I read an article recently in The Psychologist (Feb 2017 issue) titled “The downsides of positivity” by Kate Sweeney. This got me to thinking – is positivity overrated?
There were a number of things in the article which resonated with me. So I’d thought I’d share my point of view on the issue.
We see it all the time online. Especially with bloggers, leaders and influencers about remaining positive. Focusing on the good things in life, and only showing that positive side to yourself. There are god knows how many books on amazon teaching you the ways of positivity, and so positivity has become a booming business.
Now I’m not saying I’m a negative person. However, there are times where I find it extremely difficult to be positive and see the light at the end of the tunnel so to speak. I guess I am a naturally glass half empty kind of girl. We are told this is a bad thing. Kate Sweeney identifies a number of areas in her article which you can read here so I have put some of my own thoughts against them.
Being unprepared for hard times
Let’s face it, life can be a complete bitch sometimes. I know people who are totally positive all the time Not only is this annoying, but when life throws them a curve ball they tend to do one of two things;
- Completely fall apart as they don’t know how to handle it or;
- Plaster on a fake smile, pretend everything is ok and carry on living in denial
Are you seriously going to tell me this is healthy behaviour? No it isn’t. I tend to go with the whole prepare for the worst, hope for the best approach which has served me well. Yes some people may berate me for thinking that nothing good is going to happen. But do you know what, when the worst does happen (because life likes to knock you sideways sometimes) I am prepared for it. It does not come as a big shock. I hurt for a little and then I pick myself up, brush myself off and move on.
During my time studying with the Open University, I constantly prepared myself for a crap grade, when more often than not I would score highly. And it was never that I was not confident in my ability, it was more about protecting myself from disappointment. Friends and colleagues would always tell me not to worry about it as I always do well. But they don’t know the hours and hours of work put into it, or how many times I’d cry through frustration when the words just wouldn’t come out, or how picky that particular tutor is. By preparing for the worst, when the best happened it was like having a little victory every single time. That is a much better feeling that thinking you have nailed it only to find out you haven’t.
Bad for your love life
Admitting that things are not rosy in your relationship can be the key to fixing them. Phil and I have been together for 9 years and our love story has not always been peachy. Things have got rough at times, and with the help of counselling we have managed to fix them. But if either of us pretended everything was ok, or that it would all work out in the end, I reckon we would be long separated.
Now, neither of us have seriously messed up in our relationship – no cheating or anything like that. But we both have times where we annoy the hell out of each other. If we overlooked this, or ignored them, we would probably end up feeling really unhappy and resenting the other person. Positivity can go a long way in maintaining a relationship with another person, but it cannot be the only thing that keeps it together.
Not great for friendships
Anyone that knows me, will know that if they ask for my advice, they will get a real, non sugarcoated answer. I will not tell you what you want to hear (unless it’s what I also think). You will get the truth and the truth only. Don’t get me wrong, this has caused a few hiccups over the years with friends that have come and gone, but I won’t lie or be fake. I pride myself on being realistic, and genuinely helping those I care about through whatever situation it is that they are going through. And I hope my friends appreciate this too. I’m not nasty when I give advice, if I know it might hurt the other person there are ways of wording things into a softer approach, but it will always be the truth.
When I am going through something, or feeling upset and get told ‘oh don’t worry, it will all work out in the end’ by one of my positive friends, this comes across as both annoying and patronising. Not only that, but I feel like overly positive people tend to have a blind spot when being empathetic (which is discussed more in the article). If you constantly have this rosy outlook on life, how on earth can you support someone who is really going through the mill?
A marker of poor mental health
Mental health is a bit of a buzzword at the moment. No longer is it a taboo to admit that you have depression, anxiety etc which is amazing. But why does no one notice the mental health ramifications of being positive? The article explains this in more detail, but in brief, people who strive for happiness are often the most unhappy of them all. And I wholeheartedly agree with this.
Everyone should just relax with the positivity and let themselves feel whatever it is they are feeling, and deal with it in a way that is healthy.
I don’t like to think of myself as a negative person – maybe that’s how I might come across. I prefer to think that I am realistic, that I accept that sometimes, life just isn’t going to go the way you want it to go, and that’s ok. It’s ok to cry, to have weeks where you just feel like you want to quit everything. It doesn’t make you a failure. It makes you HUMAN.
I will leave you with this song by Baz Lurhman – which sums up my approach to life – and you should listen to him too – especially about wearing sunscreen.
Do you have any thoughts on positivity? Do you feel it is overrated like I do, or are you a forever optimist? Let me know in the comments below.
Bye for now.