There are two kinds of positivity in my world. There is the positivity defined by putting on a smile even when you don’t feel like it, posting encouraging quips and quotes across all your social media avenues, and telling your struggling friends to cheer up in times of trial. You probably have one or more cleverly-designed inspirational posters from Etsy hanging framed in your bathroom. These people deserve a million gold stars, and we all need them at some point in our lives.
The other kind of positive is the one that I feel I am. I am a realist, and I believe positive thinking encourages positive behavior. Often though, lofty motivational quotes feel more aspirational than inspirational. Inspirational quotes that may help one person feel better might seem out of touch to someone else. It’s sometimes hard for me to find comfort or empowerment in words from a stranger that may have been said ten or a thousand years ago, because they don’t know what I know or they haven’t been where I’ve been. Most of the time, they’re not even dealing in the same realm of a situation for which you’re seeking advice.
I complain more than I should, and I know it. (We all do, except for maybe the people I described in the first paragraph.) I used to find myself thinking negatively more than I do now, because it’s something I’ve actually worked on. I made myself conscious of it. Being aware of negativity was a step I took towards changing it. Even in a situation that I maybe couldn’t change right away, I could change the way that I approached it mentally—when that clicked for me, it made all the difference.
A wise young woman once told me to be gentle with myself. Give yourself grace. And I think a lot of what drives the kind of positivity that has been effective for me is acceptance. Giving yourself a little room to breathe. Recognizing the things you do well, and simply acknowledging that things are hard at the moment or that you didn’t handle a situation as best you could or that this is the third time in a row your rent has been late. I can handle it, I can shrug it off, and I can do better next time.
These days, lifting myself from a haze of negativity is as simple as telling myself that it’s all okay—reading it printed in Papyrus over a doodle of daisies won’t make me believe it any more than I do on my own.