If you spend any time at all on social media you will likely have seen “inspirational” posts about positivity. A lot of these will make some claim about being outwardly positive in order to actually feel positive. I saw one recently that said something like “It’s time to just be happy. Being angry or sad isn’t worth it so be positive.” Now, you may be thinking, what’s wrong with this? Shouldn’t we all try to be happy rather than angry or sad?
The problem with this kind of message is that it encourages the reader to hide, deny or supress any feelings other than those which are positive and, in turn, force that positivity on to others. The issue here is that by living this way, we are not living authentically or congruently.
A nice false self is not an authentic self” – Carol Roush, creator of the NOW Programme
In last month’s blog, Understanding Congruence, I talked about how many of us have been programmed to automatically respond to anyone asking how we are with a forced smile and a “fine, thank you.” Often what we say and what we feel are not in alignment with each other. This is because we are conditioned to think that we always need to present in a positive way for the sake of others. And because it’s so ingrained in us to do this, we often don’t even know that we are being falsely positive. But that doesn’t mean that those around us don’t pick up on it. In fact, think about how many times you have felt agitation or even anger when communicating with someone, but you couldn’t quite put your finger on why you feel that way towards them. Chances are it’s because you are picking up on the fact that what they are saying and how they are feeling don’t quite match, leading to lack of trust in the relationship. This is how false or forced positivity can negatively affect our relationships, whether they be personal relationships, business relationships or even passing relationships. That sales person for example who is so desperate for you to buy their goods that they are falsely positive about them (and yet, don’t totally believe what they are saying themselves). You sense something and don’t quite trust in what they are saying about the products.
So, where is the balance between someone who goes into so much detail about how they are feeling, leaving others completely drained, and someone who forces a smile and claims they feel great even when inside they are screaming in desperation, absolutely exhausted or grieving a loss.
The antidote is to feel the feeling, express and then move on.
The truth is, we don’t need to be the hero or the victim. Rather than claim everything is absolutely wonderful all of the time, when someone asks how you are, tell them. If you are feeling under the weather, a little poorly or absolutely shattered, be honest. The person on the receiving end can then feel you are being authentic with them, and this builds trust. It also means you are being honest with yourself, and this is equally as important. There is no need to labour the point and expect the other person to act as your therapist, just simply state the truth and then move on.
I had an experience like this recently when buying feed for the horses. The person behind the counter was making polite conversation as they served me and said, “how’s business, busy?” In previous years I would have said “yes, it’s great, I’m really busy” but the truth was, I was having a quiet week. So, instead of lying and forcing a positive untruth on her I simply said, “I’m having a quiet week so I’m taking the opportunity to get other jobs done and have a bit of much needed downtime.” This is an example of congruence.
I’m not saying that genuine positivity is a bad thing but there is a difference between forced positivity (which is masking true feelings) and being in alignment with positivity. When we are in alignment with positivity we are genuinely feeling what we are saying. An example of this might be when we attend a concert by a favourite band and it was everything we hoped it would be. The next day when someone asks us how it was, we can say with absolute authenticity how wonderful it made us feel. This is because what we are saying and how we felt at the concert and during the days after as we relive it is in complete alignment with each other.
I want to finish this blog by touching on the whole “fake it till you make it” message. This is a mantra that many people will live by when climbing up the career ladder, taking part in competitions or striving for a dream. The truth is this will likely only work for those people who genuinely believe that they are capable of reaching that goal, meaning they are in alignment with it already. So, if you aren’t feeling positive give yourself permission not to fake it and instead, allow yourself to feel and express how you are truly feeling and live congruently.
If you have resonated with this blog and would like to learn more about letting go of false positivity and living more congruently, do get in touch.