We Can Be Positive Without Repressing Our Emotions

by Jennifer Twardowski
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“I’m stronger because of the hard times, wiser because of my mistakes, and happier because I have known sadness.” ~Unknown

One day at my part-time job, my supervisor told me that my boss wanted to talk to me. This was completely unexpected, so I was a bit concerned. Everything had been going so incredibly smoothly in my life for the past week or two, and all I wanted was to keep that oh-so-wonderful peacefulness going.

But when I came into her office, I knew in my entire being that something was off. My stomach clinched up and I could feel my heart starting to sink down to my feet. As she spoke the words, “We are cutting your position, so we don’t need you anymore” I could feel my body wilting.

It was as if I were a flower that had just been placed out in the middle of the Sierra Desert without any water or trees in sight.

I could feel the tears in my eyes begin to emerge. I quickly resisted and held them in to maintain my composure and professionalism.

As I drove home and began to tell my boyfriend, friends, and family what had happened, I noticed that I continued to maintain this composure. No crying. No tears.

This was a bit weird for me, as in the past year or two it had been incredibly easy for me to breakdown and cry whenever I felt upset, stressed, or overwhelmed with emotion.

The next day, I shared my bad news once again with some peers. In that sharing I noticed something that I was doing: Every time sadness came up in my being, I denied it by making a comment like, “But this is good because…” or “Well, the good thing is that…”

I was restricting my emotions with my insistent thoughts telling me to focus on the positive.

In a world where New-Age positivity is running rampant in the self-help or self-improvement sections of bookstores, it can be easy for us to get so caught up in the “be positive” mindset that we end up repressing our emotions.

And in repressing our true emotions, we end up hurting ourselves more than we would have if we simply expressed them from the get-go.

However, at the same time, positivity is certainly not a bad thing. Striving to look on the bright side can help us reduce stress and accomplish things that wouldn’t have been able to if we had been sitting around sulking in self-pity, despair, or negativity for weeks or months.

So, how can we manage to find a balance of living in a positive mindset while still being true to our own emotions?

When the feeling emerges, just let it out!

Yes, there may be some circumstances where you may need to wait a bit, but be sure to let it out. If you feel a surge of sadness come over you, cry it out. If you need to talk about your feelings, confide in someone you trust.

Don’t tell yourself to “look on the bright side.” Don’t tell yourself to focus on all the positive things.

Just accept the feeling that you are experiencing and allow yourself to release it. You’ll notice that you feel better in doing so.

When the feelings feel “cleared,” speak to yourself kindly and positively.

If you lost your job, tell yourself throughout the day, “I am capable of getting another job” or “I may find something even more fulfilling.”

If you’ve just gone through a break-up, tell yourself, “I am worthy of a supportive relationship” or “I am creating loving relationships in my life.”

Shifting negative, worrisome thoughts to more empowering ones can help us gradually shift our energy from negative to positive.

Many self-help authors tell us to “be positive” because having a positive attitude helps us get more out of life. People are attracted to positive energy. And positivity helps keep us motivated to continue doing the things we need to do.

Remember that some feelings are going to linger—and that’s okay!

Even if you think you cried it all out or talked it through sufficiently, your feelings may linger.

You’re always going to experience sadness, worry, anger, and so on. It’s part of being human.

So remember to acknowledge and accept that. Though there are certainly positive, happy, successful people out there, know that they still have their low moments and hard days too.

The key to dealing with them successfully is to completely accept whatever you’re feeling, and consciously choose to work through it so you can let it go.

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