The Pressures Of Being Productive and Staying Positive

We are soon going to complete two weeks of this 21-Day-Lockdown in India. The novelty of channelling our inner Masterchef and experimenting with new dishes in the kitchen is fading, as is our zeal to turn into a Ramu Kaka or a Sakku Bai and clean the house with vigour. Social media has been keeping me entertained with saree challenges and meaningless quizzes that let me know I am likethe Indian dish chhole and the alcohol tequila – of course, these I do when I am not busy in the kitchen making Dalgona Coffee!

The world suddenly seems to be filled with people painting pictures, composing poems, decluttering their entire homes, learning a new language and following so many other creative pursuits. It really warms my heart to see people finally investing time in something besides work, and revisiting hobbies they had when they were younger. My prayer is that they pursue their new interests passionately even after the lockdown ceases. However, there is a new narrative that’s emerging as a result of this behaviour, which, in my humble opinion, is rather unsupportive to a lot of people in the general population:

To all the people who’ve fallen victim to this narrative and are judging themselves, please know that you are doing just fine! All of us are going through a collective, traumatic experience. Also, not everyone has the privilege of turning a pandemic into something fun and productive. It’s alright if you cannot decide whether you should sign up for a free meditation session, or an online course to learn digital marketing when all you want to do is curl up in a ball and cry by yourself in your room.

The isolation is exhausting enough with all the anxiety-inducing news that’s coming our way through news channels, social networks, and emerging doubts and insecurities regarding life and livelihood. The onslaught of suggestions of how we can make the most of the extra time we have in our hands is just not supportive. Levels of anxiety and depression are on the rise. Work-from-home may seem like a very comfortable option, but for a lot of people who aren’t used to this mode of working, a lot of time and energy has been spent in adjusting to this new normal even though they may not be consciously aware of it.

Today was a day when I felt especially motivated. I actually had a great time in the kitchen attempting a chicken biriyani recipe and I was elated when it turned out to be yummy. However, all my days have not been this way. There have been times when I just did not want to get out of bed. Even getting up to have a bath seemed to be a Herculean task. And that’s fine. There are days when you may feel like being super-productive, and there will be days when you may be able to give the best performance of laziness ever! Don’t feel guilty about what you are feeling. Instead, thank yourself for listening to your body.

If you don’t want to solve a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle or knit a quilt or workout at home, it’s absolutely fine. Coming out of the lockdown having gained no abs but two kilos instead cannot be the worst thing in the world – for anyone making you believe differently, you need to evaluate what levels of toxicity have you been entertaining in your life (perhaps, that’s a topic for another day, but I hope you get the drift!).

This lockdown is new for everyone, and there is no “right” way of getting through this. Just follow your heart and figure out what works best for you. You do not need to take up those viral challenges nor are you obligated to sign up for every free session (of any kind) that is offered. Everyone has their own coping mechanism and for many people, diving into tasks and completing challenges is their way of channelling their manic thoughts and their inner anxieties. It fills them up with a sense of achievement, and while being productive can seem therapeutic in these turbulent times, it can also become maladaptive, when done in excess.

If you feel like wallowing in self-pity and just staying with the pain you are in, you are allowed to do so. Just like there is no pressure on you to be productive, there is also no need for you to be positive. While being positive has its benefits, often we are so caught up in thinking and being positive, that we just end up negating our truth.

Being true to yourself is more important than being positive. Being true to your own thoughts and your own feelings is more important than being positive. There is no need to mask how you are really feeling with positive thoughts just because it is the “right” thing to do. There is no right and wrong here, or perhaps there is? Having a false sense of positivity not only distracts us from pain, it also snatches away our ability to gain insight into issues that are affecting us. In order to feel truly positive, an individual needs to have a genuine, testable assurance that he or she is actually safe, with his or her needs and rights being acknowledged and taken care of. In these turbulent times, with so much uncertainty around, this pressure to be positive is nothing less than a tool of mass gaslighting, because this pressure confuses the non-complying individual into blaming himself or herself for a situation that has absolutely nothing to do with him or her.

In today’s terms, while the term “be positive” is used very loosely, it no longer remains a subjective feeling over which a person has autonomy – it is enforced and encouraged by authoritarian beliefs and privileges: “You are worthless if you don’t feel positive”, “You are ungrateful if you don’t feel positive about having a roof over your head”, and so on and so forth. Not everyone’s home is a safe haven, and not everyone copes making use of distraction and deception strategies. It works wonderfully for some people, and it’s fine if you aren’t one among them.

Just speak your truth; accept it and understand your model of the world – that is more important than being positive. Because, in the end, being true to yourself is the best thing you can do for yourself for it is the truth that will set you free.

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