I knew I wanted to write a blog today, but couldn’t bear to think about topics that I deemed acceptable: Positivity. Grace. Kindness. Gratitude. Acceptance. Patience.
I didn’t feel any of those today. In fact, even thinking about these things made me angry. I felt really ugly feelings. Everyone I saw was doing or saying something that I thought was silly or stupid or naïve. The only thing that felt like a good idea was shutting myself off from everyone and everything. When my husband tried to make a joke and brighten the mood I came back with sarcasm, sadness, or nagging.
No one would want to be around me. Not even myself.
What was this? I had been happy and energetic just days ago. Creativity was flowing and I had excitement around projects, including planning to bake my son’s birthday cake, planning his party, planning an anniversary trip with my husband, and connecting with friends.
Now, all of it just looked like stress. Stress I didn’t want. Stress that wasn’t worth any reward that would come from it.
So, I thought about writing a blog, but couldn’t get past this feeling. What was it? Then I remembered a South Park episode that perfectly defined what I was thinking. If you aren’t a South Park fan, it’s OK. I included a clip below:
Stan is inundated with things that used to make him happy, like spending time with friends playing a video game, eating ice cream sundaes, and going to the mall. Except now all he sees is shit. Literal shit instead of an ice cream sundae. When he thinks of the mall he thinks of everything there he hates. When he thinks of the video game he only thinks of how the game could be better. Nothing is right, nothing is good, nothing satisfies. A doctor diagnoses him as a “cynical asshole”. Cynicism. That’s what I was feeling. I, too, was a cynical asshole.
Personally, I think that this cynicism I feel, whether it’s about work, friends, or projects, is a shield I put up for protection. I’m scared. Scared of not doing well at work, scared of uncertainty, scared of being rejected by my friends who I am self-conscious around and feel less than, scared of failing at anything I want to accomplish. The cynicism gives me the excuse to stop. Stop trying, stop being vulnerable, stop expressing myself. Unlike some of the other members in this community, I have very little experience with therapy. I don’t really have any profound wisdom about how to deal with it, but I can say that identifying it as a shield I’m using to hide my fear is a huge step that I don’t think I could have done without working on myself through meditation and reading books like The Gifts of Imperfection. There are a few things I learned from reading Brene Brown and from our wise friends Megan and Karly on the Facebook Live the other day that did help pull me out from cynicism:
- DO SOMETHING. Cynicism paralyzes. If everything is shit, why do anything? It’s a perfect excuse to not do anything. To wallow in our negativity. It’s the ultimate shield from letting anyone penetrate into our vulnerabilities, our desires, our failures. So, to combat cynicism I actually force myself to DO something, anything, and that helps a lot. Megan explained a fantastic exercise to help with this yesterday during our Facebook Live (if you haven’t seen it, go watch it!)
- PLAY. Brene Brown emphasis play as one of the guide posts for practicing wholehearted living. Honestly, play is something I struggle enjoying, probably because it’s impossible to be cynical while playing, especially while playing with toddlers. When I play I have to forget who I am and everything on my to-do list. I have to be 100% present, or my kids notice (very strict play rules in our house). They know when I’m having fun, and they have fun too. Play clears my mind and rejuvenates my soul. There’s nothing that putting on Michael Jackson and dancing with a 4 year old won’t cure, at least temporarily.
- MEDITATION. Cynicism sticks me where I am. Meditation helps me get unstuck and get beyond. Meditation reminds me that there is no “I”. There’s no future. There’s no past. There is only now. It reminds me that everyone I know, including me, will be dead someday sooner than I like to think about. These ideas make cynicism feel like a laughable waste of time. I like to think of meditation as giving me the superpower of now.
Do you ever struggle with crippling cynicism? What does it look like to you? How do you combat this feeling and allow yourself to honestly participate in all areas of your life?