MGU 275 | Toxic Positivity

 

With the rise of social media, toxic positivity is slowly turning into a worrying trend. It is when someone uses a famous quote without really understanding the context of the quote. They use it because of that herd mentality. They don’t make their own decisions. They see what is popular, and they follow. People need to be more in touch with themselves, especially today. Join your hosts, Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen, for a discussion about toxic positivity. Stop with the spiritual bypass and the “good vibes only” mindset. Learn how to be a positive force in social media and in real life!

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Tragic Optimism Vs. Toxic Positivity

There’s an inside joke that Whitney and I have with each other that people who know me may share a similar perspective. It’s something that I don’t know if I take pride in it but it’s funny when I reflect on it. It’s something that you have joked about over the years with me, Whitney. It’s funny because it’s probably only going to get worse as I get older, to be honest, which is being grumpy. I get grumpy a lot and I laugh because if I analyze my grumpiness, it’s probably because the state of reality or what is, is not matching what it ought to be.

Let’s break down grumpiness. It’s usually something that I’m observing with life where I’m aware that I have a “negative emotion,” which I suppose on a macro level or making a sweeping generalization, you could probably compartmentalize grumpiness into a negative emotion. The reason I say this and the reason I’m reflecting on it, laughing at it is I had what I call an old man, get off my lawn moment. Not actually because I don’t have much lawn here at my house in LA. It’s mostly concrete.

The proverbial, get off my lawn moment where I was scrolling through social media, which is probably not a good idea to be aimlessly scrolling but there I was aimlessly scrolling. I had a moment where I was bombarded by a series of posts or stories. That felt to me like they were some combination of spiritual bypassing meets toxic positivity. I don’t even know how to describe it. It was like this energy of ignoring what’s happening in the world and being in a myopic, siloed reality.

There were four posts in a row where this person is in Cancún, in Tulum, in Bali, and in Kauai. I’m seeing all these people in these lush, exotic, tropical locales like, “We are acting like nothing is happening. There’s no COVID. Climate change isn’t happening. The Taliban didn’t take over Afghanistan. Everything is great. Everything is amazing. Look at my amazing life.”

I was washing the dishes scrolling through social media. I have the ability to be washing a dish and watching social media. There’s no one else around, Whitney. I said to myself out loud, “Fuck your joy. Fuck you.” I stopped myself and I was like, “I’m having a hostile reaction to someone’s joy. What is going on with that?” I realized, “Am I envious that they are in Bali, Kauai and Tulum, and having this wellness retreat adventure? Is it that there’s consistent energy with certain people where they seem to be completely disavowing the reality of what’s happening in the world and they are living in a complete tunnel vision?”

The siloed version of their reality like, “I’m autonomous and free. It doesn’t matter what’s happening because I’m here and I create my own reality. COVID can’t touch me. Climate change isn’t real,” which is another interesting thing I have seen with “wellness people.” There has been an uptick in like, “Climate change is a sham.” That’s a whole other conversation.

I’m saying all this, Whitney, because we had a suggestion from one of our friends and Patreon supporters, Rye, who sent us a wonderful email with some deep, compelling suggestions for topical matters. He sent in an email and said, “I want you guys to talk about toxic positivity.” He referenced some phrases that get parroted a lot, which is, “Get over it. Let it go. Calm down. Don’t worry about it. Be free. Don’t be anxious about it.”

In a way, there are a lot of rhetoric like this that’s out there in the wellness community, the self-help community and the transformational community. I don’t even know what to call it anymore. It’s a great topic I want to dig into, Whitney, because I’m certainly seeing versions of this that are out there, which is like, “Let’s ignore what’s happening, and let’s connect to joy and happiness. We don’t care what’s happening because it can’t touch us.”

It’s a weird response to what’s happening in the world. I have to laugh at my angered response to people’s joy but I don’t think it’s because they are in their joy. It’s because of the mechanism they are using to psychologically compensate and distance themselves from the pain, suffering and violence that’s happening in the world. It’s not to say that these people aren’t feeling it but the way that they are presenting it on social.

It is important to find joy, to find a connection to things that matter and nourish your life. Click To Tweet

I’m unpacking it in real-time as we are discussing it, Whitney. I want to lay the foundation for what we are discussing, which is toxic positivity, spiritual bypassing and people “creating their own realities” independent of what’s happening in the world, which is fascinating as hell to me. I want to say, first and foremost, before I pass the baton back to you, it is important to find joy. I’m not anti-joy. It is important to find happiness and to find a connection to things that matter and nourish us in life.

That being said, our sponsor for our show is this wonderful online wellness platform that Whitney and I have both been connecting with. We had the Founder of Embody Me. Their website is EmbodyMe.live. Amber Fortier was here on the show getting deep about her personal transformation, breaking away from an oppressive childhood, some of the traumatic experiences that she had that led her to create this online wellness platform. We have been loving it to get different perspectives on looking at our trauma, looking at our healing through EFT, meditation, mindfulness. There’s a whole range of wonderful yoga classes, movement classes and empowerment classes if you are an entrepreneur or you want to start your own business.

