Positivity Challenge Week 11: Thankfulness and Perspective

I don’t think it’s any secret that I frequently use things that are happening around me as inspiration for topics in the Positivity Series. I hope you’ll indulge me for a particularly personal (read: no lists this week, sorry) entry, dedicated to a very special co-worker.
Now, before I get started, I want to differentiate between the thought processes of “there is genocide in Darfur, how dare you care about your small, silly problems,” and “yeah, I feel like crap today, but I can put that in perspective.” Usually, the former comes from an outside perspective, intending to shame us for our feelings. I’m not down with that. Feelings are feelings and you can’t always help how you feel, even if it isn’t rational. Yeah, my disappointment in not being able to snag tickets for the midnight showing of The Hunger Games with the rest of my friends is nothing compared to mass murder, but since I don’t have a frame of reference for one, it’s not as real a feeling to me as the other. Rather, I like to feel my feelings, but limit the time I’m allowed to sulk for minor things, reminding myself that it’s not worth the time and effort.

An image of a Virginia vanity license plate that reads "Grrtful"
(Image: Grateful, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from gammaman's photostream)

Last week, one of my coworkers, after exhibiting stroke-like symptoms, went to the ER and spent the entire week in the hospital. It’s looking like it wasn’t a stroke, but there was something found in MRIs of her brain. The week culminated in a biopsy to determine what exactly this unknown something was. Throughout the rest of the week, it seemed as if bad things were just raining down on the people around us. We found out someone who use to work in another office had died suddenly last weekend, leaving behind a not-yet-one-year-old baby, someone else was needing heart surgery, and a few people’s parents had developed major health problems. When it rains, it pours, hmm?

Obviously, when surrounded by people going through tough times, it’s easy to be thankful for the minor problems (or lack thereof) that you have. What really hit me this week, though, was my coworker’s reaction to everything happening. Rather than being upset or stressed or worried, she knew that she was in the best hands and couldn’t do anything to affect the outcomes at the moment. When she talked to our boss after her biopsy, she kept saying how “neat” an experience it was. I’d like to think I could take a little credit for my positive influence in the office, but in actuality, I don’t know if I would have been focusing on the neatness of the experience. That was definitely a lesson for me!

This Week’s Challenge

Take a dose of perspective. Look as something that’s been bothering you more than you know it should. Put it in perspective: does this really need to affect me? Would this bother me less if I had more important things to worry about? Probably, the answer to that one is yes. Be thankful that something minor can bother you so much.

This Week’s Mantra

It seems like a nonsense statement at first, but give it a minute to sink in: “The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem.” – Theodore I. Rubin (found at TinyBuddha)

An image with the text from above.
If you want a reminder of your mantra for the next week, feel free to click the image above to download the full-size version suitable for desktop wallpapers, printing, or framing.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional or mental health expert, and there are problems that positivity cannot overcome, so please do not take this advice in lieu of a doctor’s care.

Not all challenges will be relevant to everyone, so I welcome you to come and go as you please and take from each challenge what works for you! Please make sure to share your thoughts in the comments!

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Crystal Coleman

Florida girl living on the west coast. During the day, I consult in social media and community management. I have a really cute puppy (Elphaba) and a British husband (I keep him for his accent) as well as an unhealthy relationship with parentheses. http://thatgirlcrystal.com

2 thoughts on “Positivity Challenge Week 11: Thankfulness and Perspective”

  1. Tiny Buddha is a great site.

    Yes, perspective can be hard. It bugs me when people feel like there is a hierarchy to pain/grief/etc. or that it’s a competition, but every once in awhile, I’m guilty of that attitude as well. It’s also easy to have the opposite problem with perspective — your current issue becomes so consuming that everything else pales.

    The one thing I’ve found to talk myself down from irrationality is the “don’t know” mind. I assess what I actually know about a given situation and not what I THINK will happen. It doesn’t always help stop thoughts from spinning out of control, but it’s the thing that’s worked best so far.

  2. This is always such a hard line to walk for me! I think it has to do with my struggles with depression more than anything. On one hand, I have to legitimize my feelings without constantly comparing my problems to others. Saying “This other person has it so much worse, so why do I feel like this?” doesn’t help bring positive feelings. It just makes me feel worse. On the other hand, I need to encourage myself that my problems are manageable and that I can make it.

    And then when I know I’m reacting to something more than I should be, the question always comes up, how do I handle that?

    I think the topic of perspective is very important to that second part. But only if it is how you describe it: not to tear you down and say “This person isn’t sad, so why should I be?” but rather to build you up and say, “My feelings are real, but I can deal with this after all.”

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