Optimism: When To Throw Away Your “Fake It Til You Make It” Attitude


I’m definitely a “half-full” person and believe, like Scarlett O’Hara and little orphan Annie, that tomorrow is another day. But sometimes you’ve got to push your optimism aside and let yourself admit that things aren’t that great so you can deal with what’s actually happening.

I got a reminder of this during the past two-and-a-half weeks, when we were all sick in my house. This is a photo of my daughter who spent four solid days either on the couch or in bed (and she has not been a napper since she turned 3). I believe we had the flu, and then for me and my husband, our flu settled into a whopper of a chest cold.

On that first day when I started to feel exhausted and achy, I said, “It’s just a 24-hour thing.”
On day two, I updated that to a “48-hour thing.”
By day three, I told myself, “This has got to be the last day.”
And on day four, all I could muster was, “Zzzzz.”

Then the body aches and chills receded and my husband and I proceeded to use several boxes of Kleenex and an entire value pack of toilet paper (when the Kleenex boxes ran out) to blow our noses. I became an expert at muting myself while on calls so I didn’t cough in people’s ears.

In the midst of all this, I had a trip to Amelia Island, Florida, planned. I’ve been taking this trip to meet up with my two best writing friends for four years, and there was no way I was gonna miss it. I just knew that I would show up sick, but that I’d be able to bask in the sunshine and it would restore my vitamin D levels and dry up my cold. Except, despite the fact that it was still a wonderful trip with good friends, it was in the low 60s and windy as all get-out. There was no basking. And no recuperating. I couldn’t breathe any more on the flight home than I could on the way down.

(There was, however, a true introverts party that had us in jammy pants at 5 pm with glasses of wine and notebooks and laptops while we took turns helping each other do a little business planning—heaven.)

All of this is to say that sometimes, the most loving thing you can do for yourself is honor how crappy you’re feeling, whether your flu is physical or emotional.

How do you know when to act as if everything’s working out perfectly and when to take to your bed, examine the problem, have the talk, or re-think your strategy?

I can be pretty hard-headed about this, I’ll admit. I have a talent for looking at the bright side that can become delusional (I call it chronic optimism).

But even if your mind is also good at telling you that everything’s hunky-dory, even when it’s obviously not, know this: Your body knows the answer.

If you can’t sleep because you keep thinking about the thing that you want to turn around, it’s time to make a change. Or if you’re not getting better, it’s time to stop trying to will yourself to have more energy than you have. Or if you’ve got a gnawing sense that just won’t go away that something’s not right, trust it. It takes a little bit of time and a little bit of simply allowing yourself to feel how you feel to be able to discern when it’s time to admit that something needs changing or tending to, and when you can just keep plodding along and wait for circumstances to change all on their own.

Here’s to having the wisdom to listen to your body. =)

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