In Defense of Positivity: What It Really Means to Be Positive

Smiley candy on a pile of colorful Smarties

Do you happen to know people who consider themselves positive? If yes, they might have given you the wrong idea about what positivity really is.

Perhaps YOU are the one who’s doing it the “wrong way”. 

But wait, is there even a wrong way of being positive? Hell yeah, if there is. And in many cases, it can be as bad as toxic negativity

I mean, I’m pretty sure you already know that many people (including yourself, perhaps) literally hate positive people and find them extremely annoying. 

Now, positivity is definitely a good thing, so there must be a reason if so many find it annoying. 

As a positive person myself, and as someone who did it wrong for years, today I want to show you what true positivity is and should be. 

Let’s get into it.

“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”

― Lao Tzu

What Positivity Is NOT

First of all, I want to clarify what I mean by “positive the wrong way”.

Here are just a few examples of wrong behaviors:

  • Ignoring reality and saying that things are good even when they clearly are not.
  • Repeating positive affirmations over and over hoping that, by doing so, things will automatically get better.
  • Always saying to people in a negative situation, phrases like Just be happy, or Try to be less negative.
  • Avoiding and rejecting every hint of negative emotions.
  • Etc.

There are many—too many—people who consider themselves positive, but then act like above. These people are fake, no matter how genuine they believe to be. And on top of that, they can be very annoying.

Now that we’ve clarified what positivity is not, it’s time to see what it actually is.

What True Positivity Looks Like

For many people, the wrong behaviors we just talked about are the only ones they can associate with positive people. Although this is wrong, it is not surprising, unfortunately.

If you also have that very same image in your mind, try to forget about it for a moment, because here’s what true positivity looks like, and why you should become a positive person yourself (or, in case you already are, maybe change the way you “practice” positivity).

Positive People Are Not Negative

“Duh? Of course positive people are not negative!” 

Well, actually, that’s not always the case. Don’t forget about fake positive people!

Anyway, being positive doesn’t just mean not being negative. It means not doing certain behaviors typical of a negative person.

Let’s see what negative people usually do:

  • They are constantly complaining about something, but seldom take action to change the situation.
  • They blame everything on others.
  • They ruin the mood of people around them.
  • They are often angry and stressed out, and because of that, they are more likely to feel tired, to have headaches, and to have trouble with sleeping well.
  • They are extremely unproductive, because negative emotions tend to close one’s mind and make it focus on specific (bad) things, making it impossible to do other things. 
    For example, think about when you get in a fight with someone. In this kind of situation, anger consumes you so much that you can’t think about anything else for the following minutes, hours, or even days.
    Same thing when you feel disappointed in yourself for being lazy and unproductive. It never works, and it actually makes things worse.
  • They are pessimists.
  • Etc. 

These are just some of the things negative people tend to do.

Now, truly positive people are not like that, and this is a great point in their favor.

Fake positive folks, on the other hand, actually do engage in those kinds of behaviors. You can often find them complaining and stressing about negative people and negative feelings. Ah, the irony.

Positive People Don’t Hate Negative Emotions

Positivity is not about rejecting negative feelings. Like, at all. In fact, it’s the opposite. 

Being positive means understanding the importance of all emotions, including negative ones, which are actually quite useful, as they can give us feedback on what we’re doing wrong, where we are stuck, and what we should improve.

Also, positive people don’t force themselves to be always positive. It’s ineffective and it’s exhausting. They know that it’s perfectly ok to have bad times; they just don’t let negativity consume them

Being positive is simply a matter of dedicating more time and energy to the good and less to the bad. 

Positive People Are Happier

They know that there’s really no point in being negative. If there’s a way to improve life and achieve goals, being always negative is definitely not the right answer.

Positive people are happier because they are grateful. They always appreciate what they have. 

Being grateful doesn’t mean, however, that one doesn’t want things to be better. A person who is grateful for having a roof over their head and food on the table, can (and should) still desire and work hard for a better house to live in and better food to eat.

“Learn to be thankful for what you already have, while you pursue all that you want.”

