The Seedy Underbelly of Optimism

I must’ve sat down to write these thoughts ten separate times during January. I sat down, determined to get something down on the page, hating how long it had been since I’d written down a fully-formed thought and then I’d chickened out, running to numb with Netflix while quietly cursing my cowardice before I’d even attempted to put a single word down.

Image via @blogsociety on Instagram

Image via @blogsociety on Instagram

We’re now comfortably into February and so far, 2016 has already been a bumpy road of highs and lows for oh so many reasons. [Sidebar: right here, not more than a few sentences into writing this post, I ran to facebook to scroll through my feed which showed me nothing of interest and was done purely as a coping mechanism. I did it mechanically and without thinking. When I realized what I was doing, I took a breath, acknowledged my fear, and came back.] It’s time for some real talk: we all have fears which hold us back from living our best lives. One of the many things I’ve learned from Brene Brown is this--fear breeds shame and shame holds power when left to fester in the dark space of things we leave unsaid.

That is to say, the best way to pull out of a shame spiral is by admitting out loud, to other human beings, that you are currently in one. Simple as that.

The New Year is supposed to bring with it a fresh start, a shiny package of optimism dropped on our doorstep with which we can usher in a year of new beginnings.

Photo via @studiodiy on instagram

Photo via @studiodiy on instagram

I’ve always found this to ring hollow but this year, I finally put my finger on why. In a time of year when everyone is excited, fresh-faced, and eager to share their enthusiasm for the year ahead, it’s easy to feel like you’re the only one haunted by dark thoughts and self doubt. No one’s voicing their fears and doubts. Your instagram feed is brimming with beautiful, hand drawn quotes sparkling with the newness of January; your facebook feed fills with statuses declaring goals and fear-conquering mindsets of pure badassery. During times like this where we are bombarded with messages of can-do and positivity, it’s so easy to give into the voices in your head, mentally lashing out at those shiny optimists and judging them as try-hards.

Photo via Danielle La Porte's Truthbombs

Photo via Danielle La Porte's Truthbombs

And this is why it’s taken me so long to write. Because writing that sentence, putting that darkness within you onto the page for all to see? That’s hard. But it’s real and it’s my truth. And chances are, it’s someone else’s truth too, someone who might also be too scared to admit it out loud.

[Here I had to take a day and a half break. I strongly considered giving up on this draft entirely. I started doubting whether I could put something like this out there for all to see. I started wondering is this really how I feel, or am I being dramatic? I tried to rationalize myself out of putting this out into the world, basically.

It all comes back to that deep-seated, irrational fear that I’m the only one feeling this way from time to time, that by sharing such a vulnerable, honest, and in some ways bitterly negative part of myself, others might start to see me as only this, this one small part of my identity which I usually tuck quietly away and only show to my trusted circle.

Image via @tonyfutura on instagram.

Image via @tonyfutura on instagram.

Today, I had a great day which reinvigorated me. I currently feel fulfilled and lit up about my future; the mood in which I chose to sit down a few days ago and start writing this feels a million miles away, yet I know it will return. Our lives and our moods ebb and flow like the ocean. Being back on the upswing gives me the courage to finish what I started, see this post through to the end and get it online.]

 

But that’s just it, right? We all have these dark thoughts from time to time--all of us. Some of us are better at recognizing them for what they are, as doubts founded not in logic but in the social construct that is our worldview, and are able to keep them from affecting our outlook on life. Some are powerless to overcome these worries and allow their occasional negative thoughts to run rampant with their life. I find myself constantly straddling these two extremes, hovering closer and closer to the former as I learn more about myself. But it’s an imperfect journey. It’s two steps forward and one step backward...but I know that if I keep moving, I’ll keep improving.

I’ve learned that those steps backward are still progress forwards because they teach me valuable lessons.

I’m writing this because everyone struggles. I’m writing this to say it’s okay, I feel that way too sometimes. I’m writing this because every one of my close friends seems to have had a particularly difficult January this year and I know I’m lucky to have a group of friends to talk to about things like this. More than anything, I’m writing this for those who struggle alone. Whether by choice or necessity, struggling alone is so. freaking. painful. So give yourself some credit and remember that you’ve gotten through the tough times before. Remember that sharing how you’re feeling with friends is the best way to build trust and a bond, the best way to establish a connect with another human being enough that next time you feel this way, you don’t feel so lonely. We’re all human. We’re all looking for connection. Everyday can be New Year’s Day, if you want it to be.


This post was written by our girl Mara- you can learn more about her & read more of her work on her personal site: http://www.mfalstein.com