Over the past 24 hours, there have been several posts floating around social media that really struck a chord with me. Some of you may have seen them:
Jennifer Aniston wrote an essay about how she’s fed up with being questioned about maternity (among other things).
Victoria Beckham is being villainized for kissing her daughter *gasp* on the lips.
And then, randomly, a Buzzfeed post where their Try Guys were photoshopped to look like famous photos of women.
After being bombarded by all of this for the last day– and so much more over the past few months– I’ve decided I need to rant a bit and I hope you’ll follow along.
I’m really tired of all the hate and judgment that exists in the world today. When did everything become so negative? It’s ALL the time, everywhere. So much hate and shame. It’s hard to function.
I live in darkness a lot. Some of you know that I am bipolar. My official diagnosis includes Bipolar Disorder, Severe Anxiety Disorder, PTSD, and PMDD. What all of that means is that I’m an emotional mess most of the time. Most of you don’t know that about me though. Just as many of you don’t know that over a decade ago, I had a nervous breakdown. I was told I’d never work again, and yet, here I am, a successful author who also has a full time job with a company I not only love, but also believe in completely.
Why am I sharing this? Well, because the mental health issues really affect me on a day to day basis. I have to fight to stay positive. I’m sometimes picked on for it. I find it amusing, to be honest. The running joke is that I’m “Perky Poppy” and I’ve embraced that nickname fully. Because the reality is, I’m not very perky at all. But I try, very hard, to find the positive and to have fun in the little things. Otherwise, I’ll be back in that pit of despair that I fell into when I had my breakdown.
That’s not the only thing I have to fight though. Cause guess what? I’m fat. Yep. Said it. And you know what else? I have other issues too, medical stuff like a skin problem that is really no one else’s business but strangers seem to think it’s okay to make nasty comments about these things. I am made to feel ashamed for looking the way I do. Because that’s the truth. I’m ashamed of those things. But I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been made fun of for one of those physical features by some random stranger while I’m out shopping or even through some comment on a photo of me on social media by someone who is labeled a “friend”.
So when I see posts where someone is having to explain why they choose to not have children, or who are called names for showing affection to their child, or where our physical appearance is altered to make us more ideal… I feel shame. That’s what we do, right? We shame each other to make ourselves feel better.
I’ve done it too. And that I really do feel shame for and should. Who am I to ever make fun of anyone else? It’s something I try really hard to not participate in. Most of the time, I succeed. Sometimes, I don’t.
True story. When I go to events and I’m in Poppy-mode (which is the way I like to think of how I mentally prepare myself for events. I gird my loins, as it were, and try to force the fear and shame and terror away so that I don’t show all that negative emotion to the people around me), I’m often complimented on my appearance. And it makes me both uncomfortable and really happy at the same time. And can I tell you another truth? Just about the only time in my life that I’m EVER praised for my looks is when I’m with this crazy internet family of fellow book lovers whom I adore. I don’t know how to handle the praise. I usually smile awkwardly and say thank you.
See, I know that there are so many people out there just waiting to usher in another bushel of humiliation so actually believing someone who thinks I’m pretty? Ha. It’s so much easier to believe the other is true. Ever seen those horrible, terrible, people of Walmart posts? I think those posts are the ultimate evil. And yet they are in some crazy way beloved. I don’t get it. Their sole purpose for existing is to dish up a healthy dose of humiliation to those unfortunate folks who are captured on camera in an unflattering moment. I don’t use the word hate a lot, but I truly hate those posts and what they stand for. Can you imagine for a moment what it must feel like to be one of those people who are included in those posts? Can you imagine for a moment being one of those people who goes around seeking out someone to take a horrible photo of that you can share with the world?
I have a very dear friend who is one of the most gorgeous men I know. Seriously. I think he’s stunningly handsome and I get that little flutter in my belly when he’s around me. And you know what? He’s ashamed of how he looks. He’s incredibly body conscious. I know the feelings are irrational, because I have them myself, but damn, the man is gorgeous and he’s embarrassed over not having a 6 pack or 8 pack or whatever the hell pack of abs men are supposed to have to be attractive. (Um, and sweets, if you’re reading this and figure out that I think you’re gorgeous… well, surprise! But you are!)
So after all that, I have to wonder. Why am I so uncomfortable with compliments? I know so many friends who are as well. Why is it easier to believe the ugly and not the nice? I want to change that, both for myself and others. I don’t want there to be humor in humiliating random strangers or celebrities on the internet. Instead, I want the norm to be a world where we make it a point to praise the people in our lives and not be so quick to put them down. Heck, I get that it’s easier to jump in with your opinion on whatever latest scandal is rocking the world. But having an opinion and spewing hate are two completely different things. And somehow that difference has been lost in translation.
My day job is in marketing. There’s this cool “rule” in marketing known as the 80/20 rule. I’m not Pollyanna enough to think that negative thoughts and comments aren’t going to exist, but maybe we can work on keeping them to only 20% of what we do and think and say. Is that too much to ask? Can we actually succeed in being positive 80% of the time? Is it a pipe dream? Can we at least try?
I remember an essay on parenting I read a long time ago– and I can’t find it now but I wish I could so I could share it– that basically said for every time you tell your kids no or correct them that you should praise them for something at least 4 times. Can you imagine how cool that would be? If we actually had people around us all the time who were looking for the positive? I would love that. I mean, it would be really great if I just didn’t give a crap, but lets face it, I do. And I’m sure you do too. It’s a thing, right? Part of what makes us human or something? We have to care what other people think about us… right? It would also be great if I could actually believe the praise. I’m working on it. And I don’t know, maybe if I heard good things on a daily basis instead of hate and shame…maybe it would be easier?
I know there is a lot of philosophy out there about getting back from the world what you give to it. I don’t mind being known as Perky because maybe, just maybe, that means I’ve made someone else happy for a moment. Maybe, just maybe they accepted a compliment I gave them and for one moment were able to believe it as truth. I want to put more positive out into the world because God knows I need it back. It’s how I survive the days when my illness gets the best of me.
So how about it? Can we all try? Or is it too much to hope for? Can we strive for more nice? Because it’s more important than we think and it’s so easily overlooked. Kindness matters. Thoughtfulness matters. Hope really fricking matters and sometimes, for those of us like me who struggle with darkness, those random nice thoughts make all the difference in the world.