& the effect of ‘too much’ online positivity…
I’ve always been really in to positive thinking. I used to include daily positive quotes on my old blog design and would always feel really uplifted reading a confidence boosting sentence. So am I going to come across as a total hypocrite when I begin to tell you that I’ve changed my mind about positivity and inspirational advice?
Ambition, girl boss and winning slogans are taking centre stage
Ok, I haven’t ‘changed’ my thoughts on positive and constructive quotes per se. I still love a positive attitude (no one likes a Boring Brenda). But as I’ve grown and experienced major life changes in a short space of time (leaving my job, marrying, pregnancy, renovating etc.) I’ve become more aware of the tyranny of positivity that seems to be everywhere I look. And not necessarily for the good. When I was going through these moments sometimes I just wanted to switch off (and cry during the really hard times) rather than be exposed to all this ‘forced’ positive thinking.
But it’s as though the pressure to be positive was suddenly shoved in my face on social media and in the form of best selling books. There was no getting away from it. Now even brands are in on the hype. Forget ‘sex sells’ – today it’s ‘non-viable quotes sell’. Have you noticed the hoards of
junk merchandise being sold in shops with ambition, girl boss and winning slogans taking centre stage? When did telling others to be motivated become so fashionable? I even saw a print for a nursery that said ‘Push Yourself Higher Than Your Heels’. I mean firstly, what 3 month old wears heels and second, how does this fit in a baby room? These positive messages, inspirational quotes, commands to Achieve! Believe! Succeed! It’s all a bit too much to be honest.
It got me thinking. Is this barrage of online boosters productive? Effective? Pragmatic? Or is it totally overwhelming? Unrealistic? An unbalanced way of living?
Why is the internet suddenly eluding to the fact that I have to be ‘on’ and ‘positive’ all the time to feel remotely ‘ok’ or ‘successful’? I’m being told that if I think a certain way, good things will happen. Well I thought long and hard about having long legs and swishy hair like Giselle. I guess now we wait?
I also wonder, subconsciously is there a mini war on social media over who can find the most rare and unused positive quote to get the most likes? The answers to these questions are of course interpreted differently by different people. For someone of my age and level of curiosity, I feel able to see trends online and in life and filter out the unnecessary garbage. But how about those teenagers, the twenty somethings or even those who are middle aged and new-ish to the online world? All of this noise (‘be a goal digger!’, ‘think happy stay happy!’, ‘work hard dream big!’). It can be quite consuming for some people, making them feel like they’re never going to be good enough.
One of my life goals (and definition of personal success) is happiness. I’m not talking about being surrounded by diamonds and jet skis (although that surely takes the sting out of being miserable). I’m talking about waking up ready to face the day, being thankful for my health, warm food and a roof over my head. In essence gratitude and being comfortable are important to me and help me in my journey towards being happy. It’s quite simple really.
But I’ll let you in on a secret.
The sheer volume of inspirational quotes and messages makes my anxiety much worse. It can make me feel a little like a failure if I’m not upbeat all the time. I don’t wake up everyday grateful, happy or at peace. Sometimes I wake shrouded in worry, a feeling that I’m not good enough or blanketed in guilt. Guilt for not calling my grandparents enough, not making enough effort to visit my friends in other countries, even a feeling of laziness if I haven’t been as productive as I should have been the day before.
The key word here? ENOUGH. Why do I (and most of the people I know) feel guilty for not being or doing ‘enough’? Who even defines what’s ‘enough’? Why as humans in 2017 are we programmed to think we’ll only succeed or achieve our life goals if we put in ‘enough’ effort? Since when did being a decent, charitable human being who hates litter and likes to take care of their health and wellbeing not be ‘enough’ to warrant a degree of happiness or success? I am of course speaking about a proportion of people here, not everybody.
In a recent interview, I explained a typical day in my life. When I read it back even I thought wow! This girl has got it together! But what I didn’t include in the piece (the word count was very limited) was that I sometimes open my laptop in the morning and flick through a mountain of positive affirmations from people on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. By the 50th quote I’ve haphazardly made a few notes in my notebook, created a completely unrealistic to-do list and feel able to run a Forbes 500 company before the end of the week. Hello, they said if I think good things it’ll happen! But hang on. I’m not running a Forbes 500 company. I’m not a million job specs rolled in to one and I most certainly am not able to get through my to do list in five hours.
Achieving the unrealistic…
It’s absolute nonsense. The only reason I feel I can achieve the unrealistic (the only reason why it crosses my mind) is not because of a personal belief that I can do the impossible. It’s actually from feeling pressured. Being force-fed trite statements that are intended to make me feel I can do anything I put my mind to because duh! It’s really THAT easy. It’s not. I guess it’s also no coincidence that anxiety among late teens and twenty something’s is on the rise.
In life, I understand the importance of being a balanced person. Taking the good with the bad. I’ve written about it many times in previous blog posts (Bad Habits Obstructing Your Goals, How To Create A Life You Truly Love etc). I also know that in order to be a fully rounded individual, it’s important to live a full and emotional life. Part of that emotional life is feeling. Feeling the bad times, feeling the dark times, feeling the stressful times. Then appreciating the good times, the happy times and the memories.
Using a (false) positive mindset to ignore the difficulties isn’t condoned in an emotional life. In fact, it’s actually really bad to neglect one’s true feelings and to park a problem mentally for another day. Putting on a brave face around people is indeed feigning confidence and positivity but what I’ve learned is that pain just doesn’t ‘disappear’. It moves from one place to another. Eventually the suppressed pain/anxiety or negative emotion will come out in some other way. Normally in the form of anxiety. This is when counselling and therapy becomes a tool to help individuals, those who may have been putting on a united front, masking themselves so problems become unrecognisable until a later date when it all gets too much.
Is it true?
Is the incessant need to spread positivity everywhere actually doing us more harm than good? I know that elements of living a positive life can help with mental health, performance (to an extent) and even our coping skills but when positivity is used to placate or soothe us, temporarily make us feel better, will it ultimately lead to confusion? These are real quotes I’ve seen online:
“Pour yourself a drink and put on some lipstick!” – Feeling down about being dumped? Basically get intoxicated and park any negative emotions.
“Smiling has always been easier than explaining why you’re sad” – Feel sad about moving to a new city? Just smile and get on with it.
“Your vibe attracts your tribe” – In other words, it’s your own fault other people are rubbish.
“Toss your hair in a bun, drink some coffee, put on some gangster rap and handle it” – Ignore anything you feel.
Are we turning into a generation who champion denial and exploit successfulness? Covering up what we really feel? Are we duped in to thinking that positive thinking equals dreams come true? If so, we’re certainly destined for real disappointment. The real world is tough, there’s no denying that. You do need to work to achieve things, it isn’t just handed to you on a plate. It’s been said before that if you don’t feel pain, you can’t know what happiness is. I believe this is the case for everyday life, success and self-esteem. Sure being optimistic is fine but don’t get to the point where you feel so under pressure to get ahead that you’re drowning in your own extreme motivation.
Shop The Post