Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Cult of Positivity

I can't take Debbie Downers. They suck the air right out of the room, are never happy or satisfied, and they piss me off. But the people who smile so hard they look like their face might crack pain me too. Acting like nothing is ever good and acting like nothing is ever bad are two extremes that don't ring true to me or fit into my worldview.
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Today's society is very into applauding the overly positive people. Is it possible to be too positive, to get to the point where you totally disregard anything negative? Are people shoving themselves into that positivity mold at great cost to their emotional well being? I've seen positivity bullies out there too - no one can say a freaking thing that's not shining like a diamond without being called out for being negative. Seriously? Are we so caught up in appearing positive that we're missing learning how to thrive and exist despite the negative? How do you grow if you don't contend with anything hard? The tough times...no one wants them, but they do build character. The dark times put you in a better position to appreciate the light.
For me, the trick is not to never get upset or pissed off, it's to make negativity work for me. To channel negativity and make it my bitch. I don't know about you, but anger fuels me to improve, to hang in. It tests my mettle. Sadness and grief teach me about overcoming obstacles and learning to live with things that will not change. Disappointment shows me how well I deal with failure. Good results can come from bad situations and negative emotions. Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but of playing a poor hand well. You can't ignore problems or become estranged from reality just so you remain a beacon of positivity when shit hits the fan.
To me, accentuating the positive means holding up in the face of adversity, focusing on what I have rather than what I don't, seeing/seeking/finding the good, maintaining serenity when things are falling down around me, rolling with it...all of those are integral to how I live my life.

But when something goes wrong, I don't force a smile onto my face and I don't care about how the outside world views me or my struggle. I feel like some people are afraid to acknowledge hardship for fear of being branded negative. Acknowledging the suck is not negative and doesn't make you a negative person. Daily life has good and bad in it. To pretend it doesn't isn't real life. The cult of positivity leaves no room for reality. There is a place that exists between delusionally positive and Debbie Downer full time negative.

I think like this: There's good. There's bad. In all good things, there is something bad. In all bad things, there is something good. I choose what to look for and I choose where to place the emphasis. Sometimes there is no initial choosing and my choice lies in how I react. I'm responsible for my own balance.
I hate when people  beat themselves up on down days for not being positive. Everyone hits a low once in a while. It's okay. Give yourself the permission to feel what you feel and work through it, the cult of positivity be damned.

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36 comments:

  1. real talk right hurr. i find that a lot of people go are at either ends of the spectrum instead of trying to find that balance. bad shit happens but it's how we deal with that bad shit that makes us stronger. love this post.

    -kathy
    Vodka and Soda

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  2. I love your perspective, and that is not just me being overly positive! ;) I tend to want to stay on the positive side, but some days just kick me in the pants. I choose to acknowledge it, own it, and try to keep my distance to less the impact of said horrible no good, very bad day. I try not to stay in that bad day, either. Nothing worse than someone just turning a bad day into a bad week or month!

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  3. I love that quote! From now on, I'm referring to myself as a realist. "The liquid in this glass is neither full nor empty, but measures exactly at the halfway point." And that is one of the things I love about your blog - it's not all cheery pep. I remember seeing you describe yourself as "cranky" once, and I thought, "Must keep reading!"

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  4. I love the concept of being happy with what you've got and finding something positive in the simple. I think that allows you to be positive more often than not without being fake happy. I hate dwelling in the negative (though sometimes find myself feeling guilty of it). For some people, though, it's a fine balance - you have to fake it until you make it with positivity as to not get sucked down the deep dark hole of being a Debbie Downer. So, while it might be fake smiles for a while, I think it's better than the alternative of being stuck in the negative.

    So basically, being negative is fine. Living in negative land is not.

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  5. Love this! it is all about balance. AND if you want a trip to negative land - do it by yourself. Once the ride is over, you can come join population again. I have a friend who will let me be negative for 5 mins. Once time is up, time to find good things. It lets me get my frustrations out, and then I'm fine! Just hard to find the balance some days. And I am with you. Over positive people need a high five in the face with a chair sometimes.

