Positivity Is Contagious – Like The Flu
Positivity alert! Warning! Someone is trying to impress and it might not end well.
Is that too outrageous? Or is that your experience too? I am all for a positive approach to life. No question. Sometimes people even accuse me of being “too upbeat” (sorry for being cheerful). Yet, I remain wary of people promoting their positivity like some kind of badge of honor.
Let me explain…
There are those you meet who stand out for their persistent (almost aggressive) positivity. They seem to be amazing people: always upbeat and finding the right saying for every occasion.
Understandably, this draws people toward them. For surely, such a positive can do attitude is inspirational (And who doesn’t want that?).
But there is a disquieting side to the ever complimenting, forever bright, laugh it off type. Declaring no task too hard and that you ought to choose to be happy too, they set the agenda and the terms by which you will be judged.
Wasting a second on sadness is regarded as “negative” and “non-productive”. You need to be upbeat, they insist, if you want good things to happen. Otherwise you deserve what you get.
Let me unpack that. With this thinking, facing the tragedy of a loved one’s death must only be handled by avoidance and an ironed on grin. We mustn’t let our feelings reach out and handle sadness, let alone grief. Just be brave, bright, and as chirpy as a bird and it will all (somehow) go away.
I wonder about that kind of denial that isolates someone by blocking off the reality of their inner fears and shuts others out. Is that honesty? Or, is that a tragic theft of intimacy and sincerity?
Despite the hoopla, funerals are not normally all that funny (though I know at times they can be). Some parts of life are truly devastating and papering over people’s pain with tinsel and fakery is actually quite cruel.
Like when a couple has a miscarriage or stillbirth. Well-intentioned friends and family may say, “Oh well. It wasn’t meant to be. Best forget about it and move on”. This kind of glossing over is really saying, “I don’t want to accept your sadness. It’s too painful for me to handle. So if you bury it then we can avoid it too.”
Can you see how the pressure to live up to positivity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? Yes, it’s helpful to think optimistically. And, of course, it can be an attractive trait. But when it denies other people’s real experiences, it is both controlling and manipulative.
I’ve come across plenty of folk who adopt a mantel of positivity like it’s a symbol of status (e.g. “I’m so clever I’ve got it together”). Shame they don’t.
A warm, accepting outlook that includes people as they are and incorporates respect for others who aren’t mirroring our mood state is a far more mature approach. Instead of pressuring others to conform, more balanced folk show a live and let live approach.
Besides, nobody is perpetually thrilled in a vividly grinning way. That is distortion of happiness and in no way reflects fulfillment. Using positivity as a tool to impress others and dominate to get your way is just one more tactic of a selfish mind. Superficially, a “game face” looks good, gives a good impression and smells great. But it’s a deception nonetheless. Sadly, we are all prone to wanting to impress – anything than face the pain of personal failures and fragility.
Personally, I’m all for long-term happiness. That doesn’t come from hyped positivity, hucksterism, or slick charisma. Instead, it develops as we do, and grows into full on fulfillment (despite life’s hardships) as we find out what we need to contribute.
But what about you? Is positivity really the answer? Or is there more to smiling enthusiasm than meets the eye?
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