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The Downside of Positivity

I'm not a positivity fan. I believe that if something feels wrong, then sugar coating it with affirmations is the same as putting your head in the sand. It hides you from a truth that is asking for your attention. It also fosters inauthenticity which can undermine your confidence.




Our culture shift toward positivity has good intentions. True people will often benefit from a shift in perspective. One thing that is taught at iPEC is there is a difference between true and Truth. Our minds believe something counter-productive is true for us (I'm too young, old, not talented enough, not good enough at...) but is that Truth? By seeing the Truth, our outlook and course of action can change.


But "Just think happy thoughts" or even a practice of gratitude is too superficial to bring about meaningful change quickly - if at all. And now, there is almost a shame component if you aren't positive (Why are you so negative!) - so you have doubled your problems by admitting you have problems at all. Yuck.


Another downside of positivity is that we often give "think positive" advice as a cure-all and and we forget to truly listening to each other. Why listen, this person "just" needs to be more positive? Right? Wrong. Sharing without judgement and feeling heard are often the first steps in people making meaningful change.


So we don't truly listen to each other, we don't feel heard, we feel shame for feeling unhappy and we try to pretend to be happier than we are all while ignoring the thing that is causing us pain. What could go wrong with that?


The alternative to the rah rah positivity starts with non-judgement and curiosity.


Something feels wrong? Ok. Let's acknowledge it and get curious, and see what is going on. These are the types of questions a coach might ask.


What feels wrong? When did it start happening? What triggered this feeling? What thoughts are coming up in this situation? How true are these thoughts? What might these thoughts be trying to protect you from? What does discernment say here (not judgement)? Where has this happened before? How true are these thoughts? What are some different ways you could see the situation or yourself? How would your higher self/higher coach/favorite person x see this situation? What will it take to make a change? What are you afraid of? How are you protecting yourself by staying stuck? etc.


Once you start to understand what your feelings are telling you, and how to redirect your instinctual brain, you won't need to "be positive." It will be natural because positivity is an EFFECT, not a cause. It signals that you and your brain are working together and are not at odds with each other.

When you get curious and use non-judgement, you start to trust yourself. You start to accept your current situation so you can see clearly what is going on, and how you would like to respond. The key is you already have the answers. Judgement (like I should be more positive) clouds vision. You feel what you feel. It isn't happening TO you, it's just happening. You are where you are. These are just facts. There is nothing good or bad about them. Given the facts, given how you feel is understandable and totally makes sense for you and this situation (it always does), what's the next step? What needs to be addressed? Where would you prefer to be (preference isn't judgement - it's just preference.)


If the next step isn't clear, or if the judgement is overwhelming and it's hard to find another "truth" to believe instead, consider hiring a coach to help you unroot whatever limiting beliefs are showing up for you. Positivity doesn't remove limiting beliefs - it just covers them up until they show up again, and they will show up again because ultimately you want you to succeed.


Once you start to understand what your feelings are telling you, and how to redirect your instinctual brain, you won't need to "be positive." It will be natural because positivity is an EFFECT, not a cause. It signals that you and your brain are working together and are not at odds with each other.

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©2019 by Angela Greenwell.