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  6. love this post! i absolutely used to be the most annoying debbie downer you ever did meet. ack, i could not have handled me. it was only when i would realise why other people annoyed me, it was because they were debbie downers as well and i was like damn, is that what i sound like? so i am much better now.

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  7. Don't get mad or pissed off, it's not even worth it.

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    1. I don't think it's realistic to not get mad or pissed off. According to the Mental Health Foundation, anger is a natural human emotion, a normal response to threats, attacks, injustice, and disappointment. Direct quote from their site: Anger is a powerful emotion and releasing the pressure that builds inside you can be essential to deal with problems and move on. But if anger isn’t dealt with in a healthy way, it can have a significant effect on your daily life, relationships, achievements and mental well-being.

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  8. This is such a well-written post! We should all be able to voice our occasional feelings of disappointment or frustration without immediately being labeled as a "Negative Nelly." Sometimes venting about the problem leads to a POSITIVE solution!

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  9. When something really bad happens, I like to be grateful for the good stuff. I do not like to upset my cells with anger.
    I also like to be fueled to do something when I can. When things are beyond my control, I send the lights, send out all the positive energy I can muster. Luckily I do not encounter many nasty people, thank Goddess. I am a sarcastic little b, so that comes off as negative, but that's ok ! It's my personality. My life path has taught me many things, some i still haven't been able to correct. I am way happier now than I have ever been, and more important, very grateful every nanosecond. Carpe diem! Love your MOMMA

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  10. While it's really easy to let my imagination run away with all the bad things that can happen, I often just try to think of the good things because there is ALWAYS something to be grateful for. One bad thing does not mean your life is terrible. I would never insist that I'm an optimist, but I've been through enough to know that when you think life is falling apart, it'll pass. I generally let more go now than I used to.

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  11. I agree. I consider myself a realist. I don't think it's healthy to go too far in either direction. You can't be so negative that you're depressed, and you can't be so optimistic that you're blind to real world consequences. Balance is definitely the right word.

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  12. I love your perspective on all of this. I try to be positive about most things, because positivity equals happiness. I try to let go of most things that irritate me or make me sad, because really, who has time to let things bother them? But, I certainly have my down days. I just try not to stay down about something or more than just a little while because no one wants to be around that. I don't want to be around myself like that! I like to think about the worst case scenarios in most situations to remind myself it is there so I am not setting myself up for a surprise, but also try to think the good is going to happen from it.

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  13. This. This. This. Ive always been a positive person and I have always hated to be around negativity ...but particularly this year it drives me batty when people are constantly down and upset over the littlest shit. Just yesterday one of my friends was complaining to me all day about some trivial matter. By the end of the day I had enough and had to tell her ... listen please stop complaining, if you had half of the shit I had to deal with this year Id understand but you have a chance to make your shit better so stop whining and do something about it!

    I love this post and sorry for the rant ha!

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  14. "Channel negativity and make it my bitch." I like it. I'm definitely guilty of sometimes being in a true negative everything sucks funk. Rarely am I 100% rainbows and butterflies. I totally agree though- even I don't like myself when I'm in the everything's bad mood. And I don't like the everything's good all the time bs either.

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  15. Of course you know that I'm totally down with this. While I don't like being a whinER, if I'm pissed about something, it's valid. I don't want to hear someone telling me to be positive and grateful and all that. Just let me have my moment and then I'll move on. Balance, balance, balance!

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  16. I always call myself a realist. I just cannot act like everything is all rainbow and sunshine all the time...both extremes really turn me off people. I think there is a line between being positive and being delusional/fake. I had a friend in HS who I simply could not be friends with her anymore because she always acted like everything was perfect when it was not. She dated this guy that we all knew and she pretended he was a completely different person when they started dating. It was so sad to watch.

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  17. I completely agree! I cannot stand people who only ever complain but I want to smack some reality into people who are ALWAYS happy & try to force their sunshine onto everyone else all the time. If I'm having a bad day let me have a bad day & on the flip side don't try to drag me down just because you're miserable.