We are giving a big shout-out to Embody Me. We are going to talk more about what we have experienced on their platform and also let you know about a cool offer as we go through this episode. For me, I will characterize it as relief, Whitney. When I take a class, I don’t necessarily go on this platform to search for joy or seek out happiness. What I’m looking for is a relief. I feel stressed and so much anxiety, and depression with everything that’s going on in the world that it’s not like, “I want to be happy, joyful and disconnect.”

I want to feel connected to what’s happening on the planet but I also want a sense of relief because I know that if I’m too focused on it all the time, that’s not healthy psychologically or physically for me. Shout out to Amber and Embody Me. They are a wonderful online wellness platform. We have been enjoying checking it out, seeing what it has to offer and we want to offer that to you.

Whitney, I know you and I have different creators and influencers in our social feeds. You see things I don’t see and vice versa. I’m curious if you have been observing throughout the pandemic the climate change accelerating and a lot of massive global upheaval. Have you been witnessing people that are engaging in this bypassing toxic positivity, “Everything is amazing?” If you have, what is your emotional response to observing things like that? How do you feel when you see people posting these bypassing types of pieces of content?

It has been something on my mind now. It’s important to mention the date because there are a lot going on in the world as a whole but the biggest thing in the news is what’s happening in Afghanistan. There was something I was going to post and I paused and decided not to post it because I don’t feel right taking the conversation away from what’s happening in Afghanistan. I feel it’s important for our attention to be on that.

I have been sharing some TikTok videos that I find on Instagram stories and there was one profound video talking about beauty standards for women and I thought, “This would be a great share,” because I have been posting a lot of that on Instagram and it resonates with others. I realized as much as I wanted to share that, it wasn’t the most important thing.

I want to support people who are interested in what’s going on and I also want to encourage people to raise awareness. When you see a lot of people “continuing with their lives” as if nothing else is going on, you might wonder, “Do they even know what’s going on?” It’s a fascinating thing because, number one, it’s a practice for me to try not to make assumptions and judgments about what other people are doing, especially how they are posting because social media is so confusing. As much as we have strategies, insight and many years of experience with social media, at the same time, it’s changing rapidly.

A lot of people are posting what they think they “should” be posting. Not everybody stops to think about the meaning behind what they are posting. Some people are caught in old cycles of like, “This is what I post online.” One thing I noticed, Jason, is someone I follow and know a little bit personally did a photo dump, which on Instagram, it’s when you do a carousel post, which allows you to do up to ten photos. I remember seeing it and thinking, “Why are they sharing a photo dump?” It’s so that they can show what they have been doing lately. There were a ton of photos of this person doing things with other people and it was like, “Look at what I have been doing in my life lately.”

MGU 275 | Toxic Positivity

Toxic Positivity: You are grumpy because the state of reality, or what is, is not matching what you think it ought to be.

 

It’s borderline like, “Is this person posting this to get to show other people that genuinely do care about what they are doing? Are they doing this as a way to say, ‘Look how great my life is?’ Is it part of the validation element? Is it inspirational or is it self-motivated?” It was a passing thought for me because I don’t resonate with that. I have been struggling on social media because I don’t know what to post. A lot of it doesn’t bring me that much joy so I don’t post that much on my social media.

I have two accounts that I alternate between. One of them, particularly, I get stumped. I’m like, “I have nothing that I want to share so why would I share it?” Certainly, I could take a selfie and post it, I could post all sorts of random things, what I’m eating, what I’m doing, on and on but ultimately, deep down, what is the point? What would I feel would make a difference to me that’s addressing some of these huge issues that the world is having? There are a lot of them. There are plenty to choose from.

Simultaneously, I have struggled to find my voice amongst a lot of these things because they are confusing. Having the show is a great outlet because it’s an exploration. I don’t feel like I have to sit and edit the perfect caption or take the perfect photo, and all that pressure that comes with social media. Where we are at is the sweet spot for me. This is part of my sharing process. Observing other people that seem to be motivated by other things is interesting but I’m not them. I don’t know why they are doing it. They might not even know why they are doing it.

Another element of this, Jason, is a coping mechanism. You are talking about getting relief. Maybe for someone doing the things that they are doing on social, it’s their form of getting relief. They are not thinking necessarily about the environmental consequences or they thought about it, they weighed out the pros and cons and made a decision to do something that they thought was okay. Many of us have been there. Maybe they think that they are helpless against what’s going on in Afghanistan. Should that prevent them from going out, finding joy in their life and posting about it on social media? Maybe they think the world needs more joy amongst all of the depressing news coming out.

Clearly, people have different perspectives on the pandemic. Some people feel much more comfortable traveling, doing things together and whatever choices they are making. I might not agree with those choices but in most cases, they are adults on social media who have the freedom to do whatever they please, even if it might harm other people physically or mentally.

This is part of the reason, too, Jason, that years ago, I unfollowed a ton of people and I barely use platforms like Instagram. It’s the reason that I’m drawn to TikTok because, for the most part, I’m seeing strangers. If I had to guess, maybe 10% of the videos that I see are somebody that I’m following, maybe even less. If I’m scrolling through, let’s say maybe 1 out of 50 videos I see on TikTok is someone I follow but most of the people I follow on TikTok, I don’t even know them, I barely know them or I stumbled upon them and decided to follow them.

The other thing I like about TikTok is the algorithm works quickly to understand what you like. For example, I have been consciously liking any videos I see about what’s happening in Afghanistan because I know that the more I interact with that content, the more I’m going to see and can stay in the loop. I get a lot of my information from TikTok because there are major news outlets on there.

