June 2, 2020

“Onward & Upward” isn’t positivity; It’s Submission to False Strength.


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I’ve been on LinkedIn the past weeks and it’s a slaughterhouse.

So many people are being laid-off and it’s painful as hell.

But what’s even scarier to me is that everyone who has been let go is “grateful” and “optimistic” and full of energy, ending each post with “onward and upward.”

How sad is it to go through trauma and not have the luxury of expressing it? Is this what it takes for us to find new opportunities—suppression of how we truly feel?

This is a violation of humanity and truth, a suppression of collective trauma.

No, you’re not fine, and neither am I (for possibly different reasons).

It triggers me seeing this “onward and upward” because it’s a symptom of submission to this narrative of false strength and masking pain rather than dealing with it collectively, which is exactly what left us where we are today; in deep sh*t.

We overburden ourselves and others with the responsibility to act collected, as if it is a symptom of strength, health, and maturity. In doing so, we invalidate those who do feel intense pain, and unintentionally push them to deeper suffering as they probably think that everyone has it together except them. We perpetuate a feeling of exclusion rather than a much needed collective support.

If you’re not in this “onward and upward” frame of mind, please don’t judge yourself based on others’ posts and writings. That’s not the human emotion of the time. My full compassion is with those for whom this reaction is their only survival possibility, but a red flag needs to be raised to not normalise this reaction; we need to steer clear of judging ourselves according to this false benchmark. The truth is, it’s “devastating,” it’s “shocking,” it’s “scary,” or “earth-shaking,” and we’re all allowed to feel that before hitting the statement of “onward and upward.”

No one has it together, so resist the pressure of false strength, and honour your true—and completely justified—emotions so that we can all move forward instead of merely performing as if we are.

Where is our right to be unwell?

Where is our right to integrate events rather than getting punched and feeling the need to stand up as quickly as possible with a smile on our face and some foundation on our bruise?

Where is the very rightful anger at this?

Where is the human-built reflex resulting from change?

Why are we dehumanising ourselves and taking away our rights of authentic emotions—our expression of collective trauma and grief?

We won’t move forward without them, that’s for sure.

I am not saying that we should all dive into an endless depression, but at least pause and honour what has happened and how you are feeling (if you wish to express it) because bouncing back as if nothing happened and you’re “grateful” is a form of self-abuse and a barrier to healing and change.

If you allow yourself to feel what you feel and express it collectively, we’ll have a common understanding of our trauma, and a catalyst for how we authentically want to move forward. Honour the bruise and the pain and your own vulnerability.

Don’t hurry the journey back.

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