When Positivity is Problematic

Hi! Did you see me this morning? You smiled at me and I smiled right back. Two strangers sharing a moment of human connection. Positively lovely.

I am, by most definitions, a positive person. A relentless optimist with Julia Roberts’ smile and Celine Dion’s niceness. I know the value of a genuine grin, a kind word, a warm glance. I know that positivity can be positively uplifting.

But it can also be problematic.

Because positivity has been propped up as yet another goal for us to reach. It has been prescribed as the gateway to good thoughts and good things. It is superior to negativity, which is blamed for anything from a lack of relationship and little money to a crappy career and poor health. Rather than being a state that sometimes you are in (and sometimes you are not), it has become a state to achieve and sustain over indefinite periods of time. Like happiness. (Which, it turns out, may have little to do with your achieving abilities.)  

Trying to feel positive when you are not feeling positive, is positively cruel.

Positivity is problematic when it shuts down the red alerts in your system - insisting that you keep moving forward or push through your limits, when your body is saying ‘gimme a second - something is up that needs attention!’

It is problematic when it minimizes another person’s pain (or your own), by providing a blanket statement of joy, when what might be kinder is to sit with someone for a moment in their negativity (or your own); without jolting or forcing them out of it, urging them into a false positive.

It is problematic when it has you shush your self: your grievances, your grief, your pain, your complaints, your feedback and your fears with a swift and sweeping judgement called: that’s too negative!

It is mostly problematic any time you are not feeling positive, because the efforts that you make to undermine what you are feeling in that moment in favor of something that you think is better, also undermine who you are in that moment, in favor of some version of you that is better.

And that, in and of itself, is a problem. Because who could be better than you, just as you are, in this very moment?