journal contact alexandra home wellbeing at work Get regular updates from Alex login

Why being positive isn't helping you

positivity Aug 13, 2022

The world of social media has long been criticised for the way it encourages people to share their highlight reel. And many people have struggled with comparing their lives with those presented on screen, and felt worse as a result. We’ve all done this; “Her skin is immaculate”, “how does he eat burgers and still look shredded”, “They just always seem to be on holiday”, “she has everything”.

Whats even crazier is that people on both sides of this fence are unhappy about it- the scroller feeling inadequate AND the poster feeling inauthentic and pressured to keep churning out this endless feed of their seemingly perfect life.

This phenomenon was around long before social media, and will be long into the future, and really it stems from an innately human desire to avoid discomfort. Avoiding discomfort is exactly what our brains are programmed to do. It’s the reason why we’ve survived this long- we seek shelter and warmth, community and full bellies, and we strive for more comfort- better salaries and homes, love and happiness.

If you’ve ever confided in a friend, you’ll likely have been given the advice ‘to be positive’, to look for the silver lining in that dark cloud or to focus on the good things in your life. And while, at times, a positive outlook is important, it is also both okay and important to feel your more difficult feelings.

The phrase ‘toxic positivity’ refers to the idea that keeping positive at all times is the best way to live your life. It’s different to optimism, the idea that there will be a positive outcome to a difficult situation - it’s about rejecting any negative emotions and anything that triggers them. And while the idea of never feeling bad is certainly appealing, there are some major pitfalls.

First of all, difficult emotions give us information vital to our success. When you’re scared, your emotions are telling you to be careful of your surroundings. You then decide how to act based on the probability of something bad happening, by either talking yourself out of it or preparing your fight or flight response. For example, you’re walking down a dark street and you hear footsteps behind you. You might choose to ignore it and keep walking, or you might choose to sprint home. Negative feelings are there to protect you. They usually highlight something that’s important to you, like your safety; or the anxiety you get before a big presentation might be showing you that it’s important that you come across well in front of your clients.

People that refuse to acknowledge negative emotions don’t actually become more likeable. It makes them less approachable, less compassionate and more difficult to connect with. The human experience is always full of highs and lows and so appearing to only be happy doesn’t feel authentic. Imagine being in a relationship with someone who ignored sadness altogether!

 

So, what can you do instead?

 

  1. Sit with it. Accepting your difficult emotions reduces the intensity of them. Talk to someone about how you feel. Getting things off your chest makes you feel lighter, and often you’ll find that the person you’re talking to has felt this way before too.
  2. Emotions are neither good or bad. Think of them as the way you make sense of things - if you’re feeling overwhelmed by a project, it might mean that you need to relinquish some control. If you’re feeling sad about leaving a job, it probably means that the experience was meaningful. Look deeper than the emotion and think about why you’re experiencing this.
  3. Emotions encourage you to seek what you need. Sadness makes us look for comfort. Anxiety makes us plan for possible outcomes. Communicating guilt is us seeking forgiveness. Allow yourself to seek what you need to settle back to balance.
  4. Look for the bright side in all of your experiences, but don’t try to be a ray of sunshine 24/7. Listening to your emotions and having compassion for yourself will help you to understand yourself better and start to build a life where you feel balance more often, and will deepen the connections with those around you.

I'm excited for whats possible for you when you take on a different perspective. Which one will you use today? Speak soon, Alexandra xx

Close

50% Complete

Two Step

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.