HW: #WednesdayWisdom; Please do not make me smile.

“Hell is paved with good intentions. Read this post and discover a sure way to make someone miserable.” – Goldie the Flabbergasted

Not everyone is like you.

What does that mean? It means that not everyone will react in the same way as you would in any given situation. They might have the same thought-process as you, or they might not.

If you have been following and reading (!!!) this blog for a while, you know that I am very outspoken about mental health. But it is not necessarily in the sense that you might be thinking. Yes, I do think that we should focus on people’s well-being, both mental and physical. However, I do not think that “positive thinking” is a cure-it-all.

Time and time again, we are told that our mental health matters. Right after that, we are told to smile and stay positive. So should we respect people’s thoughts and try to help them when they are struggling? Or should we tell them to “smile”? Why is it not alright to say things like: “It will be alright. Chin up”? Supposedly, that is condescending and can make the person feel worse. Ok… So why is the push for smiling always seen as a good thing? How is it any different from “Stay positive”, “Snap out of it”? To me, someone asking me to smile is way worse. I will keep on working on staying positive and snapping out of it when I have a problem, but it is a process. Telling me to smile NOW is asking way too much. And it requires me to be fake. No, thank you.

Some time ago, when I lived in a country other than the US, friends of mine (from the US) came to visit. The FIRST thing they said to me when we met was that people looked at them in a funny way when they smiled and waved. I could not help but laugh. Yes, to the natives they must have looked like crazy people. In other parts of the world, you do not say hello to random people you pass on the street. You do not smile at them. Why? It is simply suspicious. Why? Believe it or not, in some cultures, you should have a reason to smile. If you do not know someone, you do not have a reason to smile at them, really. They might rush to a mirror to see if they have something weird on their face.

That story repeated itself every time an American came to visit. Likewise, if foreigners come to the US, they comment on those smiles and “hellos”. This time, after the initial unease, they see it as a friendly thing. They feel welcome. Well, at least, some of them. Some still think it is weird. Some cultures prefer honest relations.

To me, a smile is connected to emotions, and emotions are things I do not like to fake. At my previous workplace, I received an email telling me how I should behave when I see another human being in my vicinity. If I remember correctly, it insisted that I smile as soon as I spot them, and then say “Hello” as I pass them by. Being aware of others is a great defensive tactic. In fact, if you see someone that might be suspicious, try to make eye contact and say “Hello” to them. It is said to potentially divert the person from doing something bad because they know they have been spotted and seen and that there now is a witness that could identify them.

While I appreciate it when someone tries to cheer me up when I am down, I prefer to be left alone with my feelings and emotions. Positivity can be toxic! There, I have said it/ I have been saying this for a while, but it has finally been said by “an expert” and all of a sudden people start paying attention. How can well-intended words be toxic? It leaves the receiver of these words feeling like they cannot be vulnerable. Like they cannot share their feelings. Like they are all alone. Is that what you were trying to achieve when you told them that they should just smile?

Aside from having to close off from the world, the person is also made feel like they are being ridiculous for feeling the way they do. It makes them feel like they cannot share their burden with anyone. That it is only theirs to fix. That it is EASY to fix with a smile and a positive attitude. Sometimes grief and sadness are necessary to a human being. We, as a society, are calling on men to be more in touch with their feelings. But at the same time, we are saying that only the good feelings are OK. You cannot pick and choose.

Social media is one of the (if not THE) main culprits here. There is so much posted on the topic of positivity that it makes people think that they cannot be anything but. It makes them feel as if everyone but them is happy. Were you aware of how alienating this can be?

I would like to illustrate toxic positivity by telling a story. Imagine someone just lost a loved one. They are grieving, but they do not share their darkness with others, as as not to dampen those people’s happiness. That person walks around without a smile. Every corner they turn, they are told to smile and to seize the day. All of that does not help. It actually HURTS. It makes the person feel like their feelings are wrong. Like they should do more to fit in. Like there is no one there to understand them and just let things take their natural course. Where does that lead? It leads to the big “D” – depression.

