We need to make room for some light negativity
Despite trolling, misery-lit and the best efforts of rolling news, we actually live in very positive times.
For every one person on social media demanding refugees are flayed alive in the town square, there are 20 posting inspirational quotes or GIFs of puppies and kittens tumbling over each other in glee.
We are encouraged to be ‘up’, to root for each other, to be positive and inspire others, to believe in our own talents, and nobody but the biggest sociopath would ever want to be, or be around, a hater 24/7.
But what of the rest of us somewhere in between, the no-man’s land between frothing rage and wide-eyed enthusiasm? Whither the attention for the snarky, the whingers and the nitpickers who aren’t quite sure where they fit into this new world of extremes?
“Follow your dreams!” say millionaires. “Do what you love!” squeak minor aristocrats who lunch on privilege and have never seen a red bill or worried about a bus fare. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been told money isn’t everything from someone who has nothing but.
The trouble with following your dreams and doing what you love is it comes with prerequisites. Confidence. Security. Financial backing. And an actual idea of what you want to do in the first place.
In peddling plaudits and starry-eyed inspirational slogans we are ‘motivating’, yet avoiding saying anything actually useful. Yes, I have loads of dreams, but how do I make them happen? Never mind self-belief, I need really detailed instructions.
But hang on, then I wouldn’t be in charge of my destiny, would I? And I know how important that is – you keep telling me.
I admire people who can be positive all the time. It looks like exhausting work. And there are some – many – people who I really like who are effortlessly positive 99 days out of 100. While it’s admirable or whatever, we must not be fooled into thinking this is the norm and feeling inadequate we can’t hit that high every day ourselves.
Some of us are, naturally, a little more realistic. This is usually dismissed as being a misery, or defeatist and cynical, and our snark and acidity is repressed.
There’s no room for even the mildest of haters in the 21st century – you’re written off as a troll or a Katie Hopkins wannabe or a buzzkill. But you can’t cast your eye over the world and tell me honestly that everything’s amazing and all we need to do is believe, can you? Really?
Thing is, you need us. You need the damp squibs. As admirable as your eat-cleans and your 10 Awesome Things You Should Do Today and How I Turned My Life Around positive daily motivators are, they’re not for everyone.
To taste the highs, you need the lows. And I don’t mean Margaret and Shane in Dunstable experimenting with syntax and the word “racialist” on the Brittan Furst!! Facebook page. You need balance. How can you truly appreciate how beautiful and rewarding it is to renovate your house until I drive a big lorry through it, before backing out extra carefully to avoid killing you?
I have tried “glass half-full”. I’ve spent many a moon nodding my head with a fixed smile and saying what I assumed were all the right things. Biting my tongue. Killing with kindness. I’m not a malicious person, but I’m not a ray of sunshine either. I’m not even a raincloud. I’m fog. Sleet. Not enough to totally ruin your day but you probably wouldn’t Instragam me with a smiley face next to it.
Snark usually comes from a weird old place. The naturally acidic among us tend to have developed our razor-sharp tongues as a defence mechanism. Maybe we were bullied at school, or shy, or had overbearing friends and parents, or never quite fitted in.
When you’re not the prettiest, or the brainiest, or the sportiest or the most popular, you either develop a suit of armour made of gallows-humour, pithy putdowns and, if you’re a proto-gay, a bawdiness that is somehow utterly sexless. Otherwise you fade away. Who wants to fade away? Only the most desperate and wretched souls of all.
Perhaps you’re lucky and grow out of it. Maybe you evolve and turn your anguish and awkwardness into an amazing, successful blog about pilates or childcare or fitspo or telly or books or whatever. Or maybe, just maybe, you become a snark machine, a Debbie Downer, a walking truthbomb. You can always to be depended upon to glide into a room that has all white furnishings and spill red wine everywhere.
Self-belief and positivity are important – we need them – and while you shouldn’t let anyone tell you you “can’t”, you need to recognise it in yourself. As any overlooked realist or misery will tell you, dreams are important, but so is the power to realise and accept that sometimes that’s all they’ll ever be.
As long you’re not spiteful or doing some stealthy negging and making someone else feel awful, you carry on. Don’t let them say you’re a moaner or a whinger just because you’re only on Cloud 7 – you’re only being yourself. Just like they ordered you to be.