“Only in the darkness can you see the stars.” – Martin Luther King, Jr
It’s fair to say the past few years have certainly tested us to extremes that we may never have faced before. The volatile and uncertain world we now live in has brought us several challenges that demand us to be more agile and resilient to stay afloat. Applying a sense of positive thinking might be the ‘tonic’ we need to navigate the complexities of our daily lives. This blog will explore my reflections and the tools I have discovered along the way that not only helped me but completely changed my perspective on what positivity means and how it shows up in me.
My journey with GAIA Insights started over three years ago, and I always considered myself a positive ‘half-full’ person with room to grow. I was always proud of how I showed up, with positive intent and energy, regardless of what was happening in the background. I believed I could turn any situation around by bringing a big smile and the view that it would all turn out okay in the end. I was always the person giving what I considered sound advice that “everything will work out” and thought of myself as the fixer. I wanted to help and make people feel more positive and better within themselves. While this worked for me so many times previously, I still felt space and the jigsaw pieces didn’t seem to fit, and I longed to understand and learn why.
My journey at GAIA Insights has helped me explore my ‘Why’ in greater detail and what I discovered along the way. They say awareness is the key to success, and I would like to share my learnings during my journey.
Research has made us more aware of the health benefits of a positive mindset and how it can help manage stress, boost our immune system, and improve our ability for greater resilience. I have always been intrigued by the benefits of positive thinking and truly believed that if I temporarily suppressed my real feelings and emotions, it would work out okay in the end. I was unaware that I was falling into the trap of toxic positivity. This term refers to a belief that no matter how desperate or challenging a situation is, people should maintain a positive mindset approach to life. While this approach has obvious benefits, toxic positivity suppresses real emotions that can be hidden away or masked in favor of a big smile, energy, and false optimism.
Examples of Toxic Positivity Advice
Although some of these suggestions can be good, they are a classic sign of toxic positivity when abused:
- Being negative won’t help you.
- Focus on the positives!
- You’ll get over it in time.
- This is good for you!
- Stay positive!
- Turn it around and smile; crying won’t help.
- Look on the bright side!
- Other people have it a lot worse.
Be careful of using expressions like these. While the positive intent is there, experts warn it doesn’t help. It can strip away the validation that one deserves and leaves them feeling guilty for the way they are feeling or for not being ‘strong enough’.
My experiences over the past two years have taught me to be more authentic in how I practice positivity. While I still consider myself the cheerful, happy-go-lucky person I always have been, I now practice genuine positivity as a preferred skill for myself and when interacting with others.
What is Genuine Positivity?
Global industries thrive on positivity as a fundamental human resource to drive performance within any organization and is still one of the most critical resources in any organization. For people to feel motivated, inspired, and psychologically safe, creating a culture within any team of genuine positivity is crucial.
This term focuses on understanding and recognizing the highs and lows that life throws our way. The pandemic has undoubtedly highlighted the need to be optimistic in the face of adversity, genuine positivity accepts that there will be continued challenges along the way and that it’s okay to recognize and have these emotions. This approach helps to form the foundation of a genuine positivity mindset.
Examples of Genuine Positivity Advice
- It’s essential to express how you’re feeling; what can I do to help?
- You are resilient, and your strength will get you through it.
- The ability to feel your feelings is crucial.
- Right now, this is tough, but in time allow optimism to shine through after you’ve processed the event and your feelings.
- Your feelings are valid.
- I am sorry you are going through this.
My journey to a more genuine and optimistic approach to positivity has taught me many things. It has encouraged me to be more open and authentic about my feelings, and I am certainly more open to sharing these. While this continues to be a challenge and a work in progress, creating a space to feel what I’m feeling has helped me gain a more genuine view of my motives for being optimistic.
I encourage you to listen with open ears to your ‘self- talk’ around positivity and how you display this with others. One of my most powerful lessons was to be told that my fixing nature was doing more harm than good. Up until that point, it was fair to say I had no idea and thought I was only doing good. As the saying goes, clear is kind. I am very grateful to my colleagues at GAIA Insights for making me aware, so I could do my work and help share with you some of the lessons learned and my practices around the fascinating topic of ‘Positivity’. I refer you to the quote at the top of this blog by Martin Luther King and ask that we all allow ourselves to be our true selves and to feel what we feel.
Authored by Paul Elias, Program Mentor and Energy Officer at GAIA Insights.
Read another article about the GAIA Insights value of Integrity: “The Quest for Integrity in the Workplace” by Ornela Cumplido
Read another article about the GAIA Insights value of Courage: “Courage, Wisdom and the Small Successes” by Katrien Roels