Advice once given: Saying it is hard is making it harder. And I agreed that actually calling something hard could make it feel harder and create a negative perspective. And for many years I followed this advice. But recently, “be honest about how hard this is,” came to me from a friend and mentor and it shifted my perspective.
Is there a balance of not getting caught in a negative thought pattern, but also have a hard-truth perspective? Sharing the vulnerable side of the hard parts of life can create connection, relatability, compassion. Does this positive outcome outweigh life feeling harder for a time? What role does perspective play? Let’s unpack this together.
I’m Complaining Again
It became clear that my negativity was something that I had an opportunity to work on in my twenties when my work career was budding. Consistently, my negative comments were called out, yet no one could tell me that I was wrong. What I was expressing was true, it just wasn’t always in an effort to look on the bright side.
As this feedback continued into my thirties I found that I was not alone. I wasn’t the only one that made decisions based on negativity more than the positive perspective and there was a name for it: negativity bias.
It became really apparent one year when a manager challenged us as a team to live a Complaint Free World. If you haven’t heard of this challenge, it is a pretty simple way to bring your awareness to how often you complain. Either with your words, or even a sigh or thought. I learned that I complain a lot. Fair to say that I am not a complaint-free person. Even though I don’t think I lasted a week in the challenge, I learned a good lesson about myself. I have to really work to not have my first reaction come from a negative perspective.
Of course, now my girls are reflecting back on my nonverbal complaints in eye rolls. At the ages 7 and 4, I see I still have much work to do on not just what I say, but how I act. I know exactly who their model was.
And speaking of nonverbals, I fell in love with Amy Cuddy during her Ted Talk, Your body language may shape who you are. Her story, the science behind simple shifts that could actually change the outcome. It made sense and I was Super Woman Posing my way into a positive perspective. If I could feel it in my body first, I could more easily encourage my mind into a powerful perspective. You can’t always fake it until you make it though.
For example, that forced smile or unrealistic affirmation could totally backfire on you. You can’t pretend that you can hold the world and it is true. Even though I keep trying to. It is what leads to burnout, trying to outperform my own fatigue.
Back to my friend that advised me to be honest about how hard it is to do what I do. To raise three small children while running a nonprofit, along with a long list of other hard parts of my life that might prevent me from being able to give any more. Since her advice, I have been more honest about it. And I don’t think that it has made any part of my life any harder. Why? Because I’ve fostered a strong belief in the importance of support.
Support Equals Strength
For a year I wrote in my journal every day, “I am strongly supported.” For a year I didn’t believe it.
And then I spoke out loud how hard it is what I am trying to do. And I realized that I am doing it because I am strongly supported.
My hard gave an opportunity for those around me to support me. I don’t know if they would know how great their gifts are if I wasn’t honest about how much of their support I need right now. Right now and forever. Perspectives will change. My hard will change. But it is the support I receive that creates my capacity to see the light after the dark, to feel my cape blowing behind me, to trust my path.
It is true that “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” But it is also true that we grow stronger through support. One perspective that may never shift for me is that support is essential. I might even learn to stop rolling my eyes with a little help from my friends.
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