Some incredible people have created their own news outlets and do reports on all sorts of things. Doctors are talking about COVID, scientists and brilliant people on TikTok, which is important to disclose. Certainly, you will get the average person’s opinion based on whatever data that they are collecting in their life but there are a lot of qualified people on there sharing.

I can get a summary of what’s happening on the news from a bunch of different news networks within a short TikTok video. That’s typically where I spend my time. I bring this up because I spend less time on Instagram, Facebook and those other platforms because I don’t feel like they work as well for the experience that I want. What I mainly see on Instagram is a bunch of people posting about their joy in the way that you are describing, Jason, and it might not resonate with me.

Try not to make assumptions and judgments about what other people are doing. Click To Tweet

What I mostly see on TikTok is people talking about current events and experts sharing data about what’s going on and real-time information that is slow to hit the other platforms. It’s similar to Twitter in a lot of ways. I spend most of my time on Twitter and TikTok. I curate those experiences to what I want. Thus, Jason, I don’t get as frustrated as I used to be on platforms like Instagram that are just people’s highlight reels. I don’t need to be exposed to whatever behavior somebody is doing to get external validation. Certainly, that will happen on Twitter and TikTok too but it’s different in a lot of different ways.

It’s a long-winded answer about my experience on social and how I react. The other thing that I will do on various platforms including Instagram and TikTok is if I see content that doesn’t resonate with me, I either don’t interact with it because that’s how the algorithm works and/or I can mute certain content or mark it as you are not interested in and the platforms will show it to you less.

When I’m on Instagram, for example, if I see people posting things that I’m not into, I may or may not unfollow them but I will likely mute them. They won’t show up in my feed and I can live in ignorant bliss about what they are doing in their life. I don’t have to see it because it’s not my place to tell them what to do. Let them live their lives and make the choices they are going to make.

What I can do is curate my feed and I can post the important content. Another reason I like Twitter is I share articles on Twitter, retweet things and interact. I use Twitter as a way to contribute to the conversation. That feels simpler than a lot of the other platforms, and then I will share content on Instagram stories that resonates with me. I shared something related to Afghanistan and it was action-oriented. It was like, “Hopefully, anybody that’s looking for this is going to find it and/or might feel inspired to look into it more.” That’s where I’m at. This ties into the toxic positivity conversation because a large part of it is our perception of what we believe to be toxic. Positivity is clearly not always going to make you feel positive, depending on how you are perceiving it.

The issue that I have observed over the years with it is not just social media. It seems to be a whole mindset of T-shirts that say, “High vibes only or don’t quash my vibe.” This mutated version of what a lot of transformational speakers, coaches and authors have been preaching for years, I feel confused by a lot of it. I also know that when I see something that doesn’t resonate with me or something that feels off, I have to ask myself, “Why does it feel off?”

For myself also getting sucked into that, in my own experience with spiritual bypassing and toxic positivity, I didn’t have the awareness, willingness or courage yet to face some of the more painful, darker things in my past, my childhood and my life. I didn’t know what at the time but if I’m around spiritual people and I’m going to yoga festivals, high vibes only, beating that drum constantly.

Somehow, through osmosis, if I surround myself with that energy, vibrations, classes, people, teachers, gurus and books, and give myself some compassion and also extend that compassion to some of the people I’m taking to task here. Maybe some of them aren’t yet ready, willing or even aware to tackle some of the deeper things. I can’t speak for them.

What it triggers in me is probably looking at my younger self and going, “You used to do a lot of those same things.” That’s probably why I get triggered by it. It’s not that I want or expect people to be mired in sadness, despondency, hopelessness and like, “What are we going to do with the world?” It’s this leftover thing from the spiritual community that I experienced for so many years that’s clearly still going. If we only focus on the positive, then we are never going to consider the deeper implications of our own suffering and the suffering of others.

I had a couple of friends who were married years ago. One of the challenges in their marriage was when the wife wanted to go to counseling or get to the deeper issues in her marriage with these two friends of mine. The husband in the marriage was like, “No, it’s not a high vibe. High vibes only. I’m not going to talk about this. I don’t want to talk about it.” The danger in this is people using trips, festivals and all these things to not necessarily look at the more challenging, painful parts of their existence. That’s where I take umbrage with it. That’s the issue that I have with it. Why? It’s because I did the same thing.

MGU 275 | Toxic Positivity

Toxic Positivity: A large part of toxic positivity is your perception of what you believe to be toxic. Positivity is not always going to make you feel positive. It depends on how you perceive it.

 

When I see other people or get a hit that that’s what they are doing, on the one hand, it’s part of their journey. We are all on our own journey and I honor that. I question if people are ignoring what’s happening in the world, Whitney. It’s each person’s right to ignore or give attention to whatever they want. Maybe I’m giving too much attention to the negative stuff. That could also be a part of this. Maybe I’m dwelling too much in the despair. When I see people who aren’t in despair I’m like, “Why aren’t you in despair like me?” Maybe that’s a part of it, too. I’m taking ownership of that.

To me, the issue that I have and the problem with all this is it gets into some of the more systemic issues, Whitney. We have talked about this in the financial gaslighting episode, where people’s attitudes toward problems in life are like, “Make more money. Start a side hustle. Think more positively. Do this. You need to surround yourself with more positive and successful people, and then you will be more successful and positive.”

