OK optimists, I know what you're thinking:
"WHAT......There's a downside to positive thinking? Isn’t that the most important thing!?"
I get it. I’ve written a series of journals based on the concept of focusing your attention on what is good but in the journals you'll also notice that I include lots of questions exploring our weaknesses and things we'd like to improve -- and there's a good reason for that.
I’m the first to say that positive thinking is positively a super way to live your life but there's a destructive downside to thinking positively 100% of the time. Let me explain.....
Lately I’ve been dealing with aspects and situations in my work life that are far from great. As much as I try to be grateful and to see it from a positive perspective, I find myself caught between wanting to be assertive and uplifting and wanting to say just how crap things really are! Since I work with other ‘positive’ people, I’ve noticed that if I raise my concerns, I risk being seen as a ‘negative’ person when, in fact, I’m simply being honest. And there’s a big difference between being negative and being honest. Therefore, it's important that we’re aware of when we’re being overly positive.
Negativity is constant whining and complaining. Doom and gloom. Black and white. Honesty is telling the truth and it’s how we create positive change in our lives.
Being overly positive and refusing to look at what’s not going well has a destructive downside that leads to avoiding the truth.
Positive thinking, while it has many personal, social & spiritual benefits, can numb us into a false sense of OK-ness. When we think everything is OK there's no motivation to improve. I’ll even go as far as to say that seeing life from an ‘everything’s just great’ perspective is nothing more than delusion.
When we look only at the positive we delude ourselves into believing that everything is great, when really — it’s not and little by little we compromise our values, our standards and our potential. We end up settling.
For our lives to expand and evolve, we need to acknowledge the areas we'd like to upgrade or how else can we ever move forward?
For example, if I'm always telling myself my finances are great, when really I'm broke, I'll never take steps I need to take to truly improve my financial situation for good.
If I'm always telling myself I'm fit and healthy but my actions are that of laziness and unhealthy habits, then I'm just perpetuating a lie that doesn’t help me.
If I don't have the courage to speak up and say what I believe could be improved in my work projects, then I end up compromising on what I know can be possible and risk the whole project failing.
If you accept mediocrity in any area of your life and continue to tell yourself ‘everything is just great’ then I challenge you to ask yourself, 'why?'
Change happens when we change and that requires us to look at the negatives as well as the positives.
People who pride themselves on being optimistic all of the time will often do anything to avoid being seen as negative because they fear looking bad. I’m wary of people who are consistently overly optimistic and positive. We all know, life’s never picture perfect and always being 'positive' can be compensation for what’s really going on under the positive happy facade. You might be able to fool others but you can never fool yourself.
Let’s bust a few myths around negativity and perpetual positivity:
- It’s not negative to ask logical, rational questions or seek out ways to upgrade your current situation.
- Being negative or skeptical is not always bad if you use it to better your life and if it serves the purpose of creating positive growth.
- Being negative is one thing, being real is another. The difference often lies in how we say it.
- Being positive is not automatically good, especially if it’s used as a guise to hide behind and to pretend that nothing needs to change.
- Being super positive is no better than being super negative. We need both polarities to live a well balanced, grounded and authentic life.
The goal is to be real. Honest. Authentic. Having the courage to speak up when you need to, even if that means having a tough conversation or risking looking bad. To say so when something doesn’t feel right and not to feel bad for doing so.
It takes maturity to be able to have those tough, open, honest conversations, not only with others but also with ourselves. It’s a skill to be able to deliver truth, no matter its sentiment, in a constructive way.
Sure, being positive is definitely an ideal way to live, it makes you and others feel great, but it’s not always the best way. You need both polarities of positive and negative to see things as they really are.
Being constantly POSITIVE is not necessary for a happy, fulfilled, successful life.
Being REAL is.