Written by Anna-Marie Swan
I hate positivity. I really do. And there’s a very good reason you should too; it could be that it’s pretty much ruining your life.
Positivity is so pervasive. Everywhere we look there’s another Facebook or Instagram post telling us how we can bring more of it into our lives, advising us on how we can think, act, and be more positive.
I hate it. I hate it when I am talking through something I’m struggling with and someone I love and respect tells me to think more positively. I hate it when I am sharing how I’ve been finding peace with something that used to cause me pain or am approaching a situation differently, and I am told that it’s great that I’m being so positive now. And I hate it when I see others doing it to each other, bringing forth the great positivity stick and swinging it around without due care or attention. Or doing it to themselves. My heart sinks when positive pops out of their mouth and I feel a sense of betrayal, frustration, and great sadness.
Why do I hate it so very much? After all, it’s often simply someone trying to tell you they love you. That they want something better for you, want you to feel less pain, that they’re worried about you. And when we look for the positives in a situation, we’re just trying to move out of the depression or grief or anger we’re feeling so we can feel better. And in less pain.
Because exactly that. Every single time someone tells you to be positive or you tell yourself to be positive, what they, or you, are actually saying is: you should not feel what you are feeling. It’s not OK. Your frustration: it’s wrong. Your depression: it’s wrong. Your sadness: it’s wrong. Your grief: it’s wrong. Your rage: it’s wrong. Your fear: it’s wrong.
Your heart: it’s wrong.
Your head: it’s wrong.
What you’re feeling is wrong, wrong, wrong.
And this is really, really dangerous. Because nothing - nothing - we feel is ever wrong. It’s real, and important. Our feelings are our guides and our compass. That frustration you feel, it can show you what you really want, if you listen to it closely. Your depression, it can be a doorway into really feeling what you’ve forgotten how to feel or are too afraid to. Your sadness. Ah, your blessed sadness, that’s your heart grieving. Your grief, that’s beautiful. It honours others and it honours ourselves. Your rage, that’s priceless. It can lead you to the pain you’re repressing, and out the other side, or be a tool for great change in the world. And your fear? That’s where you get to realise what’s precious to you, or where, if you face it, you could really fly.
Positivity, however, is not real. It’s a mental construct. Have you ever noticed that positivity doesn’t come naturally? That we have to twist ourselves into it, make the effort? That it sits around us without flexibility or room to breathe? That when we read ten top tips on how to bring more positivity in our lives a tiny part of us feels suffocated and wants to rebel?
Yes, our thinking patterns, our mental approach, that can often do with some serious tweaking. Yes! We can get caught up in unhelpful ways of viewing the world. We can believe all our thoughts are real (they’re not). We can forget that there are many things to be grateful for in our lives and in the world around us (there are so many). Gratitude, that is real. Practising seeing what we already have in our lives that we can choose to be grateful for, now that is beautiful, and balm to our hearts and minds. That is useful, self-loving, and kind, and can help us approach life with balance, awe, and a little bit of lightness.
But positivity is forced.
The next time you’re feeling rage? Feel it, unapologetically. When you’re feeling hurt, feel fully hurt. When you’re feeling afraid, hold it with tenderness. When you’re feeling confused, be absolutely confused. Fuck positivity. Fight for your realness. After all, real joy, real peace, real silliness, and real depth, they only fully rise when you allow all our feelings, with a little less judgement and a little more acceptance.
For clarity, please don’t actually tell the next person who tells you to be positive to fuck off; they often mean well and they don’t really get what they’re doing. But do allow yourself to fully feel anything that being told to be positive brings up for you. And if you’re one of those that tells yourself to be positive, seriously, repeat after me: fuck off.