That’s the toxic positivity I want to address from Rye’s suggestion, where people have these seemingly pedantic answers of, “Do this thing. That will help you and you will feel better because that’s what I did.” That’s where I take people to task with their overly simplistic answers to how we can improve our lives like it’s that easy. People are like, “It is that easy, Jason. You are just not thinking right.”

One thing that comes up in listening to your frustrations with this is that a lot of people don’t know why they are doing things. The way the human brain works is we look to others, for example. When we see other people doing something that looks good to us, we may try to model ourselves after their behavior. This is definitely true on social media, our social circles and our work environments that a lot of people will just do what they are told or follow other people as a model and not necessarily think for themselves.

A lot of what you are describing, Jason, in these reactions is maybe other people are justifying their behavior because others are doing it, too. A lot of these posts that you are sharing become part of the language and the conversation. They repeat these things to each other and post them. It’s like quotes being overused. A great example is when somebody uses a quote and doesn’t fully understand the meaning or they attribute it to the wrong person. They saw plenty of other people attributing it to a specific person like Martin Luther King, for example. They assume, “Of course, Martin Luther King said this.”

This is a huge issue with misinformation. If we don’t cross-reference where we are getting our information from, it can be incredibly dangerous because it has a ripple effect. That’s why over time, I have become a bit more cautious. I will admit when I don’t fully know something or I try to. I also try to find some data on it. I also know, deep down it takes a lot of research to find the truth or as close to the truth as you can get.

I don’t think a lot of people want to even waste their time doing that. They are like, “It’s so and so said this and a few other people said this. It must be true so I’m going to post it too or this sounds right to me. This hits my intuition. This makes sense to me.” There have been plenty of times in our lives where you and I have said things that we have heard other people say and it felt right to us at the time. Later on in our life, I look back on a lot of different things that I have said and done, and I’m like, “It made sense to me at the time but it no longer does and I learned differently.”

That’s humbling. It reminds me that most of us don’t know what we are talking about. We are in this information overload where we have too much information and it’s hard to sort through. Our brain is looking for a shortcut. What’s the quickest way to make up our minds on something? I will pick from a few people I trust.

I have found this fascinating with the vaccine conversation because I have spoken to a few of my friends that haven’t been vaccinated. I have approached it as pure curiosity about why they have chosen not to be vaccinated. Most of my friends, I perceived to be intelligent and thoughtful. They all have different reasons for not getting the vaccine. They have thought it through and spoken to friends. I’m like, “Instead of me taking sides on an issue like this, why don’t I just do what is best for me and make the best decision I possibly can? After I have made it, I will be open to listening to people who have currently made different decisions than me to learn and use it as an opportunity to be like, ‘They are different than me.’”

When it comes to social media, curate the experiences that you want to see. Click To Tweet

That feels more progressive than this black and white thinking about what’s good or bad, right or wrong, positive or negative. All of that can be toxic. All of our judgments, assumptions, anger and resentment towards others, that’s where the toxic elements are. Instead, I find like, “I can listen to somebody and I don’t need to voice my opinion back to them, and then I can move on. If I don’t like it, I can move on through social media. If it’s a friend of mine, I can listen to them and I don’t have to say anything else after I listen, and then we can move on to another conversation where perhaps we agree on.” That’s where I’m at with a lot of this.

Something else I found interesting when I looked up toxic positivity is I use a tool called LINER, which I have mixed feelings about but it’s neat for highlighting articles. For anyone wondering how I do my research, I will go on Google and type in a phrase. I will go to the news section and I will check the dates on it. I will organize it and then I will pull up some articles from different sources, including sources that I trust and read about different perspectives on things.

This article came from the BBC. It’s called Tragic optimism: The antidote to toxic positivity. The article is a summary of what it means to be optimistic or have toxic positivity. They said, “This unrelenting optimism known as toxic positivity paints negative emotions as failures or weaknesses.” This is what we have spoken on before in some other episodes, which is an important distinction. That’s where the judgment comes in. Who am I to say that somebody can’t feel negative about something? Trying to convince someone to not feel something is so manipulative, in my opinion.

“Failing to acknowledge hardships can have a detrimental effect on our mental health. Persistent reminders to reflect on how good we have it in the midst of strife and struggle don’t make sadness, fear or anxiety dissipate according to research. Instead, suppressing negative emotions can make us feel worse.” One thing I like about this BBC article is, they link to studies and other articles so that you can see how they put this article together.

“By contrast, another mindset approach boosts a more realistic framing. Tragic optimism post that there is hope and meaning to be found in life while also acknowledging the existence of loss, pain and suffering.” They referenced Viktor Frankl, which we have referenced in at least one episode before, who was a proponent of tragic optimism, which maintains that there’s a space to experience both the good and the bad and that we can grow from each. Viktor Frankl is an example that a lot of people point to because he’s a Holocaust survivor who wrote a book on this and is a psychologist as well.

One of the keys here is maintaining hope. This is something I have been reflecting a lot on, Jason, during the climate change conversation. It’s like, “Things feel bad but somehow I have been able to maintain hope.” Sometimes I wonder like, “Should I be hopeful? It feels good for me to be hopeful but is there truly hope?” That remains to be seen but I wonder, does it serve me and my mental health or other people that I have been interacting with? Does it serve us to feel hopeless?

