“Good Vibes Only” You see it everywhere; on signs, tee-shirts, bumper stickers, social media photos. We’ve become obsessed with being happy and with feeling good. A friend in my Mom’s Group recently shared what a challenging week she’s had with our group. I read her message and immediately felt empathy for her, but I also felt relief that someone was willing to be real and share the hard stuff. Before I could respond, she’d apologized for complaining. No apology was necessary of course. I’d had a hard week too and her willingness to share truthfully somehow gave silent permission, or perhaps served as a reminder that we didn’t have to be happy all the time.
What mom doesn’t have a bad week? Or, endured moments where we feel like everything is falling apart. You’ve been ‘there’ haven’t you? That place where if someone tells you to “just be positive” you might lose it. Where hearing and reading that phrase: “Good Vibes Only” in the midst of your own inner (and maybe, outer) chaos sounds like nails on a chalkboard.
These cute and catchy mottos, mantras, quote tiles, and graphic tees pushing positivity as the antidote to pain abound. Social media in particular is filled with “positivity pushers”: the peppy people posting all about happy thoughts, and declaring that “only good vibes” are welcomed. Though well intentioned, this annoys me.
What I see happening too often is the eager acceptance of a dangerous oversimplification. A simplification that can diminish and delegitimize someone’s pain in an instant– as though happy thoughts will ease the pain of tragic loss, clinical depression, shame, rejection, and rage.
I’d argue that unlike the cliche saying, my unhappy thoughts have actually LED TO and resulted in a happier life. Why? Because I have chosen to use the bad times for good. I have decided to grow through what I go through. I’ve felt and recognized my unhappy thoughts and moved through them at my own pace. Slowly at times. But, I didn’t take up permanent residence there.
I now look at the times in life when my unhappy thoughts dominated with compassion and with gratitude. They have given me depth, grace and empathy, all of which have created deep meaning and fulfillment and caused me to experience relationships at a whole new level. They have helped me figure out who I am and who I want to be. They’ve exposed my humanity and my vulnerability. They’ve helped me understand the complexities of life and love. They’ve taught me grit, and resilience, patience and steadfastness.
There is certainly a time and place for “good vibes” and “happy thoughts” but, instead of over-glorifying those, let’s glorify authenticity. Let’s walk through this crazy motherhood experience together through the ups and the downs and not be ashamed if we’re currently in a ‘down.’ At the end of the day, I’d rather be surrounded by real, raw, broken and honest women who are willing to admit when life isn’t perfect than someone with a fake smile too worried to have anything but “good vibes.” As mothers, let us create space for each other and allow room for all vibes. Let’s take off the masks and ditch the catch-phrases and let ourselves be seen – whatever that may mean. That is true sisterhood. That is true strength.