The toxic positivity movement. The words toxic and positivity in the same sentence? It is such an odd thing right?
It has been 8 days since my uterine cancer diagnosis and the last week I have sat down multiple times a day to attempt writing to process it all. I have been able to write little Facebook posts here and there but mostly I have felt like this is my brain:
It has felt so impossible to begin to put words down that encompass my thoughts and feelings with this diagnosis. I have always felt that my calling is to be authentic and vulnerable through the storms in my life. I remember being physically abused and going to my room and crying out to God to save me from my own family. I also remember telling God that if I have to go through this, please let it reach others for Him. I burn with the desire that my purpose be to touch others through my words and build them up. I want others to feel validated in their struggles and know that He is present and while we do not understand sometimes why we have to walk through the things we do, we are not alone.
There has been a cultural shift where we are expected to walk in toxic positivity through our lives. Social media has a bad rap, but I think social media is single handedly one of the most powerful tools to feeling connected with the world around us. Just this week I found a third cousin in Ireland that I didn’t even know existed. How freaking cool is that? With such a powerful tool, we are often faced with memes like this:
There is this incredibly crazy expectation to be inauthentically positive in social media and in real life.
No. Matter. What.
God forbid we reach out. We are accused of being dramatic, negative, and an attention seeker.
How many of you have struggled with when someone asks you how are you doing and you feel like all you can say is “good” and move on even though you feel like your life is falling apart?
Last week I went public about my cancer diagnosis which you can read here. I have been blessed to have a lot of encouragement and validation in the feelings I have been struggling with this week. I posted a more positive post a few days after going public and someone responded that they were happy to see my mindset had changed.
Um, excuse me, what? This is prime example of this toxic positivity mindset that our society pushes on others even when they are at their lowest of lows. Someone always has it worse, so your pain is invalid.
I’m sorry but no. God has my back, and I know that He is faithful. He pushed us into doing IVF so that we would find the cancer. I am confident that surgery will be enough, but that being said the surgery alone is a major deal. I am grieving not being able to carry the embryo we created through our IVF journey. I am absolutely scared about how this will effect my quality of life at the age of 31. I know that I will live through this, but what if I need radiation or chemo too? How will this effect my kids, my husband? I am strong. I can get through this, but I don’t want my kids to be traumatized by this. So many freaking emotions and thoughts flood my mind all hours of the day and night.
Another reaction I got this week was when someone heard my news after they told me something they were struggling with, their immediate reaction was “Oh I am so sorry, yours is much worse”.. they were being vulnerable in their struggle and because of this toxic positivity movement they immediately felt shame in their struggle. Come on! Your pain is just as valid as mine, full stop. You have as much right to your emotions and tears as much as I do. Do not sit there and invalidate what you are going through because society tells you someone has it worse. That is not how this works. We each have our own walk, our own mountains and valleys. We are freaking strong women, but sometimes we need to be weak and let others be strong for us.
Friends, I want to know when you are struggling. I may not know the best words to say, I may not have any advice, but I will be there. We are to love each other through our pain. We need to be strong, society tells us. We cover our struggles as if they are our shame.
I feel like this is the modern day equivalent of telling a woman way back when that her place was to keep sweet.
About one person in 5,000–15,000 dies by suicide every year (1.4% of all deaths), with a reported global rate of 10.7 per 100,000 population in 2015 (was 11.6 in 2008). This is heartbreaking y’all.
I am convinced a big part of this is the internal battle of needing love and community and not finding it. We have had people walk into our lives in the last three months that I am fully convinced that God has sent. He has used these people to keep us breathing when it felt like too much to handle. Every day since my diagnosis God has brought another person into my life, and I just feel so completely overwhelmed, in a good way, by the community I have always craved and never had that are surrounding us. I know I am not alone in this. We aren’t in this battle alone anymore.
This toxic positivity movement needs to stop.
This week people have come out of the woodwork to tell me how much my authenticity and vulnerable have not gone unnoticed and how much it has affected their lives personally. Every single time I have broken down into tears, because this is the first time in my entire life others have approached my vulnerability and boldness with love and appreciation.
I have spent the last 31 years being told that I am too negative, dramatic, attention seeking. We have to stop invalidating the people around us. We need to learn to love others through their wins and their loses.
It is ok to be vocal about your struggles, it is ok to need others to lift you up when you can’t lift yourself up. It is ok to be angry, heck even Jesus flipped tables against the unjust in the temple. Matthew 21:12-13
Life freaking sucks y’all, it does. Its not fair. I am angry, I am scared, I am freaking the eff out. But the beautiful thing about all of this is that I know I am not alone. I know there is someone out there reading these words with tears streaming down her face. Someone who has been living with the shame she has felt because society has told her that her feelings aren’t valid and she just needs to get over it. “Just be positive!”, they say. Inside she is falling apart and no one will be strong for her. They tell her that she can deal with whatever she is facing,but aren’t willing to help pick her up when she falls. We need more people to be willing to get into the muddy mess of life, and help pull others out of the despair.
I am done seeing others walk in shame every day. It is time we rise up, and be honest with our struggles and our fears. It is time we love others through their pain. I am afraid of what may happen if this toxic positivity movement gets stronger.
How many more lives we will lose because they felt such a deep pain of shame of “someone has it worse” and couldn’t find the way out. Jesus loves and accepts just us as we are.
Just. As. We. Are.
I will not let society steal that from me. Don’t let society steal it from you.