Let’s say we die some tragic death through any of these catastrophes happening in the world. Would it serve me to be hopeless up until that moment of my death or would it serve me more to remain hopeful to pass that on to others? This article also points to research that is found that participants and studies showed tragic optimism help them cope more effectively with the trauma of the pandemic. That’s important, too.

Speaking of coping mechanisms, maybe that optimism is the key to us getting through these things. The article ends with something great for our show. A psychologist named Paul Wong said, “The road to transformation may be uncomfortable because life currently isn’t easy. It’s okay to be lonely, to feel bad, to feel anxious. Welcome to the human club.” The article closes by saying, “Embracing tragic optimism means making a daily effort to feel comfortable with loneliness or anxiety.”

I have never heard that phrase before. It’s poignant and resonant for me. I had a moment where I was talking to my girlfriend, Laura, my mom and my mentor, Michael. I have expressed this to you and I have expressed it on the show, this overwhelming sadness and feeling of hopelessness that seems to be present daily for me. My girlfriend, Laura, pointed out something, “I don’t believe you.” I said, “What do you mean?” She said, “I don’t believe you are hopeless.”

MGU 275 | Toxic Positivity

Toxic Positivity: Toxic positivity paints negative emotions as failures or weaknesses. Failing to acknowledge hardships can have a detrimental effect on your mental health.

 

My defensive reaction, Whitney, immediately was like, “You can’t tell me how I feel. I know how I feel. You don’t know.” I quelled that a little bit because I wanted to be respectful and hear what she had to say. She said, “If you were totally hopeless, I know you. You wouldn’t recycle. You wouldn’t be cleaning out your sauce jars. You wouldn’t be looking at getting an electric car, moving off-grid and wanting to save animals. If you were totally hopeless, you wouldn’t be saving animals and feeding the animals on your property. You would go out. You would stop being vegan.”

I sat with it and I thought, “She’s got a point.” There’s something in me that feels like I’m hopeless. I convinced myself of that story but my actions point to something deeper. If I was truly hopeless, I would just probably throw my hands up and say, “Fuck it. I don’t care anymore,” and be in this anarchistic state where I’m not putting any effort towards the things that in my heart, at least, are making a difference.

That was an interesting point of reflection in terms of this feeling of hopelessness and how that relates to this framework of tragic optimism. Maybe we can be containers for all of it, that I can feel sad, feel despondent and feel a sense of despair but still eat in a way that is positive for the Earth and the climate. Rescue animals, be kind to people, recycle, try to be more eco-friendly and be conscious about how my actions affect others. If I was totally hopeless, Whitney, I wouldn’t do any of those things. I don’t know if that’s helpful for anyone reading who might feel hopeless but it was helpful for me.

Another thing that’s interesting on that note, Jason, in thinking about the roots and the reasons why people might resort to toxic positivity, there’s an article in The Washington Post that came out in 2020 about this. They were looking at where are the origins of this label of toxic positivity. A professor of psychology said that the idea is rooted in American culture, which values positivity and it’s an attractive behavior that makes people seem more well-adapted and more popular with their peers. There are a lot of reasons people want to see more be positive.

That’s why we are seeing that so much on social media. Social media is very much driven by this popularity contest. People want to get followers and they think, “I’m going to be super positive, make people feel good and they are going to want to follow me,” which makes sense. You also have the people that are much about their vulnerabilities but even then, that could be spun in a direction of positivity. It’s like, “I’m unhappy with my life. I’m being vulnerable about the fact that I’m unhappy but I’m working on it. I’m embracing it and I’m being strong.” That in itself, there’s still positivity in there. I’m brave enough to share this with you and that’s a positive thing so is it some psychological manipulation that we are doing to try to get people to like us more?

One other point in this article that I feel like you would appreciate, Jason, is about a metaphor for toxic positivity. Trying to shove ice cream into somebody’s face when they don’t feel like having ice cream is not going to make them feel better. When you started this conversation, Jason, you seemed to be focused on what you were observing other people were doing and how that was irritating you. I don’t know if this all fully applies, though. When somebody posts on social or a friend of yours even privately tells you about what’s going on, are they doing that to get your validation, make you feel better, make you feel guilty and make you feel not enough?

I don’t know how much people even think these things through. If it’s between friends, it’s usually rooted in connection and trying to help someone or make them feel good. Of course, many of us have experienced somebody saying something to us that they intended to make us feel good. An example I keep coming back to is how I felt when people have commented on my appearance. It doesn’t always give me the feeling that they want like, “You look good.” A.) I don’t want you to focus on my appearance because that’s not where my value is. B.) That compliment doesn’t feel deep to me. It’s like, “Are you saying that I didn’t look better in the past? Why do you need to compare me to my previous self, your perception of me?” It’s a weird thing.

Another example is when you comment on somebody’s weight. Having struggled with my weight a lot, I know and I have learned through hearing with others. I have made this mistake myself. I now have to bite my tongue. I did it one time. I noticed that one of my friend’s weights was different and I wasn’t going to say anything to this friend but I almost said something to a friend of a friend like, “Did you notice so and so?” I was like, “Why the heck do I need to comment on this person’s weight? It wouldn’t make me feel good to know my friends were talking about my weight.”

