Did you know October is "Positive Attitude Month"? Yes that right, I did not realize this was a thing until last year but then again there is an awareness day or month for so many things nowadays. As I reflected on what it means to have a positive attitude, I realized it is more than just saying nice things about yourself. Have you ever thought about something positive and you actually say it but deep down you actually do not believe it? See, I was raised in a culture where "faking it till you make" it was normalized. There was a sense of pride in showing strength, being private and not showing your vulnerable side to the world. My grandmother always used to say in my native language "usafambe uchiratidza nhamo pausu pako" which translates to "never wear your struggles on your face for the world to see." For me as a child this meant nomatter how tough things might be, always look like you have it together. The older I got I understood there was a deeper meaning in terms of preserving dignity and how people view you because who you were as a person set the standard on how society treated you. To me. this was the foundation of being a "strong black woman".
As I reflect back, I realize I have always been a positive person. If you ask people around me , they will tell you I am such an optimist. It dawned on me yesterday as I was pondering on ways I can think more positively, that I was already doing that since I was young BUT did I believe my positive thoughts? Unfortunately "acting the part" comes with consequences. We can put ourselves in situations where we are captives of our own lies. We have convinces ourselves for so long that we are this and that but not always do we deeply believe that. Sometimes I hear people who say something good about themselves and they follow it with this sarcastic laugh. Often they are waiting on the other person to validate what they have said but guess what? Even if that person does not, they have already saved themselves the embarrassment because "it was joke".
Positive thoughts are great, but you know what is greater? Believing those positive thoughts with the deepest part of your soul! A positive attitude can make any difficult situation less intimidating to deal with. It means looking at positive aspects of very challenging situations. Having a positive attitude helps with your motivation because you are always looking at a "glass half full" instead of "glass half empty". Negative attitudes especially from our past do nothing to help us where we are today. Holding on to negative thoughts from our past only hurts us more, it already happened and sometimes there isn't much, if anything we can do to change it. Now I am not saying stick your face in the sand and ignore your stressors, I am simply challenging you to face your stressors and go through them with a positive outlook.
Here are some ways to exercise a positive attitude this month:
Being better starts with believing that you are actually capable! When YOU believe, you CAN!
I grew up in a culture that seemingly swept a lot of issues under the rug. People were never open about their challenges and struggles especially when it comes to mental illness. I remember as a little girl seeing the stigma that came with having a mental illness and how differently people with mental illnesses were treated in society. It was almost like there was an unsaid "black people do not need therapy" misconception that everyone knew about. As a young girl, I was introduced to the "strong black woman" concept at a young age. The idea that you can handle anything that comes your way, the idea that you are stronger than you think and that whenever challenges come up, you girdle up and fight with everything in you. Naturally this was what you had to do and anything otherwise meant weakness and not being strong enough.
Fast forward some years down the road, I found myself in a foreign land, trying to navigate life as a young adult, adjusting to a different culture and trying to follow my dreams. As you may have guessed, major life transitions can be challenging for many and I was no exception. I attempted to apply what I knew and reminded myself that I was capable of handling anything that came my way. It worked for a while, but it wasn't too long before I found self feeling what I thought was weakness. Why am I sad? What do I feel like crying all the time? Why do I feel like I am losing grip in life? Why me? Why now? What do I do now? Where do I go from here? Why do I feel this way? These are probably questions we all ask ourselves at one point or another whenever life throws a curveball at us. What I wish someone had told me in this moment, was that it was ok to sit with those thoughts and have those questions as a reaction to what I was going through. From this transition and many others that followed I came to realize the importance of therapy.
The challenges that we go through in life are never meant for us to deal with them on our own. No man is an island and we all need to walk alongside someone, to share in struggles, to share in joy, to cry together and also to laugh together. We should not normalize masking pain within our communities. It only enforces the idea that it’s not okay for us to say we are hurting inside. It makes us believe that therapy was only made for others and not for us. What if you didn't have to do it alone? What if many others are also experiencing the same thing you are? What if someone can provide you practical tools to navigate your challenges? Would you let them?
Seeking therapy takes strength, it takes someone acknowledging their challenges and intention to make their situation better. It's acknowledging those difficult parts of our narratives that we often want to hide. Therapy is strength and not weakness.
“The irony is that we attempt to disown our difficult stories to appear more whole or more acceptable, but our wholeness—even our wholeheartedness—actually depends on the integration of all of our experiences, including the falls.”- Brene Brown