When Trying to Be Positive Brings You Down

“Serenity comes when you trade expectations for acceptance.” ~Unknown

How many of us have caught ourselves feeling as though we’re imposters when we’re trying to talk about a difficult situation in a positive light? We’re often fed the idea that how we feel is in how we decide to see life, which, I agree with; however, sometimes I think that idea gets taken to a deceptive extreme.

In the midst of one of my mini-meltdowns the other day, I called my friend and told her what had been going on in my head the last few months.

“It’s sounds as though you have some shame issues with your experience. It’s okay to admit that you’re disappointed and angry. You need to allow yourself to accept it. It’s the first step in healing…” my friend asserted as I was invalidating myself while I attempted to explain how I felt about the last year of my life.

“What a relief,” I thought to myself as she went back and validated every one of my thoughts and feelings.

Have you ever known something in the back of your mind, but you needed someone else to bring it to the front?

Any time I talked about my experience, I would always do my best to portray it in the best light possible. We’re supposed to be optimistic about how we see life and our experiences, right? The problem was that I was doing it at the cost of compromising the authenticity of my story.

I moved halfway across the nation, leaving behind my well paying (but miserable) job, friends, and family in search of finding work that filled instead of drained me. I accepted a one-year position as an intern counselor at a residential boarding school, working with adolescents coming from particularly challenging backgrounds.

I loved working with the students and learned invaluable lessons from them and their stories.

I hated constantly feeling as though I wasn’t (good) enough.

I poured everything I had into that year, and admittedly, there were definitely times I failed because I struggled to find the support I needed while carrying the weight of a massive life upheaval, trying to be “present” for my friends and family back home, and balancing helping to guide the students through their issues while trying to not retrigger my own.

Additionally, I couldn’t meet all the expectations coming from so many different people and places, so I did the best I could but it didn’t cover everything.

Though I would tell a friend that is all you can do and that is good enough, like so many others, I am my own worst enemy and consistently felt like a failure.

I returned to my home state feeling defeated not only regarding my performance at the school, but about returning without having found what I set out looking for.

I felt even more clueless and lost than before I left, and it was embarrassing. Who leaves everything behind looking for something, and then returns without it?

My friend continued to gently remind me that not everything is within my control when I’d protest saying things like, “but isn’t how we see life all about our perceptions? Aren’t we supposed to be able to go out and fix things if they aren’t filling our needs or change how we look at them?”

“So, it wasn’t what you were hoping it would be. That’s not your fault. You need to admit and accept that you feel the way you do, and it’s okay. Trying to cover up what’s really going on might be what’s holding you back from moving forward.”  

Oh. Right.

When she said that it seemed like the most obvious thing in the world. It’s okay to say that there were some flaws with the program that had nothing to do with me. It’s okay that the experience wasn’t perfect. It’s okay that I wasn’t perfect.

I was trying so hard to always put a positive spin on my story that I wasn’t really telling my story anymore, and that subtle lie was corroding my own sense of self-worth.

All that said, I do believe in doing our best to “look at the bright side,” so to speak, but not before we can honestly assess our experience and accept how we really feel.

It’s only when we can be truly honest with ourselves about how we feel that we will be able to find the positive lesson, heal, and move on.

About Haiku Kwon

Haiku Kwon is an avid wanderluster who has been a barista, bartender, logistics specialist, yoga instructor, and counselor in her different lives that have taken her all over the world. She has yet to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up. You can follow her story at Life's A Risk... And I'm All In. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter.

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