In recent times I’ve come across this phrase “positive vibes only” more and more often. On the surface it sounds positive, kind of keep your negativity or toxicity out of my space – how can that be a bad thing?
Well, I’ve noticed a shift. Rather than keep away toxicity, it’s more keep away negativity of any sort, any criticism (deserved or not) and only bring lovely fluffy things that make me feel nice.
There’s 2 problems I spot with this:
- no human is perfect, we must not become too defensive when criticism is rightly deserved, or when people are giving us constructive advice.
- negativity, hardship and trials are part of the human experience. We must develop ways of managing hard times because they will come along.
The defensive ego
Often when we’re defensive, it’s our ego doing the talking. We feel that we’ve been transgressed and that’s just not ok! It elicits anger in us, frustration, arrogance. But it comes from a place of fear and anxiety.
The reason we react with aggression (yes being defensive is a form of aggression, no you don’t have to go round fighting people for it to be aggression – it comes in many forms) is because we feel threatened.
Our ego is afraid.
Afraid of being discovered for being stupid, an imposter, a failure, someone simply not good enough.
Now we don’t make a conscious decision to believe these things about ourselves, they come from our experiences, our narratives and the many many generations of genes we’ve inherited.
So our ego is afraid, defensive…so now wonder trials and hardships feel intolerable, something we can’t survive, cope with.
The human experience
Let’s not be naïve, the world can be a harsh place. People can be harsh; situations can feel unbearable. The more that we say we cannot accept that this is part of the human experience, the less we are able to cope with it.
So how? How do we become less afraid of our own human inadequacies, the trials that life hands us?
No not the fluffy self care with bubble baths and cake (although they’re nice, don’t give them up!)
The compassion I’m talking about is courageous, full of wisdom and curiosity.
Courage to face your struggles
Imagine a time where you've struggled, it could be a time of anxiety, anger or even just overwhelm. A time where you've maybe been present in a way you wouldn't want to be, or reacted in a way you wouldn't want to.
Wisdom and curiosity
Given your life experiences, what you've learnt, what you haven't learnt, what you've gone through, including any trauma, does it make sense? The way you've been present or reacted, does it make sense?
Courage to take action
Given that it makes sense, what would be helpful? Not to fix or make it not happen, but be helpful to soothe and support you in that moment. What compassion do you need? It could be hug from someone you love, a quiet space to think, a moment to consider your own self and what you’ve been through. Imagine yourself now, your compassionate self, offering what you need in that moment.
Compassion is to meet our own needs with courage, wisdom and open kind curiosity. Without judgement, just simple validation of your own history, experiences and narrative.