Why do we need to talk about that? Why do we say that to other people if we are complimenting them? We are hoping we are going to make someone feel good by pointing out what we think of their appearance but it doesn’t make most of us feel that good deep down, not for long at least. The gossip that we have is ultimately a desire to connect with one another so now I’m like, “How can I connect on a deeper level? I don’t need to connect on a superficial gossip level.” When I recognize that, it helps me shift out of it because I can put my efforts into something that truly is positive, not toxic positivity. Does that make sense?

People just follow other people as a model and not necessarily think for themselves. Click To Tweet

It’s tough. Deeply conditioned behavior is what we are talking about, Whitney. You alluded to that and it was brilliant. We get into these sub-segments, these groups or communities where we see certain behaviors, terminologies, languaging, posturing, tenets, mantras and we look around and say, “It’s working for all these people. They are in positions of either authority, abundance or social status that I perceive as greater or above mine. I’m going to look at the alphas in the group and see how they are conducting their lives and model their behavior.” We see it parroted a lot.

If you look at the idea of having a guru, which I’m neither for nor against, it’s your personal choice, religion, capitalism, business, there seems to be a rhetoric of you finding someone who is “further along,” more advanced, more evolved. It’s tempting to emulate them. We talked about this in many different episodes of looking at someone’s life path, their roadmap or how they structured their business.

A popular thing the past few years that I have continued to see is articles about the daily routines of billionaires, how the most successful people run their entire day. It’s like, “If I want to be a success, I need to wake up at 5:15 AM and eat this food, do this practice and buy this thing.” It’s an obsession that we have as humans for belonging, security, safety, acknowledgment.

If you look at our motivations as human beings, they haven’t changed that much over the development of Homo sapiens. We still want safety, belonging, acknowledgment and community. We are terrified of being cast out into the forest alone, proverbially speaking. We are terrified of not being included, not being acknowledged, not being loved. Anyone who claims they are above it, more power over you. Collectively, the near eight billion people on the planet are still subjugated to these deeply held fears that have been running us for thousands of years. The compassion comes in there, Whitney.

We talk about awareness and we talk about belonging. You mentioned this idea of people posting their vulnerabilities online, whether that’s authentic or if that’s truly positive. It’s a journey. When you are around someone and you are like, “This motherfucker is real.” It’s a gut feeling of you believing what this person is saying to you. It hits you in a way.

For me, over the years, if I look at the people that I hung out with years ago, people I used to date, the friends I had, do I have some of them in my life? Yes. The question is, “Why do I have some of them still in my life?” It’s because there’s a certain journey that I have taken and the people in my life have taken. I have certainly moved apart from people. You have had this experience, Whitney, where you have people you are super close to and you are not super close to anymore.

I’m getting super tangential at this point. If I distill it, the people I’m closest to in my life have a desire, curiosity and commitment to growth, awareness and finding out who the hell they are. They are not like, “I found out who I was and this is it. I’m done.” Some people believe that in life. That’s fine. I don’t believe we are ever done knowing who we are. I don’t believe that process has an endpoint. People I want to surround myself with and the people that I deeply love have a similar philosophy. Does that make sense?

Yes. The other key here is that, as we have said in some episodes, the world is rapidly changing. As human beings, a lot of us don’t adapt to change quickly. I pulled up some articles because I was trying to see some of the data behind this and one of the terms I came across is herd mentality, the instinct or the typical behavior of humans to follow the crowd, the in-crowd. This is one of the reasons that social media has made such an impact and influencers are such a huge part of marketing.

As people know, if someone is good at convincing others or being a leader, then they can help people make decisions, especially when it comes to their buying behavior. This is part of the reason that I sometimes feel ethically uncomfortable with the term influencer and working with certain brands. I feel almost like they are using me to be the Pied Piper or something. That’s not where my true value is.

MGU 275 | Toxic Positivity

Toxic Positivity: The road to transformation may be uncomfortable because life currently isn’t easy. It’s okay to be lonely. It’s okay to feel bad. It’s okay to feel anxious. Welcome to the human club.

 

My superpower is honestly questioning things. I have recognized that over time because of this. The fact that I don’t automatically do things, I question them, I reflect on them, observe, research and I take my time deciding, whether I’m going to do something is a strength. I would rather encourage other people to question things than try to tell people, “Do what I say. Do what I do. Trust me on this.” That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy giving recommendations. I certainly do that on our other show, This Hits The Spot. I do that on my social from time to time. I also know people like to know what conclusions I have come to through my research. It’s finding that balance.

I hope that when I encourage somebody to do something that they also think for themselves and they don’t have this knee-jerk reaction like, “Whitney said that this is great. I’m going to buy it.” I love it when someone says, “I looked into it and realized that wasn’t for me or I looked into it and I decided to get something else.” My question is, “What did you decide to get? I’m curious. How did you come to that decision?”

I’m finding, Jason, that there are a lot of studies done around how much people tend to copy each other and how we don’t respond that effectively to changing environments. I wonder if that’s why we are where we are at with climate change. We don’t have enough influence to make that change because the change is happening and people haven’t adapted quickly enough. The change is happening with the pandemic. Is that why it has been such a struggle for people to make changes in their life? It’s still a rapid change that we have gone through. There has also been a lot of trauma.

