us afraid, uncomfortable, and vulnerable, those are the places that need more of our love, our focus, and our dedication. Ignoring them, setting them aside in order to be more “positive” is how we keep ourselves trapped in destructive patterns.
Let’s give each other truth, no matter how raw we may find it to be. This honesty, respect, and love is how we truly show up for others and ourselves.