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Life Planning

Toxic Positivity


Kim Potgieter

Kim Potgieter

July 20, 2021
Wholly embrace your imperfect life

I am an optimistic person. It’s just in my nature – always has been. In fact, optimism is probably one of my highest values. I am just way more comfortable in a positive environment surrounded by positive people.

My world has spun out of control in the last few weeks. Instead of the constructive, upbeat vibe that I thrive in, I have been surrounded by absolute mayhem and uncertainty. There has been so much destruction, upheaval, anger, and even death as the riots ravished our beautiful country.

My standard go-to reaction in any difficult situation is to look for positives. In this case, it was easy to spot. South Africans have stood side-by-side protecting their communities. I have seen people from all walks of life come together to clean up neighbourhoods, shops and malls that were left reeling after the devastation; I have seen so much encouragement to stand united; and it’s been heartwarming to see how people are reaching out to help others in need.

It did make me wonder though. Was I using positivity to avoid feeling difficult emotions? Do I look for positives to replace my sadness, anger, grief, or anxiousness?

I have realised how important it is to allow ourselves to feel the hard emotions when we experience them. No matter how painful or difficult it may be. The worst thing to do is avoid them, ignore them, or bury them. When I allow myself to deeply feel my emotions, my body senses my pain physically: I feel a dull ache in my chest and butterflies in my stomach. And it does feel uncomfortable.

I have learnt that it’s ok to look for the positives, but not at the expense of the negatives.

You cannot let difficult emotions pass through you without acknowledging them. You must recognise them and give them attention. If you ignore them, you are literally telling your body that you don’t value the neurochemical system that you use to navigate life – and the physical and emotional impact may be prolonged and compounded. I use the same strategy when speaking to friends going through a hard time. Rather than trying to come up with a positive solution, I try my best to acknowledge how they are feeling, listen with empathy and reassure them that they are not alone.

So how does this translate to money?

Things may have changed profoundly as far as your financial situation is concerned. And even though you may feel completely overwhelmed, cornered, and don’t see any way out of this crisis, the worst thing you can do is to ignore the situation. You cannot afford to simply shrug it off and hope things will improve. Just like emotions, money matters become more complicated and harder to fix the longer you ignore them.

Acknowledge your money situation, even if it’s hard to do. Make a list of small changes you can make – these small changes may just add up to significant changes in the long run. You may want to revisit your Will; update your ‘in case of death file’ with relevant documents, policies, account details and passwords; make an appointment with your planner or reassess your spending plan. One of my recently divorced clients have never had to budget, but the divorce has forced her to pay attention to her spending (and savings) habits for her financial plan to work.

The golden rule is to pay attention to your money and your emotions. Whatever you do, don’t dig your head in the sand and wish it away. Small changes reap big rewards.

Always remember, when it comes to your money, be inspired, be brave and be on purpose,



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