You Can’t “Love and Light” Everything Away
Have #spiritual Instagirls been trying to convince you to banish everyone in the vicinity for their treasonous negativity so that you can sufficiently #shineyourlight, practice #selflove and unfurl your #authenticself without their hideous shadows getting in your way?
Look, I’ve been known to throw around some hashtags myself. But let’s take a breath and talk about why this “love and light” mentality is not only problematic, but also dangerous.
Because hey, we’re all sisters here! One for all and all for one! It’s all about radiating that light and love, right? We women have to lift each other up, right?
Right! Unless, of course, you…
Have anxiety? You’re toxic.
Have Depression? Toxic.
Post-partum depression? Toxic (and you’re def maternally inadequate, so we’re not supporting you.)
Are going through divorce? God, I don’t want to listen to that shit, sooo negative! Why can’t you just LOVE?
Are experiencing abuse? Sorry, not interested in your drama.
This light+love concept has ascended right up there to the level of “no one can love you unless you love yourself.” By now, most of us can recognize that this sentiment is inherently violent in its own right. Society not only teaches women to agonize over our bodies, to avoid taking up too much space and to torment ourselves with the impossible but ever-pressing necessity of juggling double-standards — but then we’re also told that no one will love us because of it! No one will love us if we can’t get it right. But also, we can’t get it right.
Darkness is necessary. Darkness is real.
To obsessively and repeatedly emphasize “light” is to ignore the fact that there is no light without darkness. Darkness is necessary. Darkness is real. And also, darkness is just so flippin’ natural. Why must we pretend it isn’t?
Preaching to spiritually-starving women that banishing others is the only way for them to garner “power” is a dangerous sermon to be spewing. On one hand, there is a crucial need to empower women in the art of establishing and enforcing personal boundaries in a society that would diminish us of our autonomy. On the other hand, though, there is ostracization of those who deviate from the smiling, loving, deeply-maternal, thoroughly-domestic “happy” image of women that we are taught to project and embody. Women who take up too much space with their mental illnesses, or their pain, or their failures to conform to a properly bubbly façade, it seems, aren’t worthy of this mysterious light-filled/loving sisterhood to which so many hashtags allude. Instead, they are cast aside, dubbed “toxic,” and abandoned to suffer through their hardships unsupported. Pain, in this regard, is a double-edged sword. We suffer because it hurts, and we suffer for deigning to be hurt in the first place.
We suffer because it hurts, and we suffer for deigning to be hurt in the first place.
This doesn’t mean that it’s your job to take on others’ suffering. It doesn’t mean that its your personal responsibility for seek out all the broken people and make them whole (and it’s certainly not your obligation to do these things at the expense of your own well-being.)
But is it just me, or did #lightandlove just evolve into another expression of hatred? What if we could stop labeling women who are suffering as “toxic” and “debbie-downers” and, instead, start recognizing the toxicity of situations, not people?
I have for sure made these mistakes. I have cut friends out of my life because, well, they were just so gosh darn toxic! What negative nancies they were! Always raining on my parade! Out to get me! Ugh!!
I know better now (or at least I try to.) I now understand the importance of distinguishing a toxic person from a toxic situation (hint: it’s almost always going to be the situation.)
I suspect that I, too, have been cut off, though that one’s more difficult to discern. Don’t underestimate the devastating impacts of loneliness and isolation. Ever.
To be sure, light and love are both incredibly beautiful things, and the world cannot withstand a lack of either of them. But can we not love someone for their light just as well as their darkness? Can we not love ourselves, not in spite of our pain and darkness, but because of it? Because really, how can you hope to become your much-sought-after #authenticself if you’re unwilling to acknowledge a whole other half of you just because it might not conform to convention? And how can you ever foster genuine friendship if you boot your friends out the door the second things get too real?
Stop perpetuating this harmful practice of “getting rid of” people. Stop shunning your friends simply because they’re not complicit in helping you delude yourself into thinking the world is all bubbly and shiny all the time. Just stop. Your friends can’t always be radiant goddesses, and it’s not their responsibility to shrink or censor themselves for the sake of your own self-deception.
They get to take up space. They get to honor their pain. And so do you.