Have you had a bad day and tried to vent to a friend, only to be told to “brighten up,” as if that might magically solve all of your problems? Sometimes, well-intentioned positivity that overlooks a situation’s difficult realities can do more harm than good. We can still thrive in the world as realists while avoiding the downfalls of blind optimism.
We all have that friend who seems to have just the right inspirational quote to solve all of our life’s problems, but positive thinking isn’t always realistic. As humans, we are allowed to feel a full range of emotions, and we should embrace that. To take a realistic approach to positive thinking, we should face all of our emotions head on, even the negative ones. By recognizing our feelings when they’re present and understanding their triggers, we can find the support we need in the moment and then better cope with them next time problems arise. If you’re tired of the “good vibes only” approach, keep reading for more details on positive approaches for realists.
It’s Okay To Not Be Okay
“Live, Laugh, Love” is cute and dandy until life gets hard — really hard. There are some situations in life we can’t anoint with an affirmation or yoga. During hard times, people telling us to “look on the bright side” can be more annoying than helpful.
Spiritual bypassing is the constant pursuit of what feels good to the point of using positivity to avoid, rather than confront, darker feelings. This can be more troublesome than helpful. When we’re going through tough stuff, it’s okay to not be okay. For many people, it’s comforting to recognize and process our difficult feelings first. Doing so is a crucial part of understanding ourselves and, eventually, healing.
If you can’t muster up the emotional willpower to put on a happy face today, allow yourself to sit and process what’s getting you down. We can’t solve our problems without facing them.
Following are some questions I ask myself when I’m facing a difficult situation. They help me evaluate my problems realistically while also encouraging me to move forward with a productive growth mindset. Personally, I like to journal to process my feelings and thoughts, so if it’s useful for you, break out a pen and paper (or your laptop) and let the words flow from your fingertips. Ask yourself:
- What am I feeling right now? Why do I feel this way?
- What situation or circumstances caused me to feel this way?
- Why did that situation trigger these feelings?
- Have I felt this way before? How did I cope with these feelings the last time I encountered a similar situation?
- Whom can I talk to about these feelings? Who would support me the way I want to be supported? How would I like to be supported in this situation?
- What can I learn about myself from this situation?
These kinds of questions can help you recognize your emotions, both the good and the bad, without sidestepping the problem chasing after good vibes. See what your answers can tell you about the reality of your issues.
It’s not easy to stay positive all the time, so give yourself a break. It’s healthier, and more realistic, to take the good along with the bad. Most of us would agree we feel more human when we can share our whole selves with others and not just put on a face. Try the prompts above to guide you and start thinking more positively in a realistic and productive way.