By Riley Kim | 7th February, 2023
Replace toxic positivity with emotional acceptance: embrace your bad and find the surprising benefits of sitting with your negative emotions.
“When life gives you lemons…”
🍋“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” is a proverbial phrase prevalently used in society to encourage an optimistic mindset and give courage to those facing adversities in life. Lemons symbolize sourness or misfortune in life, and the act of making lemonade turns them into something positive. However, I would like to confidently say that this saying is not necessarily the healthiest motto to repeat to ourselves and our children.
To those who insist on this saying and exaggerated optimism, I say, “when life gives me lemons, I stay sour like a baby eating lemon for the first time.”
When I am feeling down or sad, I have a strong tendency to force myself to become happier or at least seem more content. I try with all my might to snap out of the phase, not dwell in my emotions, cut the losses, and turn that frown upside down. This has been part of my family and my Asian culture’s core values - not to express your bad condition and always present a big smile.
"There are people who only want the sweetness in life. May God grant it to them. But I want a life that's full of sweetness and bitterness."
—Natsume Soseki, a Japanese author and philosopher.
Emotional acceptance refers to our ability to tolerate and even appreciate our emotions just as they are. Acceptance requires that we do not avoid or judge our feelings. Rather, we validate our emotions by letting them exist as they are. Acceptance seems almost antithetical to emotion regulation, as it feels like the absence of regulation. However, acceptance has been shown to be a powerful way to reduce negative emotions. Once we stop judging and trying to control our emotions, we can accept our negative emotions, which seem to dissipate on their own mysteriously.
How To Practice Acceptance
Generate some negative emotions.
Ask yourself these questions to learn whether you can accept your negative emotions:
- Was it hard to sit with negative emotions?
- Did you find yourself judging your emotions or trying to push them away?
- How long did it take for your emotions to dissipate?
- What did you like or dislike about accepting your emotions?
- Did this emotion regulation strategy work for you? Why or why not?
📌 Key Takeaways
- A more realistic and easier-to-achieve proverb for those who are tired of toxic positivity: “When life gives you lemons, I stay sour like a baby eating lemon for the first time.”
- Like the concept of yin and yang, we need to embrace our bad since we humans get to appreciate and enjoy our good days only because they exist.
- It is natural for us to want to hide our negative emotions, but at times, just accepting them and letting them be is the healthier path.
- A deeper insight into ‘Emotional Acceptance’ and methods of practicing it correctly that strengthens your psyche (mental state).
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