24*7 365 Positivity/Happiness Is Overrated!
You may have heard things like this in your life at some point:
No negativity. Just positivity please. You're being too negative. Why can't you just be positive?
Get over it. You're too sensitive. He/she's too whiny/complains too much/always down or sad.
I’m being too negative. I can’t achieve progress in life if I’m being negative.
I can’t share anything with them. They’ll just think I have issues all the time.
And the list can go on, but you understand what I'm saying, yes?
Let me first state that I have nothing against positivity and looking at the positive side of things. But I think that there's a stigma building up around not being positive; so much that it's causing people to run away from any sign of negativity from people (however they interpret it) like it’s a disease. Then they strive to be surrounded by “positive energy” when they’re actually dismissing everything else, making things worse.
People have this notion where positivity is a switch and that it has to be on all the time. I’d be lying if I said that didn’t phase me.
Why do we need to stop being obsessed with positivity?
Often, people think that if they're being even a little negative, something’s wrong with them or they're going to fail. They feel the pressure to be positive to be successful; but in reality, it isn’t helping to run away or deflect what they really feel.
Let’s use this analogy by Roger Covin, an Ottawa based psychologist and author of “ The Need to be Liked” : If negativity is a germ, positive thinking is Purell — certainly useful and needed, but some wonder whether its overuse weaken the user.
Reality check: To a certain extent you need some negativity in your life.
First of all, negative thoughts and emotions can be good and useful in moderation. For example, when you’re faced with a problem, worrying about it or being negative can be a constructive thing if it leads to problem-solving. Anxiety is useful when you’re threatened and need safety, as it will help you stay alert and look out for yourself. Sadness is a normal emotion when you lose someone, or are deeply hurt.
If you’re worried about a situation, it is better to be “negative” (nervous, anxious, worried or cautious) and keep in mind to find a way to sort it out rather than dismissing it by being positive about the outcome.
I’m sure everyone can agree that at some point in their lives they’re subjected to a pressure to be happy.
“Forcing ourselves to be happy all the time could leave us emotionally stunted. I think this is a dark side of positivity…we’re very easily alienated from our feelings”,
says Svend Brinkmann , a psychology professor from Aalborg University.
This is not to say that you’re allowed to be negative about everything and be at the negative end of the spectrum.
Second, we as humans are gifted with our ability to rationalise, analyse and communicate our emotions. Life’s all about ups and downs, and we are allowed to feel what we feel as long as we’re able to maintain a healthy dialogue with ourselves, sort it out and learn more about ourselves in the process. Even more so, without the bad things in life you’d never appreciate the good (vis a vis). Just don’t always beat yourself up about not feeling happy.
Think about it this way, if you step into a pleasant room from the freezing cold, this pleasant temperature will feel warm to you. Similarly, positive life experience will be more enjoyable and meaningful if it occurs after the absence of it. When life is always good or “perfect”, you’ll find no challenge and relatively no enjoyment from it.
We all need some spice in life right? Some push and pull. Some rise and fall. Easy days and not so easy ones.😉
So it’s okay not to feel positive all the time. How does one deal with other “negative” feelings then?
Time and again we’ll find ourselves in situations where we will feel a multitude of “negative” feelings-anger, sadness and grief and so on. But we can’t migrate from that state of mind to a happier one unless we can process it, understand it and be comfortable with our emotions. You won’t learn to be resilient.
See, people don’t get angry about stuff they don’t care about. They don’t feel sad or guilty about stuff they don’t care about. All emotions we experience serve a purpose. If we push these emotions away, you’re choosing not to learn about yourselves, and instead are ignoring your values and what’s important to you. This will bite back at us, since there’s that gap that isn’t bridged. So stop being in a rush to move on without resolving your emotions!
It isn't healthy to avoid feelings and run away from them. We need to feel your feelings to let them go. We need your time to heal from them too. So many people don't understand that. While at times extremely valid, many people tend to be hasty and overpowering with their need for positivity instead of just taking the time to understand people’s emotions. Isn't the point of positivity to be kind, uplifting, inspiring, and encouraging?
To deal with/process our feelings, we’ve got to learn to be flexible with positive and negative psychological states of mind; which can be difficult to achieve, but is more likely to yield significant benefits in the long run.
Balance and channeling is key.
We’re going to come across situations that will pique the realisation that it's okay to feel a certain way. You know what a situation would need more than anyone- in terms of what to do and feel, but there's also a way to feel better by not ignoring our feelings- by acknowledging, digging deeper, asking ourself how to deal with it.
I recently came across these 4 steps of emotional flexibility-
- Showing up: You have to face your emotions. You’re big enough to contain all of our emotions. Just show up to them, own them and realise that it’s okay not to struggle with feeling a certain way. Right or wrong, that’s how you feel.
- Stepping out: This is a mindfulness practice where you experience your emotions and actions, and create a space between the two. Recognize that you don’t need to necessarily act on everything you feel but simply experience it.
- Walking your why: Identify the beliefs and behaviors that are important to you and then act. What choice do you make within that space when you step out with your emotion? You have to learn about your emotions and why you experience them to make sense of them, right? Because if you don’t know, no one else will.
- Moving on: Form effective habits that align with your values and create want-to goals. A “want-to goal” is a change that is driven by your values, as opposed to a have-to goal that is externally imposed. For example, if you’re trying to work on an addiction, you might feel like you have to because your doctor tells you that you must or out of a sense of shame. A want-to goal, however, is deeply connected to what’s important to you. You want to quit because you want to be healthy and be there for the people in your life that care about you.
If you want to dig deeper into your why’s, this is one thing I want to try out too- give the Interrogative Self-Talk a try.
It’s as simple as tweaking the way we speak to ourselves. When we catch ourselves in a bad internal dialogue, think: how can I turn this statement into a question? This invokes the problem-solving areas of the brain helping you to figure out how to deal with negative thoughts with curiosity instead of fear.
So again, I have nothing against positivity. I think a lot of people have known me to be a cheerful person overall. But seeing this positivity only focused culture that people tend to obsess over, without trying to understand why they or people can be negative- sad, upset, angry etc but instead judging them negatively is disturbing.
I hope we’re all able to dig deeper into our spectrum of feelings (and of others’), the why’s and try to be more understanding of ourselves at least; and the people we deeply care about. We’re humans. It’s okay to feel things other than positivity. Just understand and channel it :)
Written with a lot of love and intent to spark some thought about it,
PS- This is such a deep topic and I didn't want to kill everyone with a long post, so if you have comments, questions or want me to write more articles about this, let me know in the comments below or message me! <3