When you look at the picture above, what do you see and what’s your reaction? Most people focus on the roach and most of us don’t have a great reaction when we think about roaches. The reality is that the yellow flower in this picture takes up way more space than the bug. When you think about looking at this scene from a bigger perspective, the flower is part of a larger plant which is definitely way bigger than that nasty bug (apologies to any entomologists)! The flower is a beautiful yellow, which likely has a lovely fragrance. Both the roach and the flower are part of the picture, and it’s up to us to decide what we are going to focus on.
We are conditioned to look for the negative going back to caveman times, when it was a lot more important for us to take note of the tiger footprints outside the cave than the beautiful sunrise. Focusing on the negative is what kept us alive. That is not the case now. On the contrary, focusing on the negative can really drain our energy and add to our overall sense of stress and dissatisfaction with life. It takes retraining to be able to recognize the good things that are happening, especially when we are going through difficult circumstances.
You might think of an ex you are fighting with as the roach on your flower. Maybe you have a bad interaction, but that is only a part of your day. Do you really want to focus on that one small part of the day, or does it serve you better to see the bigger picture. There is always something going right, it’s just that sometimes we have to look extra hard to find what that right thing is. Anytime we focus on the negative we are giving up a bit of our power to feel happy. Finding the right thing takes a lot of practice. Sometimes you have to start really, really small and be your own best cheerleader. Starting small might look like recognizing that you managed to brush your teeth today. You could argue that teeth brushing is an inconsequential thing to do, but we know that not brushing your teeth can have serious repercussions over time. Brushing your teeth requires the willingness to do it, the motivation to care for yourself, the ability to plan ahead to make sure your toothbrush is functional and that you don’t run out of toothpaste, the dexterity to brush your teeth. What else does brushing your teeth say about you?
Maybe even brushing your teeth feels like too much. You might feel totally overwhelmed and like a complete failure, but you can applaud yourself for being able to take the time to read a short article, which shows you are motivated to feel better, and striving to overcome adversity. That takes perseverance and determination. Celebrate accomplishments, however small and keep building on them. Pretty soon you will find yourself able to focus on the flowers rather than the bugs.
Watch our video with Licensed Clinical Social worker Louisa Triandis and our host Malinee as they talk about “flowers vs. bugs”.