As a health coach people assume I talk mostly about kale smoothies, but I spend just as much time— if not more, focusing on my client’s spiritual and emotional well-being. Why? Because emotional and spiritual well-being is of paramount importance— health is not just calories in and out— it’s about how you fully and authentically show up for life!
So naturally, few things bother me more as a coach, than when people post Good Vibes Only on their social media, stories, or blogs. I know this may come off blunt, but seriously, f*ck Good Vibes Only. In my opinion, this recent movement in the digital, self-help sphere enables toxic positivity culture and hurts people. If you’re still with me, read on.
Personally, I’m a big proponent of the concept that your vibe attracts your tribe. I love that— it can be very empowering! My clients and I talk about how like thoughts tend to attract other like thoughts and the importance of empowering, positive attitudes and belief systems. Also, I’m a huge believer in maintaining an attitude of gratitude. I make it a practice during my morning workouts to focus positively, listing things off mentally that I am grateful for each morning. It’s hard work but a great daily practice!
This is where the idea of “vibes” or vibration totally resonates with me. My clients and I believe that we are the architects of our lives and we are in charge. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work! You do not have to be spiritual or religious at all to acknowledge that a positive, can-do attitude is productive and healthy. In fact, people with overall positive attitudes tend to live happier lives. The scientific community and psychologists have long accepted this fact and research points to this correlation (1).
But some days, it is not possible to have a positive attitude. Sometimes horrible things happen outside our control. We might experience trauma, ourselves or others become ill— or those we love pass away. The furthest thing from our minds in that moment of pain, anguish and grief is to focus on Good Vibes Only. In our darkest moments, some of us may have access to hope and connection, but many do not have that privilege. Telling a true victim and/or someone in pain to just focus positively is victim shaming, abusive, emotionally repressive and unhelpful. It does not help, it just harms and further traumatizes them.
All emotions are valid. Period. The end. Our culture is so afraid of emotions that most children grow up in families that never properly discuss emotions, do not ask hard questions about the root of behaviors (parent and child) and stigmatize the need for mental health care providers. As a man, being masculine and strong (virtue traits) meant being positive, but not too positive, not showing big emotions and never—ever crying. As a naturally expressive child, this was an impossible standard for me to uphold. Yet, many people like me who grew up and later identified as spiritual, have internalized these harmful lessons from childhood. These are the people preaching for you to free yourself of victim mentality and focus on Good Vibes Only, when in fact no such thing exists.
I think that when we confront positivity culture with the idea that all emotions are valid, the assumption might be that we are enabling people to just wallow in self-despair for no reason— all day. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Some people may think I’m a negative person for even writing this blog and to be honest, you would be correct in that assumption. As someone who struggles from depression, anxiety and is in recovery from an eating disorder, I have long ago accepted (with the help of amazing coaches, therapists and teachers) that in life, all emotions are welcome. I am a positive, negative and neutral person who feels the whole spectrum of emotions.
Emotions are like waves, responding to our environment and I am riding those waves. Some are small, others can feel like tsunamis. A few things emotionally healthy people can do is take a pro-active role in creating an environment that brings them joy, by doing what they enjoy, seeking secure relationships, and seeking professional help if necessary so that in riding the waves— they have a strong support system.
Simply put, we’re all in this together! It’s equally important to accept our light and our darkness— the cast-away negative emotions, the parts of our personalities we never dare approach and the vulnerability of sharing, resolving and healing past traumas. Instead of Good Vibes Only, let’s be brave enough to feel our grief, shame and pain.
Acclaimed sociologist, researcher and author Brene Brown says “owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” (2).
It is not possible to fully embrace positivity-only culture without simultaneously repressing our own negative emotions and shadows. By doing this, we opt out of any meaningful self reflection, deeper understanding of our own toxic patterns in our lives and cast people, connection and relationships away with prejudice over what we perceive as their negativity— when it fact it’s our own fear of it.
In my personal relationships, I look for people who are in touch with their emotions— both the light and the shadow. As someone who has good days and bad days, I want to surround myself with people who can be with me where I am. When we understand and work with our negative emotions we start to understand that the negativity doesn’t swallow us and eat us whole. Ask anyone who has experienced a loss— they’ll tell you that the grief was initially unbearable, but over time, they slowly found a new normal. In less extreme examples, the same is still true— the only way out of a negative emotion, is by going through it. Underneath these negative emotions are often lessons and deeper understandings that help us move forward in life. Instead of running away, find healthy tools to navigate your big emotions, like the large, crashing waves that they are. They will pass.
It’s ok to not be ok. It’s ok to need help navigating your shadow side. It’s ok to have good days and bad days. Life rarely is pure Good Vibes Only. It’s full of contrast, light and dark, happiness and sadness, bliss and grief. As a health coach I encourage you to ask yourself, how am I denying or suppressing my negativity? How is that impacting my health and wellness? Keep looking for answers and you might just find treasure that was waiting for you all along.
Ready to transform this year? I’m currently accepting clients into my Health and Wellness Program, and we’re doing some seriously cutting-edge work. Take a chance to not only dive into food and movement— but also priming yourself to step fully into your power, embracing both your light and shadow. Let’s take a journey of radical self acceptance together and make 2019 the chapter in your story where everything transforms. Ready to do it!? Book a free consultation today!