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  18. I agree with this 100%. I would consider myself an optimist for the most part, and definitely try to find the silver lining in negative situations, but sometimes I just gotta ride out the funk. I realize that and am okay with it. I have a friend who recently moved to Cali and she's all "everything is the BEST EVER!" every time I talk to her; it's so annoying and unrealistic. I feel the same about a coworker of mine who complains about every little thing all the time- take the good with the bad! Balance!

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  19. My God, I love you! And I love all the thought provoking comments you've received with this post, and not just "Oh I totally agree, and on Wednesdays we wear pink!"

    OK, so I do agree with this. And my bra is pink. Go figure. But, like you said, there has to be this midpoint, this balance, and if the scales tip most the time to one side, you're gonna end up losing your damn mind.

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  20. I love this, especially the "create a life" part. I struggle with this. I am pretty open with my trials and have had a lot, people tend to tell me what I should be doing. I am learning how to balance the highs and lows to create what feels good to me on the inside no matter what it looks like to anyone else. Anyone that is positive all the time is full of shit lol... I see a lot of Instagram fitness accounts like that and they drive me crazy. I mean I get it in theory but we are not robots!!!

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  21. I'm going to send this to my husband so he can work on making negativity his bitch. I'll let you know how that goes.

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  22. I love this! I've never been a positive person, I consider myself a realist which to a positive person looks exactly like a cynic.

    I do have a problem letting bad/negative moods suck me in, I need to get better at moving past the negative but I'll never be Susie Sunshine.

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  23. I feel like I became my strongest from my most negative moments. I learned and grew from them. You have to find a balance.

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  24. Ya know what. Thank you for this post. I always find myself...afraid...to be upset or negative once in while because I don't want people to say "OMG You are always angry! Like get over it already!" It really is draining to constantly have to push back the rage emotion so you can be positive all the time. Life is not always rainbows and unicorns...sometimes it's unicorn shit...and that's okay too. Thanks for reminding me.

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  25. What an awesome post, I couldn't agree more. While I can't stand people who are constantly a downer, I also can't stand people who are constantly way too positive. It isn't healthy to be so far on one side or the other. You can't have a rainbow without a little rain ;D

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  26. I believe life is about feeling all emotions. If I am angry I allow myself to be angry. Same for every emotion. I try to not wallow in anger or sadness for too long but I am sure as hell going to feel the rage for a time and sadness for time. It to me is living.

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  27. Spot on - I had this experience with an old manager of mine - NEVER saw anything negative.. All was peachy in the world. Even still a lot of others are big proponents of the positive state of mind where nothing is ever wrong and it drives me crazy! Yes you can be too negative but you can also drive others crazy by never acknowledging that what just happened really sucked, just acknowledge it and say "you know what it does suck but it won't affect me" - Emotions are there for a reason: to be experienced. Have a great one Stephanie! -Iva

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  28. I love this. Keeping' it real! I like to think I'm a generally positive and happy person, but I don't really sugar coat ether. And I will not waste my time with downers. I just won't hang out with you if you constantly bring me down.

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  29. "Good results can come from bad situations and negative emotions." AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMEN! I always say: "You can't let a hard situation turn you into a hard person."

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  30. I completely agree. I TRY to find the positive in bad situations because I believe you CHOOSE to be happy or not, but there has to be some slack. Some days you're just in a funk and nothing goes right, or you get terrible news, have a setback somehow, and in order to stay positive, sometimes you just need to experience some sadness. I have a friend who is always so happy and upbeat and never ever shows anything but that, and I'm like, 'girl, it's ok to be real now and then. Not everything is sunshine and rainbows. Stop it.'

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  31. Found you through Kerry @ Till then smile often...

    I love this post!

    Very real. Very thought provoking.

    Thank you.

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    1. Thanks! Everyone's replies made me think too.

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  32. Amen. I acknowledge the bad feelings, because masking them with a smile doesn't solve shit. I now take the problems head on, solve them, and move on. I will feel the negative, but never dwell on it. Positivity is something I always strive for because it keeps me in a good, sound mind, but I will never live in denial. I really love your blog Steph. You're so real, down to earth, and relatable.

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