Humans worldwide can agree that 2020 was not our best year as a species. But can we also agree to abandon some terrible habits that serve no purpose except to drag us all down? Here are a few things that should die as 2020 comes to a close.
The situation hardly matters. Your dog died. Your grandma got cancer. You had a nasty divorce. Your business failed. Your house burned down. Someone in your life will insist that you see the bright side, look for the silver lining or share only positive vibes. Those people can fuck right off.
Toxic Positivity is the ability to ignore or marginalize a painful or difficult situation while enforcing a happy, optimistic state. I once had lunch with a friend who was crying bitterly over her divorce and she paused for a moment, looked at me with red, puffy eyes and said, “But I’m happier than I’ve ever been.” I had never seen someone lie to themselves so earnestly before. Why would she feel the need to do that, in that moment?
According to The Psychology Group, toxic positivity serves to hide or mask true feelings, deliver perspective instead of validation, shame or chastise others for expressing emotions or brushing off things that are bothering you (“It is what it is.”). The worst part? This desperate attempt to mask and cover true emotions or encourage a person to keep silent in their struggles only brings shame, hiding, secrets and denial.
Members of multi-level marketing companies (MLMs) are particularly guilty of this tactic. People who are 5 figures in debt and were promised huge incomes express the tiniest concerns and are met with “Girl, just work your business” or “The only way to fail is to quit!” That toxic positivity has led to bankruptcies, ruined relationships and false hope for millions of innocent victims who were coaxed into believing a fabricated dream.
I myself am guilty of this mindset, often touting how you can design the life of your dreams. I do believe we all have a certain amount of ability to follow our dreams, but life can sometimes serve up a steaming pile of poo to sort through, and building a life is the last thing anyone needs to hear in that moment. In the past three years I have struggled with some very low moments, and my normally sunny disposition was replaced by legitimate anxiety, depression and frustration. The least helpful people were always there trying to manufacture feelings of gratefulness or optimism that just weren’t there.
The unwelcome, unhelpful pressure and shame of toxic positivity is a product of a society that believes dreams can replace reality if we pray hard enough, meditate longer or smile more. In real life, it’s better to work through your genuine feelings and grow in character than suppressing emotions in an attempt to fake it till you make it.
“I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”
“Don’t stop when you’re tired, stop when you’re done.”
“I’d rather hustle 24/7 than slave 9 to 5.”
“Thank God it’s Monday!”
Or my personal favorite from Diddy on Instagram on Dec. 30, 2020, “If this year didn’t bring out the hustle in you, it ain’t in you.“ This is the most empathy anyone will get from a multi-millionaire in a pandemic.
While hustlers get scammed by the wealthy 1% who push this lifestyle – though they themselves hardly participate in it, they need loyal workers who do – let me spit some actual facts.
There’s no data that shows long hours improve productivity or creativity, and these exploitative myths persist because they justify the extreme wealth created for a small group of elites. Like Diddy.
In truth, the 9-to-5 job those hustlers scoff at was originally born from Ford Motor Company in 1914 because Henry Ford believed that too many hours were bad for workers’ productivity. Imagine, one of the biggest capitalists in American history intentionally reducing the work week from 48 hours to 40 hours per week because more than that meant less productivity.
Ford’s modern day equivalent, Elon Musk, who will earn $50 billion if Tesla meets certain performance levels, recently said that nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week. Funny… Tesla would probably not even exist if Musk’s car manufacturing predecessor thought the same way.
Billionaires have jumped right on to toxic hustle culture for their own gain, to no one else’s benefit. Now that billionaires have managed to kill worker rights, it’s easy to limit or eliminate bathroom breaks (looking at you, Amazon), encourage absurd 100-hour work weeks (you again, Tesla) or transform the latest generation of workers to turn into workaholics before they get a chance at a balanced life.
Hustle culture is particularly cruel during a pandemic, as businesses close and Americans remain unemployed. If you’re in the restaurant industry, retail, car rental or entertainment industry, you can work harder than anyone on the planet and still come up short during a pandemic. Meanwhile, America’s 614 billionaires grew their net worth by a collective $931 billion. Let’s leave the hustle culture in the past and work together as humans to keep each other afloat rather than work ourselves to death.
Sacrificing Ourselves Needlessly
This one took me more than a decade to understand, and I still resist it a bit. Women know intellectually that we should put ourselves first, focus on our health, practice self-care and find time to recharge.
But do any of us actually do that? Or do we allow our nurturing instinct to be exploited to the point where we hurt ourselves in service of others?
In Season 5, Episode 4 of The Blacklist, an estranged mom of a sick young boy killed herself to make it possible to donate her heart to keep her son alive. This Hollywood moment was dramatic and shocking, but so many moms, wives, sisters and daughters are making near-deadly sacrifices like this as part of daily life. This is NOT normal! We do not need to resign ourselves to Christmas Mom status!
How much weight have you gained during the pandemic? How many times have you or your children cried this past year? How much have you laughed? When was the last time you went on a walk just for the joy of it, without an app or a Fitbit or urgency? When was the last time you tried something new just because it made you smile? When was the last time you took an indulgent nap with no alarm clock? Or had a technology-free day? When was the last time you put your feet up and asked everyone to leave you alone for a bit, including children, without worrying about what might happen without you?
If you’re a person who takes good care of yourself, this is obviously not for you. (Disclaimer: Your happiest moments may be unrelated to those questions, but feel free to come up with some of your own and share them with us!)
But for those who do not, you are committing a slow suicide and you know it. Never enough rest. Never a break. Even social times were time limited. And I let others dictate what was fun to me so I could make others happy. I felt quite noble at times, sacrificing myself to the point where I was no longer recognizable, when in reality I was neglecting myself and nurturing absolutely no one.
Have you ever done that? Does your love look like sacrifice or a choice? A sacrifice means a loss is incurred. A choice is power, opportunity and abundance. You can make the choice to ask for help, or trade responsibilities with someone else for a day. You can choose to spend an entire weekend with your feet up reading books or scrolling through social media as a way to love on yourself. You can also choose to quit working 2-3 hustles, or go for that higher-paying remote job, or apply for that EBT card until your next blessing comes. Nurture YOU or none of the rest matters.
There is no shame in showing yourself love first. Because your loved ones want you around for as long as possible. The real you. Not the exhausted, sacrificial, miserable fake imposter.
Sooo… shall we? Let’s wash our hands of 2020 one last time and hope for a better 2021.
Happy New Year!