Positivity – what does that actually mean? Well the Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “the state or character of being positive:a positivity that accepts the world as it is.”
As a coach, one of the first words we come across in our training is the word positive. We are encouraged to have a positive outlook, to encourage others to be positive about themselves and what they are doing. We use expressions like “positive outcomes” and on the whole we are kind of expected to be upbeat and positive people in the hope that the positivity we manifest will rub off on others! That’s quite an expectation isn’t it?
How often have you been told (and notice I use the word told) to be positive about something? How many times has the phrase “you just need to be positive about it” been used when well-meaning friends and families, bosses want to give you a bit of a pep talk? Annoying isn’t it?
If we look at the definition as listed in the dictionary it seems pretty obvious that we would all like to have a more positive outlook on life but that isn’t always possible and I also question whether its a) realistic or b) the right word to be using for encouragement? Are we all focusing so hard on being positive that we are not allowing ourselves to experience other emotions? Are we constantly picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves down, putting a smile on our face and saying “I’m okay” in order to be positive?
Now you know me, it’s not that I have anything against being positive – its a quality that can be very useful used in the right space at the right time BUT is it something we need to be striving for constantly? Can we be positive but anxious? Can we be positive but angry? Can we be positive about some things but actually feel completely overwhelmed by others?
YES!! Of course we can.
What do you think would happen if you allowed yourself to work through any emotional stuff that you might be going through WITHOUT the intention of a positive spin or outcome? What if you could just be sad? How would if feel to allow yourself to be disappointed or feel let down without always looking for the positive? What if by doing by doing this it allowed you to be really in touch with your emotions rather than putting a brave face on it?
I obviously don’t have the answer for that but I suspect it would be challenging, it might make others feel uncomfortable around you especially if you are known for being positive? That’s actually okay – this isn’t about them, it’s about you! Maybe by not striving to be constantly positive and upbeat or for always seeing the best in a situation might make life a little more real and authentic?
On the whole I have always been known as a positive person and have worked very hard to live up to that title but in recent years, I have felt that for me personally, it has been far more important to be seen as authentic. Obviously as a professional coach I come from a place of positivity but also from a place of truth and honesty – if I think things are crap, I say that I think things are crap. If a client tells me they’re having a really tough time, I don’t encourage them to “find the positives” but to find solutions to change the situation which ultimately I guess, helps them feel more positive.
With friends and family, I have often been relied on to be the voice of reason, the sounding board (the positive sounding board) and I still do that where I can but now I’m not afraid to either say, “sorry, I’m having a tough day, can we talk another time when I can truly listen” or I actually don’t respond straight away, offering up my services but text a little later explaining I’m not on top form and I’ll catch up another time. Interestingly no-one has moaned or complained, they’ve been accepting as far as I know.
So the next time someone tells you to “put your positive pants on” or tells you that “things can’t be that bad, you need to find the positives” – if it’s relevant to that situation, don’t take any notice! You will work through things and you will have a different perspective in maybe a couple of days time and if you don’t, if you feel really low, you will reach out to someone who can help, properly help and support you, not just chivvy you along with well-meaning but quite annoying platitudes!
I’m ditching the positive pants and I’m now modelling the updated version of “knock em dead authentic, real, sometimes grumpy but more often than not smiley” pants! FACT