Everything’s Not Awesome
Everything is awesome
Everything is cool when you’re part of a team
Everything is awesome
When you’re living out a dream
When The Lego Movie came out in 2014, you couldn’t go far without hearing the Everything is Awesome song being played or sung somewhere. It was very popular among Lego Movie fans and even people who hadn’t seen the film – and with good reason. It’s a very upbeat, happy song, reflecting the film’s themes about staying positive in the face of difficulty, and the power of self belief to get you through tough times. Maybe the song was so popular because it inspired us to do the same.
Throughout the 2010’s, I remember seeing and hearing a lot of messaging about staying positive, no matter what. Videos and memes by influencers often pointed out that if you feel bad, it’s because your thinking is too negative – all you need to do is flip those negative thoughts around into positive ones and everything will be better. As someone who often experienced anxiety and low mood, I thought I’d give this technique a go.
And it was great! “How silly of me.” I thought, “All these years I’ve been feeling rubbish – and all I had to do was think more positively!”
Positive quotes were my mottos and Everything is Awesome was my anthem.
This simple technique of thinking positively worked so well…. Until it didn’t.
Because it’s not possible to be positive all the time. To be positive all the time invalidates and forces us to avoid difficult emotions. While we may be uncomfortable with these emotions, they’re just as much a part of life as the positive ones, and we need to experience them. By not acknowledging difficult emotions and not processing them, we risk harming our mental health.
On top of that, if we think we have to be positive all the time, it can cause us to feel like we’ve failed or there’s something wrong with us when we’re inevitably unable to do that. So then we feel guilt and shame on top of whatever we were already feeling in the first place.
As all this became recognised, people started calling out ‘Toxic Positivity’ for the unfair pressure and expectations it put on people. From this rose the motto ‘It’s ok not to be ok’ – a stance understanding that sometimes we won’t feel ok, that sometimes life isn’t so great and everything is not awesome. And that’s ok!
I learned that if I avoid my uncomfortable emotions with positivity, it doesn’t make them go away. It just makes me feel isolated, disconnected and ultimately, worse. I learned to sit with my uncomfortable emotions, to allow myself to feel them, to let them come and go. Allowing myself to feel these emotions helps me to process them, to talk them through with someone I trust, to take time out and do self-care activities that soothe me.
Positive self talk can be a really useful tool to include in our coping skills and is very helpful for certain situations. But it’s not the only solution, and it doesn’t mean we should block out our uncomfortable emotions 24/7.
I still really like the Everything is Awesome song and enjoy how uplifting it is. But I like the updated version even better, which appears in The Lego Movie 2 when the characters find themselves acknowledging what a difficult situation they’re in:
Everything’s not awesome
Things can’t be awesome all of the time
It’s an unrealistic expectation
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try
To make everything awesome
In a less idealistic kind of way
We should maybe aim for not bad
‘Cause not bad, well that would be real great