Can We Be Too Optimistic?
I have great people in my Facebook group. They are smart, funny, perceptive, and honest. I posted the first page in my series ‘Expect, Plan, and Prepare.’ That page is about the part ‘expect’ and so the title is ‘Expect, Plan, and Prepare: Expect the Best.’ I used the advice of Denis Waitley: “Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised.”
Expect the best
I said my folks are honest. I know that many of them don’t read my articles but, of course, they do see the titles. OK, I admit that my articles are often long. A few people said that they can’t see how I can say that with a disease like macular degeneration a person can “expect the best.” They’d go with “hope for the best.”
Doing well in a 'new normal' life
The article is actually about people who are doing well in their ‘new normal’ life. My friend Sue is one of them (she writes for MacularDegeneration.net, too). There are tons of artists, photographers, bloggers, vloggers (video bloggers), filmmakers, actors, writers, business owners...you name the field, I can find someone with a visual impairment who is doing well.
Hope for the best
Anyway, back to “expect the best.” I added to the post, "I realize the words ‘expect’ and ‘best’ in 'expect the best' are not words that reflect the reality of having macular degeneration (MD). 'Hope for the best' would be more appropriate. I was trying to encourage the reader by using examples of people whose lives are fulfilling in spite of MD."
I’m writing this article to not only work through my own thinking about this but to perhaps help you think about how you react to other people with macular degeneration or other diseases.
This wouldn’t even have occurred to me had my husband not sent me an article about ‘toxic positivity.’ How can positivity be toxic and how does that relate to me? Hmm. In another article or mine ‘Think Before You Speak,’ I wrote about making sure we try to put ourselves in the place of people who are struggling with a recent diagnosis. I wrote under the heading, ‘Don’t worry, be happy. Be positive’:
“This is one that I am guilty of. In my effort to help people cope with macular degeneration, I am sometimes too ‘perky’ or ‘preachy.’ When a person has just been diagnosed or has already lost a significant amount of vision, telling them to be happy and positive may seem insensitive. At least that’s what I’ve been told. They are NOT happy, and they DO worry. A better way to handle this is to say that you are there to support them, all they have to do is ask.”
Is this me admitting that I sometimes practice toxic positivity? What is it anyway?
You can search the Internet for ‘toxic positivity’ and find plenty of articles. They pretty much say the same thing:
Toxic positivity: Keeping positive all the time and ignoring anything that might be negative or cause negative feelings all the time is not good. It’s ignoring that emotions are not good or bad, they just are.
OK, am I positive all the time? Heck, no! Am I positive all the time with the people I come in contact with who have macular degeneration? I don’t think so. I try to listen to what someone is telling me and use what they say to guide me as to what I can do to help. Do I sometimes try to spin something negative into something more positive? Yeah, sometimes I do.
Do I say things like, “It will be OK."? To be honest, maybe I do, but more often it’s, “The thought of your first injection is often worse than the reality. It will be OK.” How’s that? Do I say things like, “Just think positive!” No, that I don’t say. I try to acknowledge that there is a grief cycle that most everyone goes through that will bring anxiety and sometimes depression. It’s normal to feel those things for a time. I might add, “If you find yourself feeling that for too long and it’s interfering with your life, you need to find some help.” So I’m acknowledging the emotions there. That's good, right?
Being more careful
I know that by saying “expect the best,” I was being insensitive to people who are struggling even to “hope for the best.” I chose to use a quote that really didn’t fit with what some readers were feeling. I think it was realistic to give examples of people with vision impairments who ARE living their best lives. I should have found a way to tie the quote to “hope for the best.” Thanks to those in my group who pointed that out. I am always learning from you.
I am prone to being positive at times when I should be thinking more about what the person is feeling before I say something. As I advise others, sometimes it’s best not to say anything. I will continue to not simply say, “It will be OK,” or “Think positive.” I will try harder to acknowledge that people reading my articles are going to be turned off if I am unrealistically positive.
As to whether I am positive all the time, you can read my article, ‘When Life Gives You Vision Loss, Make Lemonade’ where I talk about my serious illness earlier this year. I had been thinking about the cliche “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” while I was in the hospital. I had to struggle to find my lemonade. I actually did through what I said was the process of finding my ‘sugar’ to sweeten it.
I will always try to help people find something positive, to find sugar for their lemonade. Maybe not right after the diagnosis or when they’ve had a rough injection or their vision has changed again. I’ll try not to make that sugar turn to arsenic! ::smile::
How do YOU avoid toxic positivity, or is it not a problem for you? Let us know!
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