I feel like the pandemic is such a great example of this behavior because many of us have been looking to others to try to figure things out. Most of the people we are looking to someone else. Are we going in circles looking at each other trying to decide what to do versus stepping back and thinking, “What is in my best interest and other people’s best interest? How can I back it up beyond what my neighbor says, beyond what my best friend said or my family members say?”

What’s interesting too, Jason is being a questioner, as I have explained in many episodes, I have experienced a lot of people that get frustrated with me asking questions. I feel like now in my life that I’m beginning to find more courage in asking questions even though it irritates people. That’s the risk. This is probably why some people fall into the herd mentality or the status quo because it’s not easy to veer off. It’s not always easy to pave your own path. It feels much easier to look at what the biggest group is doing and go with it.

Paving your own path is not always going to be the best option for you. It’s risky. It can lead you in a way where you get too far away from the crowd, and suddenly, you are all on your own fending for yourself. That’s not great either. It’s a tricky process. For someone like me, that’s how I am. I’m a questioner. I have always questioned. I enjoy questioning. I find comfort in questioning and it helps me make informed decisions. I feel empowered to do that because it helps me adapt to change quickly. It also helps me help others.

I’m okay with taking the risks, with being different. I’m finding more courage in that. I encourage other people that if they want to question things, that can be a great thing, a healthy thing, a positive thing. Including questioning when somebody says, “Don’t worry about it or here’s my recommendation. Do what I say.” Question those things. Examine it to decide if that’s the right avenue for you. If you want to feel something that other people are telling you not to feel, maybe you should feel it because that’s your intuition.

As you are saying, Jason, when you get that intuitive hit that something doesn’t feel good or somebody said or did doesn’t feel good, you are probably going in a good direction. You could benefit from questioning your feelings and examining them because our feelings aren’t always based on reality. Questioning is incredibly important. Even if you are not a questioner like me, you can practice doing your questioning whenever you feel the instinct to do what other people are doing. Take a little bit of time. If that feels uncomfortable for you, it can take some practice or come to someone like me that’s great at questioning because we can support you in the questioning process.

I would be curious, Jason, for you being a rebellious person. You probably find it semi-easy to go against the grain or go against the herd mentality. I also feel like you get overwhelmed with questioning and research. Can you share when you feel overwhelmed and you don’t know how to make a decision? Sometimes I see you shut down like you can’t deal with it. How do you handle that when you want to rebel against something and you don’t fully know if it’s the best decision for you? What’s your process with dealing with the change, for example, or handling your overwhelm through the process of making a decision?

Embracing tragic optimism means making a daily effort to feel comfortable with loneliness or anxiety. Click To Tweet

I want to respond to that by saying it’s not that I want to rebel. I don’t think that’s accurate. This ties into some observational research. I would look and I would observe even as a young child certain behaviors or tendencies that people would have. I would observe the results of those things and then conclude, fallacious as it may be in some circumstances, of if people are doing X and Y, and that equals Z and Z looks awful, I sure as fuck don’t want to do X and Y because Z looks horrible.

My rebelliousness is based on logic. There was an intuition. There was an emotional component. If I get into the mechanics of it, Whitney, there’s a part of logic and observation that is a part of it. For me, in the process of gathering information, when I get overwhelmed, it is a signal for me to detach completely and go be by myself.

What I’m experiencing in the world is looking at the research and the data on COVID, the pandemic, climate change, Bitcoin, inflation, economics. To your point, we could insert so many challenging and confounding difficult situations humanity is facing. There’s no shortage of them. When I start to feel bombarded and overwhelmed, it is time for me to shut off the computer, shut off the phone and go be by myself so I can get some mental space.

To me, overwhelm is an alarm, internally, that tells me I need to go and meditate, I need solitude, I need to sit with myself and make a decision. Going back to the rebelliousness, knowing that there are decisions we can’t take back but many decisions in life, we can make a new decision. It’s not a final thing. There are some things we can’t take back.

They are final. For many things, we can always make a new decision. I don’t know if it nullifies or counteracts the original decision. Most things aren’t a brick wall where it’s like, “That’s it. You made your decision. You are done.” There are some things in life like that but in many things, we can make a new one.

The rebelliousness comes back when I make a decision. There’s a certain energy in me that has gotten stronger over the years as I have gotten older. It’s like, “I know I’m going to be damned if I do and damned if I don’t.” If I make this decision, I know there are going to be people in my life who approve of it and people who don’t. When I say people, I mean people close to me in my life. If I decide to announce anything on social media, they are sure as hell is going to be a litany of people who are like, “Jason, we support you. Jason, you are a fucking maniac.”

The point is, ultimately, if we take ownership of our decisions, I’m the one who has to face the repercussions of those decisions in life. Will they have a ripple effect that other people feel? Yes. We don’t live in a vacuum. It goes back to that siloed reality. I know that my decisions have a ripple effect. That’s another consideration that I take in. It’s not like, “I’m going to do something and it only affects Jason.” We are in an interdependent reality. My long answer is I do try to employ some logic in that decision-making. It’s not like, “I want to rebel against everything. Fuck everyone.” It’s not like that at all. I’m not looking to rebel. That’s not what motivates me. It’s part of the fabric of my decision-making if that makes sense.

