Its Not All Glitter Unicorns - Why That's OK and What you Can Do When the Sparkle Rubs Off
I feel that there is a positivity epidemic that is actually affecting our capacity to thrive.
Perceiving wellness or 'thriving' as a continuous peak state is damaging. Yes, we can build in positive habits to assist our health and wellbeing and I urge you to not shy from taking actions that maintain joy, purpose, love, health and connection.
But... attachment to 'wellness' as an ideal can keep us going when we need to rest, make us feel 'not enough' when we have our hard times and keep us looking for a simple solution to life - which there is not.
So I’m not gonna lie and tell you as a Coach I always make the good of the bad! It's not all glitter unicorns with boss-babes and making dreams come true in sparkle bubbles.
Although yes, there is a lot of good stuff going on a lot of the time, I don’t believe everyone must always make lemonade the minute life throws lemons at them. That’s a lot of pressure to perform. It discounts the complexity of reaching for big goals, the hardships of life and it reduces the value of our resilience.
OPTIMISM AND RESILIENCE
There are some people who are more geared toward the lemon spinning trick than others - the optimists. But I personally was not granted the optimist gene nor the optimistic parents to assist me developing that trait as a kid.
So my mind needs some coaxing to shout my praise or expect the best. Although I never let my 'self-talk' stop me doing something I want (like present at an academic International Conference, bungy jump off a bridge in Guatemala or go camping with my kids solo... Ok that last one might have been more than optimism.) ;) I have certainly benefited from learning how to apply optimism.
But, I still don't believe even the optimists (or for that matter the equanimous meditators) deserve to be under the pressure of feeling like they are supposed to be thriving 100% of the time. It is an artificial expectation, perhaps best reserved for artificial intelligence or Instagram bots.
Life is way too complex, demanding, ambiguous and if you are awake, with its fair dose of unfairness and sadness to always be playing the upbeat song.
Even if social media and advertising make us think that is what everyone else is doing and the upbeat positive song is all that counts. We know the truth of this 'brutiful' life. It's contradictory, complex and ever-changing.
Given the mental health stats, I feel we still need reminding that having coaches, purposeful goals, connected families or fit bodies and meditation spaces does not mean we are at some end point called 'thriving'. This. is. an. illusion.
This post is about those times of challenge and how our definition of thriving needs to include a good dose of resilience, because even for those with positive habits and a thriving life, the unicorn stops 'sh*tt*ng glitter' sometime.
Sometimes we are hit hard with health concerns, life traumas, challenges or changes, worthy projects unhinged, career hitches, money troubles, kid troubles, love troubles or concerns for those we love the most, and they can indeed come like a set of triplets all vying for our attention at once...
All this and it really is just enough to pick ourselves up to run the day to day living and to wait until the external challenges subside somewhat before we get back to our hopeful self, practicing our best habits and kicking goals once more (which is exactly what I did recently).
Or perhaps you are butting against emotional and practical challenges to reaching your dream goals - getting back up again and again tired with the juggle of your competing needs around: family, self & work.
Well this my friend, is resilience. Getting back up after you've been knocked down. Bouncing back. Stretching, and not breaking and giving up.
And it is as valid as being able to look at the bright side or being equanimous and mindful. We are not all optimists or practiced meditators and we don’t always have what it takes to buffer the stress in the moment regardless of our psychological makeup.
We are humans in an imperfect world with unfortunate illnesses/politicians/weather/baby vomit/traffic accidents/time constraints.
But we can all choose to get back up, to call on our spirit and say - yes NOW I am here to transform my dirt into gold or make lemon cake with my lemons or to sprinkle glitter dust on someone's bad mood...
So remember those bold words when you are feeling not enough or are stretched to your limit. And if you want some ways that you can foster resilience in a less sparkle-dust and more evidence-based-psychology way keep reading.
Let's look at 3 ways we can build resilience through Resilient Connecting, Resilient Thinking and Resilient Being.
Build in the positive relationships that help you cope with stressors when you are feeling good, not just when you are down. Social connections are a big part of wellbeing and helping us cope.
Social resilience means also paying attention to building in positive emotions with a ratio of 6:1 positive to negative needed to bounce back in hard times. It also means building in reciprocity so we can take care of each other - the blocks of connection and empathy that help us flourish as families, teams and societies.
Build in the positive self-talk that you need to develop confidence in you achieving your goals, even if for now your goals might need to pause for some grace.
The brain has a proven tendency to a negativity bias and so we need to work to train our brain. Your ruminating self-talk might come off the rails a bit, but it's important to bring it back sister. Women are more prone to depression than men, so keep your self-talk in check. Radical self-love in the face of not being able to be unstoppable every day is welcome.
Our beliefs and explantations about the situation can make the situation bearable or worsen it. You can use optimistic explanations to improve your focus on what you can do - when you find yourself globalising or making it personal.
Reframe your self-talk to be specific and external like: "this sickness is a taking it out of me" or make it more temporary like: "I'm still learning this, Ill be better at it in a few months". Read more about Learned Optimism here on verywellmind.com.
Meditation and mindfulness help us build in resilience to circumstances by focusing us on calming our minds and our judgements which is a known way to powerfully choose how we respond, rather than be automatic or reactive. (You'll find a specific meditation there from mindful.org).
Mindsight - the act of watching our body, breath, feeling and thoughts - can also be a doorway into deep meditation to feel our "being-ness" or consciousness which can lead to us finding resilience in what mostly could be defined as a spiritual sense, but could be defined in a secular sense as the creative source of your power and lifeforce.
Use meditation to become aware of your body, feeling and thoughts and deepen and feel into your aliveness.
When you are not benefitting by reframing your challenges mentally, perhaps finding space between your thoughts and finding yourself as this deep 'being-ness' or as the thinker and 'the observer of the thinking' might be your respite and pathway to a deeper well of inner resilience.
All of these evidence based tools and habits (and my versions of them) have provided me with some respite particularly in times of 'triplet-like' challenges.
Even though I'm a coach, I'm human too.
In the same year I had my child diagnosed with a heart condition and grieved the loss of a dear Dad to sudden death. I have had sickness hit our family at times when there are work deadlines and pressures with kids schooling. I know real life happens to you too and resilience is what keeps us going.
I get up and keep going in my business to support women to get these types of tools into their lives too, because I believe that women being valued will help the world be a better place and that women deserve to live healthy vibrant lives.
I also believe that focussing on our strengths and finding ways for us to thrive as humans will bring betterment to the planet, as we step into greater hope of what is possible. And this doesn't mean reducing the value of our human capacity to find meaning in the difficult.
There will always be some tension to our human story or we would not be human, we would be saints or angels or dare I say, unicorns.
So even when we are focussing on being our best version of the superwomen we can be - the unicorn that is being used so commonly these days as a symbol for our thriving magic might in fact be a symbol of ourselves not just when we feel like mythical superwomen, but who we in fact become when we bounce back from life's dull, or hard, challenges with resilience and a sparkle in our own eye.
As Glennon Doyle Melton says,
"Breathe deeply and know that if you let it come and feel it all – it won’t kill you. It will pass away soon enough and leave you better, kinder, softer, and stronger. Let the brutal make you even more beautiful."
(Please note if you feel you are suffering for more than a few weeks in a depressed state then please reach out to a health professional. Depressed moods can come and go, but longer term depressive states are best supported intentionally. Also meditation is not always the best thing for depression but can cause anxiety. See a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction professional if this sounds like you.)
Dominique is a Thrive Coach for Women. She supports ambitious women to have supportive habits and mindsets to achieve their purpose and make the impact they want to have in their world and in their families.