Self-Care and Toxic Positivity: The Radical Act of Believing in Can’t

At the moment, there is stuff I can’t do that I previously could do. I’m not talking solving simultaneous quadratic equations, but more basic stuff. Decisions are for some reason a great deal harder than normal. Amongst other things.

I know why. I know that things will probably get better in their own time. Or maybe some of them won’t. Maybe I will just have to find a way to live with the “can’t make decisions” thing for a long time. Sort of like “can’t go to movie theatres” and “can’t walk in high heel shoes”.

But of course there’s the voices. Its not that bad. You will be fine. You just need to push through. Don’t be so negative. Honestly, Rox, you used to be such a positive person. Why can’t you just be more, I don’t know, you? If you smile more that will help. You just need to eat kale and exercise. If you stop focussing on it, it will go away. Stop thinking so much and just do it. How hard can it be, really?

Most of those voices aren’t things that people are saying to me now. They are echoes, and echoes of echoes. Well meaning friends and family who didn’t want me to be defined by my limitations or difficulties, or maybe didn’t want me to articulate their difficulties so clearly. Just ignore it, pretend everything is alright and carry on. Never mind that you can feel the energy melting out of your soul and your mind is breaking under the relentless pressure.

Toxic positivity is not helpful. The clue is in the name. The relentless pressure to not be defined by our weaknesses has turned into a demand that we don’t admit any weakness at all. That we don’t acknowledge that actually we have limits. We are pushed to do better, climb higher, grow more, learn more.

Stop. Just stop. Every year has it’s winter. Nothing grows forever.

Resisting that pressure, admitting that right now, we can’t, is a radical act of self- preservation and self-care.

Even if yesterday, we could, if we can’t today, that doesn’t make us any less worthy, any less valuable, any less precious. All it means is that we can’t do the thing.

Now I know that there are some times when our ability to do things is a part of our identity, and accepting that can’t is a different sort of journey. A kind of grief for the person we might have been, or thought we were becoming. And I am in no way diminishing that. But that’s a conversation for another day.

In the meantime, can I just leave you with this thought. Just because something looks easy, or is easy for other people, doesn’t mean it will be easy for you. And all the wishing in the world, and positive self talk won’t make the impossible thing easy. Giving up on that one thing you can’t do gives you energy to do more of the things that you can. And maybe one day, you will have the energy to find a way around that can’t. Again, a conversation for another day (lots of those today).

So know this. I believe in you. Not just because of the things you can do. Not so you will do the things you can’t. I believe you are doing the best you can. And that is enough.

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