Please, for the love of all that is holy, do not offer positivity related advice if you do not know the person. Sometimes it is alright to just let them be. The expert psychotherapist says that if you are on the receiving end of toxic positivity, “it is OK to tell that person what you need in the moment, and if they’re not able to offer it to you, it’s OK to say, “This is about me”.”

If you would like to read more about what you could say instead of offering toxic positivity, feel free to check out an article from Good Morning Article –> HERE <–.

Remember that not everyone is like you. Do not try to fit their personality into your mold. Theirs might be in the shape of a Christmas tree, while yours in the shape of a snowman. These two still go together in the same season, but are not one in the same. Respect that!

On a side note: Please feel free to share a joke with me in the comment section.

Stay golden,

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53 thoughts on “HW: #WednesdayWisdom; Please do not make me smile.

Add yours

  1. A great way of looking at something like that. It makes sense to me and it’s true, sometimes you just want to process the feelings in the state they come in.

    BTW chin up…wait, no I mean go away. No, that’s not it…ah you complete me?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I understand it when people are trying to help (I myself hate being unable to help others when they are struggling), but sometimes no help is necessary. It is the time that is needed.

      LOL! Doesn’t it seem like anything we say can and WILL be used against us in the court of other people’s feelings?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Sometimes people are also just trying to get the scoop on your crisis and that shit annoys me. Be geniune or move on. You’re right, sometimes we need to get through it on our own. I’ve learned that myself at a very young age.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Same here. I grew up in what we Newfoundlanders call “the bay”. And everyone and I mean everyone knew your name and business. Used to drive me nuts. Now that I live in the city, I don’t even know my neighbour which I’m perfectly ok with.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Hahaha, yes, same with me. It’s not like I would mind knowing my neighbors (superficially), but we all seem to be leading busy lives and we don’t even pass each other by outside. Some people cannot comprehend that, but I, like you, am quite content with that. One day, if I get a permanent house, I would probably try to get to know some people for security reasons.

              Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ll share a joke… from the British comedy duo ‘The Two Ronnies’, newsflash item:
    ‘We’ve just heard that in the English channel, a ship carrying red paint has collided with a ship carrying purple paint. It is believed that both crews have been marooned.’

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Absolutely one hundred zillion percent agree! I actually have a post in drafts about grieving and how it doesn’t follow a timeline, not even for the same person. Respect people’s differences. To me, we force this “smile” crap on everyone because it makes us uncomfortable to have to deal with a sad person. Ewwww a sad person! No want this complication here! We’d rather have the fake positivity. Which in an office environment I understand. We can’t have everyone on sofas pouring out their feelings. But for friends and family… let peeps feel what they feel!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’d be curious to read it. Let me know when you do end up publishing it.

      Uncomfortable indeed. But most of the time you don’t even have to “deal”. Why don’t you just go about your day and leave me be? I won’t get in your rose-colored way and you shouldn’t be getting in my muddy one.

      Yes, I agree that you have to be civil and professional at work. There is a middle ground between smiling and sitting on a sofa and crying. If you’re doing your job and minding your own business, why does it matter if you are smiling or frowning?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. “a smile is connected to emotions, and emotions are things I do not like to fake.” and ” it’s OK to say, “This is about me”. I love these thoughts. I love the idea of “toxic positivity”. I hadn’t heard of it before but it’s an interesting one and I’m definitely going to think about this post and try to incorporate some of the ideas. Especially letting myself say, “this is about me.” I struggle with that some.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A very strong post. 👏

    Positivity can be toxic! In context when we want to be left along to vent, to figures things out, positivity might be the last thing we want to hear.

    But, I just love positivity cause I think I would sink in all the negativity.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You got an email like that?! For heaven’s sake.
    I was once told by a manager to smile more.
    I told him to give me a reason to smile.
    “I hired you”, was his respond
    For crying out loud! That is the reason why I lost the ability to smile, you asshole.
    Besides that, STOP like you are freaking charity for giving me a job.
    I work, you give me money. That’s a fair trade, isn’t it?!

    As you know, I am no way near positive.
    It’s too much for my “skeptical heart” 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I did. It’s insane how much control companies are trying to exert over their workers. It really annoys me when they try to have you do (or not do) something that is totally unrelated to your job. I think I mentioned to you before that they told me to face the phone when I am talking to someone, because that person can sense my distraction otherwise. And smile. Of course. Don’t you think someone is crazy when they stare at an inanimate object with a smile?

