Recently I got to chat with THE/THIRTY about why positive thinking all the time (which is huge in my industry) isn't always the most realistic or sustainable way to approach thinking about life. My thinking on the subject is not the most popular opinion, but as someone who works has more experience in the mental health space, it's one that helps me live a sound life, that is happy because it's one rooted in reality.
I also got to share how we could navigate positive thinking in a way that works for us. Here are my notes below, or peep the article right here: Please Stop Telling Me to "Be Positive" All the Time
When the author (who is great, I might add) freed herself from that "expectation" of being always positive, she naturally became a happier person. Love that.
Here are my notes:
1) What do you think the danger is in forced positivity? Why is this disingenuous?
There is this idea we need to be positive and happy. If we can jsut get our thoughts in line, we can live a better life. Better things will come our way. We then start to feel bad if we have negative thoughts or feelings that are not aligned with “positivity.” I think it’s problematic because it puts us in a position where we cannot express hurts and pains in a helpful way because we feel ashamed we felt them. We start to blame ourselves for not being positive or happy.
Humans have a range of emotions and feelings that change constantly during the course of a day (our week, our life, etc.) Happiness is not always the best answer for some of those. As fully whole people we need to honor the range of emotions we can have. We need to pay attention to our feelings as they will tell us more about ourselves and the world around us. We can ask ourselves WHY on the backend of those.
2) On the flip side, why do you think positivity and forced happiness is such a recurring theme in the wellness world? Why have we been convinced that positivity is something we should aspire to at all times?
JUST MANIFEST! I believe it’s a combination of ideas from those around like attracting like and when you’re living in a high vibrational state (positive) more high vibration things will come your way. A ‘thoughts become things’ way of thinking. This DOES and CAN work, but only if you’ve done some other deeper work beforehand.
It may also come from a psychology world where you reframe negative self-talk through the work of positive affirmations. They are often used for improving self-esteem, a valuable tool that helps us navigate life and make decisions. Learning how to talk to ourselves in a positive light is meaningful work. That does not mean we are happy all the time. Learning to speak kindly to ourselves means we take the blame out of feeling bad.
We are not bad. We had a bad feeling.
Though I think most wellness people are on the former side of this, I think it’s pushed as something to aspire to because there is the assumption is it the best, healthiest way to be. Smiling happy pictures look like an ideal life with all the avocado toast and leggings you can handle. A land of cares and no real-world problems. Who doesn’t want to sell that dream if you’re in wellness and trying to show how your “wellness” lifestyle is best?
Personal note: I’ve been told I was “too dark” for wellness because I don’t smile much in pictures and wear a lot of dark colors. Plot twist... I also wear a lot of white… and I smile all the time. My public presence does not reflect every aspect of me as a human, but it does show that we can be fully whole people with good days, bad days, and no reason to fake smile 100 times to get a happy looking mirror selfies.
3) How can we learn to practice more realistic thinking?
Some of the above is a starting place (ie: being able to separate doing bad things or having bad feelings, from being a bad person,) but I think it’s best to take a Stoic approach to things. It’s partially a view that all emotions come from within us (taking responsibility for our feelings and not blaming the world) and that good can only exist with bad. That life is best lived when we understand ourselves and that life is beautiful as well as tragic.
There is a gratitude that comes with being able to experience pain and pleasure because it means we are alive. And to be alive means to feel it all; the good, the bad, the ugly. I think that in itself gives me (personally) a massive space for gratitude and frees me to really love and appreciate life. This does not mean I am negative. It more so means we can be realistic and will probably be “happier” with such a freedom to feel everything as it comes.