On cultivating gratitude without toxic positivity

Quit complaining girl, there are people who’d love to trade places with you so suck it up because it does not mean it’s been easy for everybody else. This is what I used to tell myself when I feel like things are getting heavier and the world seems to turn its back on me. I used to believe that gratitude meant being thankful for what I have that others don’t and shutting up about something I don’t have unless I plan to work for it. I thought I was being kind to myself by focusing on the wonderful side of life and denying the bad and the ugly. It took me a while to realize that no, I wasn’t. In fact, I was far from practicing gratitude without toxic positivity.

I didn’t think positivity can be toxic, and the internet, albeit cruel most of the time, taught me that it exists. It also taught me that all feelings are valid, that my pain is different from that of my friend, and we have different ways of dealing. The key is to acknowledge these feelings, no matter how ugly they are. Recognize the pain. Human emotions are complex and therefore it is normal to be hurt, angry, sad, and confused. It’s okay not to be okay, and this one, Kim Soo Hyun taught me.

You see, once I was able to sort out my feelings, it was easier for me to decide how to deal with them. I discovered that morning walks elevate my mood and that they make me less stuffy on days when I had to deal with difficult people. That the sunrise is majestic in real life, and that it is the perfect time to bond with my old man. Coming home to fried rice, hotdogs, sunny side up, (thanks to mom) and a cup of coffee is all I could ask for in the mornings when I am too tired from that walk. It’s the little details that happen “in the moment” that make me all the more thankful for the bigger blessings.

Bigger blessings meant experiences, and not all experiences are good and that’s okay. I have had a fair share of bad experiences in life. They are embarrassing and sometimes I would ask why did I have the misfortune to meet that person to go through hell with them. But would I want to undo them given the chance? I don’t know. The voice at the back of my head says yes, but maybe I’d say no. Again, gratitude without toxic positivity means also recognizing the bad side of things. Be thankful for the bad people too, because they are an opportunity to grow and be wise. Be grateful for the failures, because they introduced us to people worthy of our success. Be thankful for the setbacks, because if not for them maybe we wouldn’t dare try again.

And when you’ve had that bad experience, appreciate the people who were there for you. It was the genuine connection that we all prayed for, so be thankful for them. Their love and support kept us going, whether family, friends or even that online stranger who gave you the smartest advice on why you were the asshole in your story or not. It’s not just the connection, but the sense of belongingness and comfort they provide.

When you learn to appreciate the little things, the people that matter, and the experiences that life has given you, you’d start feeling a sense of giving. That did it to me. Every love, support, and care you succeeded to recognize, somehow you’d want to give it back because, you know, you’ve been there. You know how it feels to be needing someone, to be needing something. So you give. Donate to causes you genuinely believe in. Volunteer your time in feeding the hungry. Lend an ear to a friend who’s lost and confused.

If the last couple of years didn’t happen, I might never know that there is actually a proper way of being grateful. Not the kind where we are obliged to look back and return the favor. It’s the kind of gratitude without toxic positivity. The kind where we are taught to be comfortable with our feelings, and yet still thankful for everything that has been there through our entire self-care journey. EXO taught me that.

gratitude without toxic positivity - what are you thankful for?

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