It’s interesting to hear how other people process information, make decisions and tune into themselves. That’s one of the biggest challenges that we have now. I’m glad that you brought that up because it ties into why we love Embody Me, who’s the sponsor of this episode and the group of episodes here. I was looking at their schedule and I know that one of the classes that excited you, Jason, is about planning your week with intention.

That is a combination of meditation, journaling and writing things down. Those two combined are incredibly powerful but also separate are amazing. I find that if I can sit down and write, think, tune out other people, and tune into myself, it is the best way to make decisions and to get clarity. Social media has made it challenging for us to do that these days. If you can set the time aside for yourself, that can be incredibly powerful.

MGU 275 | Toxic Positivity

Toxic Positivity: Social media is very much driven by this popularity contest. People want to get followers, and they think that by being super positive, people will want to follow them. That is not really authentic.

 

You can also use yoga as an avenue for this. On Embody Me, they have a Vinyasa Flow for Intuition class. We have talked many times on the show about the issues in your tissues and working things through, and how powerful movement is. I can attest to that. For me, the movement has been an ongoing journey. I like to have a lot of variety but I have come back to yoga over and over again. I started practicing yoga in 2008 or 2006 maybe. It has been a long time.

Sometimes I go away from yoga and then I will come back to it and the reason is that it helps me slow down and tap in. It feels meditative. It feels strengthening. It’s great for stretching. It’s rooted in our intuition. It’s rooted in our sense of self and our self-awareness. One of the best parts about yoga for me is how it helps me tap into who I am and how I’m feeling emotionally and physically.

To conclude this episode and to also bring it back to our sponsor, check out the schedule. You can do this without even signing up for Embody Me yet. If you go to EmbodyMe.live and click on the Class Schedule at the top menu bar, you will see a list of these. You can choose which class you want to take because we are giving you seven free days to try it out. If you are like me, you will plan out your schedule for the whole week so that you can maximize that free trial.

Assuming you enjoy it as much as we are expecting you to, you can get 20% off your first full month, which is awesome. If you use the code Wellevatr when you sign up in EmbodyMe.live, you will get that free week and then you will get 20% off, which is awesome. We encourage you to tap in. If you are feeling stressed, anxious, overwhelmed, out of alignment with yourself and you want to connect with a positive community and great teachers, this is such an amazing space. I’m glad that the timing worked out with the sponsorship, Jason because it ties in to so much.

I spoke about in a previous episode how 5 or 10 minutes of the face yoga class that I took was transformative for me. Part of that was because of the breathing practice, which is something else I do a lot on Embody Me. Deep breathing is amazing. Another piece of advice, if you feel overwhelmed by a class, even a short one like 20 or 30 minutes, I cannot recommend enough starting and doing as much as you feel like. You will notice a difference. I can almost guarantee you will notice a difference within a few minutes if you give it your all. If you sit down and follow the instructions, there’s a calming impact that these classes have. I can’t wait for you to try them. EmbodyMe.live. Use the code Wellevatr.

Speaking of Wellevatr, we have done over 300 episodes, which is nuts. I wanted to remind you that we are cutting back to two episodes a week temporarily. We are experimenting with it. We would love your feedback. We love hearing from you in general. We want to hear your thoughts and opinions, even if they differ from ours. We want to hear what you are discovering and who you are, like Rye, who inspired this episode. Emails and direct messages from you are amazing.

Speaking of which, Jason, I don’t know if you saw this. We’ve got a comment on our Patreon from one of our supporters named April. She left the sweetest comment and was talking about one of our episodes of This Hits The Spot, which is a perk that we give to our patrons and email subscribers. Hearing from April and her reaction to our video lit me up. It gave me a lot of joy. It helped me feel more connected to her. That was the positivity that I like to see and experience.

I encourage you, the reader, if you haven’t ever reached out to us, we would love to hear from you. We want to get to know you. We want to hear about who you are, what you do, what you think, your questions, all of it. If you want to connect with us deeper, email us. You can sign up for the newsletter, which you can click reply. Sometimes people do that. That’s awesome too, responding to our weekly newsletter that comes out every Friday. We would love to hear if you try out EmbodyMe.live. We want to know what class you took and what you think of it.

If you want to get some added perks from us, sign up for Patreon. For as little as $2 a month, you get to support this show. You get to support This Hits The Spot. You get some special perks from us there. It’s another way to connect with us. We give you a lot of options here. We care about you. We appreciate you. Thank you for reading. We will be back with another episode. We’ve got an amazing lineup of guests. I’m excited about it, Jason, honestly. I’m blown away by the people that come on the show. That’s it for this episode. Any final words, Jason?

I feel better after doing this episode. It’s nice to observe that within myself. I came in all grumpy gremlin, “Get off my lawn,” and full of piss and vinegar. I feel better. Thank you, Whitney. It’s interesting. We do this show because we wanted to create an avenue, a vehicle if you will, for talking about mental health and emotional wellness.

Also, being real about our experience in life and the things we are passionate and curious about. It has also been interesting to observe, throughout 300 episodes, that this has also been a vehicle for self-exploration and I have learned more about who I am through this. It has been beautiful to observe. Thank you, Whitney. Thank you, dear readers, for your support, love, and patronage. We will see you soon!

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