      Wow. What a douche!

      That’s why I am a fan of your Valentino.

      Like

    1. Thank you. Sometimes, when others force us to smile, we bury the negative emotions deep inside and later they can come to fester. I once heard about a guy who thought he processed the death of one of his parents pretty well… until decades later. I can only hope I know what I’m doing and won’t end up rocking in a corner further down the road.

      How do you deal with people who don’t give you space to cope with things on your own?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh this is a tough one alright. I remember when my parents died – one after the other a few years ago. I thought I was okay – it was a release for them as they both were suffering from different terrible illness at the time. And that is what everyone tells you “it’s a release, it’s for the better” and you nod and continue with all the arrangements one after the other after the other and it’s all a bit numbing. And then yeah – the fall out happens. But you still have to get the groceries and you run into a thought that buried you in grief – but your in the middle of the cereal aisle and there are people walking all around you and so you stare very hard at the back of a cereal box so that the tears don’t flood out everywhere. After the “fallout” – I wondered how many other people were doing their shopping with broken hearts. And now I try to smile at everyone and spread as much compassion as I can because – everyone is goIng through something. Human beings run deep even if they only look shallow on the surface. My answer though be cause I just realised I didn’t tell you how I coped – is a long one – I spent a lot of time almost 5 years – I wrote, I went on bike trips and hiked, I hugged my dogs, ate badly – then healthy, drank too much then less and then nothing. I got healthy eventually and most of all I would say to you it is a process – you don’t judge any part of the process – it all needs to happen. This is such a long comment – I’ll write a post on it – in the mean time don’t judge yourself – you do you whatever that looks like – do that. Much love 💔 💕

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you for such a lengthy, in-depth explanation. No matter how they die, it is still a loss and you need to cope with it. The problem is that the world does not stop. You do need to go get groceries (unless you have them delivered), you need to pay your bills, and you need to deal with everyone around you (unless you are able to work from home).

          You bring a good point – there’s plenty of people who are going through stuff and we have no idea. Thought-provoking.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Great article as always sir. Even well-intentioned, a message of positivity can be worse than no message at all. It was interesting that you brought up the hello to strangers point which is actually a crime prevention strategy that is told to cashiers and what not to dissuade people from committing crimes hahah

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, yes. I am aware about the “hello” by cashiers when you enter the store. They are so annoying, because I am usually deep in thought. They usually say: “Welcome to xyz” and I’m not sure how to respond to that. “Thank you?”

      Liked by 1 person

  8. That’s really interesting Goldie what you said about toxic positivity. I’ve never thought about it this way. It’s true that our primary instinct might be to make someone feel better and we might wrongly do it by urging to smile instead of letting someone get through painful feelings. Sometimes we don’t need to do anything but be with someone and listen carefully. It’s already a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Or just leave them alone.
      Emotional intelligence isn’t something that everyone has. Sometimes we can read the queues, and sometimes we just have to ask how the other person wants us to proceed. Not doing either one is selfish.

      Like

        1. I definitely prefer to be left alone. That’s how I cope and deal. Otherwise, I feel smothered. Like I have to make the other person feel better because they’re “helping”. That is detracting from the time I could take to deal with my issues. I expect people who know me to know. Or if you’re trying to chat and I keep answering with a grunt or a single word, I hope you get the hint. But I do realize that I need to actually ask to be left alone. I just don’t want to come across as rude. Again, instead of dealing with my stuff, I have to worry about potentially offending someone else and them saying I’m ungrateful for their help. Eh… I am not made for this world.

          Like

  9. You did justice to this topic, Goldie, just like I imagined you would. I want to say a lot, but I’m so overwhelmed with the gamut of emotions right now that the only coherent words I can think of are ‘Thank you!’

    Thank you so much for painting the truth exactly as it is.

    Liked by 1 person

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Rachael Ritchey

Worlds of Fiction

From famine to feast.

Recovery and growth, things that interest me, occasional deep-thoughts, and random poetry.

Skeptical Heartism

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