— Jim Rohn

… and It’s Not Necessarily Because They Were Born Rich

Many people seem to have this idea that, if you’re a positive person, it must mean that you’ve been lucky enough to be born in a rich family, that you never had any worries growing up, and that you are positive only because you never suffered.

That’s simply untrue.

When I was in my teens, I was an extremely whiny boy who wouldn’t stop complaining about being born in a poor family, and I admit that I actually did think that other people were positive and happy only because they never had to face the problems of not having enough money.

But as years went by, I’ve come to realise that most of the truly positive people are positive exactly because they have experienced how hard life can be, but still decided to not give in to negativity. I’ve learned that it’s so damn important to not let things get to you, to accept that both good and bad things can happen, and to understand that yes, even though your life and your family’s financial situation are still far from being great, things can get better, and you have the responsibility to work hard so that they will get better.

Positive People Are More Likely to Achieve Their Goals

If you’ve read my article on the best daily habits to change your life, you already know about proactivity.

In a few words, being a proactive person means recognizing that, no matter what happens in your life, you have the power to choose your response to it. If you’re living a life highly influenced by conditions and circumstances, it’s only because you’ve chosen so. Every time you’ve faced a challenge or a negative event, you’ve chosen to let it defeat you. No matter how much you believe that it wasn’t your fault, it doesn’t change the fact that you could have chosen otherwise, if only you had wanted to.

I know, I know, this sounds so cliché and you’ve probably heard it so many times that now it sounds fake. But it’s not.

Positive people understand that very well, and they also know extremely clearly the difference between things they can control and things they can’t really control. If they can do something about X, they will work on it. If they don’t have control over something, they know that there’s really no point in worrying and stressing about it, whereas negative people seem to “love” wasting time complaining and stressing about things they can’t really do much about, such as the weather, bad luck, traffic, crises, etc.

Thanks to their proactive attitude, positive people are driven by their goals and values, not by random things happening in their life. When faced with difficulties and challenges, they don’t easily give up. 

Happiness, gratefulness, proactivity, drive, resilience. These are all qualities that can hugely increase one’s chances of success in life.

Positive People Make Good Friends

Last, but not least, positive people are great “friend material”. Why?

Well, because unlike members of the “negativity and/or toxic positivity club”:

  • They tend to be good listeners. They are not narrow minded like negative people, who think they are the only ones having struggles in life, and that others don’t have the right to be sad. Also, positive people value both positive and negative emotions, and won’t tell you to “just be positive”. They would never make you feel invalidated just because you’re sad and they’re not.
  • They can be relied upon. Now, positive people don’t exactly “welcome” negativity in their life, but if it’s to help a friend or any person important to them that’s in a negative situation, they will do their best to get them out of it.
  • They are supportive. Since they don’t get easily discouraged themselves, they will never try to discourage you. Instead, they will be there for you whenever you need a pep talk. From them, you can be sure you will never hear things like “It’s too difficult, you can’t do it”, “Everyone does ___, why would you take a risk with ___?”, “Do you know how many people spend years and still can’t make it?”, “My friend’s sister’s cousin also wanted to become a _____, but ended up failing miserably”, etc.

Being positive and having positive friends is the recipe for truly meaningful relationships in life.

What to Do Next

I hope you can see now that true positivity isn’t anything like toxic positivity and negativity. 

Positive people know that life is made of both good and bad. They just choose to focus more on the positive, instead of wasting precious time and energy on the negative. And in the long run, they are the ones who will achieve their biggest goals.

To become a more positive person yourself, the first (and probably most important) thing you can do is to really, really understand that you can choose how you respond to whatever happens in your life. Whatever challenge you face, you can choose to let it destroy you and give up, or you can choose to acknowledge the problem, see if you can solve it, learn what you can learn from it, and get back on track.

If you have been a negative person up until now, it might be hard to change at first. But, as a former whiny, negative, and pessimist person, I can guarantee you that it will be well worth the effort. 

Because a positive life is a more enjoyable, happy, and fulfilling life.

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