If you are one of those people who say “cheer up, it could be worse” or “there is always someone worse off than yourself”, then I am sorry to say but you are a fucking moron. On reflection this probably is a bit harsh, but it is my article so fuck it you can buckle in and paint a smile on your face (like I always do before meeting people like you). Okay, now that you have enjoyed my moment of random hostility you can probably tell that I have a problem with positivity. You wouldn’t be alone in assuming this, people who actually know me consider me a rather negative little rain cloud, so you are in good company. Unfortunately you’d be wrong in thinking that, I am what I like to call an “optimistic realist”, a pretentious term for a simple concept. I like to view things as they are in life no matter how harsh or horrible, accept the situation and then find meaning and hope where I can to make my life, and others better.
Ironically for living in a supposedly tolerant society, it amazes me how intolerant we are to others with different perspectives on life. Positivity is THE ultimate orthodoxy, anything else or
any grey areas in between are seen at best as “weird eccentricity” or at worst a sign of being “a toxic” person. Of course, I am not saying that you should have to put up with everyone’s point of view (that would be far too positive of me), I am instead attempting to point out that enforced positivity is a wide-spread problem in society. Not a problem on the scale of Syria, Brexit, Trump, or nuclear Armageddon but enough for me to moan about in an article and allow myself to vent.
In my own life I frequently encounter groups of people telling me to be more positive and change my outlook on life. An example of which is Brexit, I am told by both Dutch and British people that, “I am sure it’ll all be fine” and “if you are not optimistic about it of course it is going to be bad”. I am told to think like this as if by some remarkable power of faith it will make my life better where my own cynical point of view based on reason and observation has failed me. People I have previously thought of as ruthless atheists end up sounding like Bible thumpers or Jehovah’s Witnesses.
When my heresy is apparent that I do not believe in the power of positive thinking, that’s when things turn from joking into being rather unpleasant. The speeches about hell fire and damnation about my private life, my professional life and even after I die start to emerge. I am told that “people will want to avoid you”, “you will die childless and alone” and even one person told me bluntly and simply that my life would have been a “failure”. On many occasions people who have been my friends have been quite heartless in a quest to convert me to the cult of positivity, and conversations that started with jokes end with a half serious attempt to get me to abandon character traits that define me in favour of the community normality.
I do not hold it against them however, as this is something I notice in workplaces and most importantly of all, the media. Quite often for example news online websites share old articles (that never learn to just fuck off) titled “what self-made millionaires do to be successful” etc. Almost all of these articles include “being positive” as one of them, having a never ending amount of faith in the thought that one day they will be wealthy and famous. One article by the Independent even said that negative people are toxic and you should cut yourself off immediately if you want to be successful. How and who you spend your time with is something that is emphasised a lot, we should all wake up at 5am, work out at the gym, eat expensive (environmentally destructive) fruit and veg and share our pictures on Instagram to validate our successful lives, and read books and improve ourselves in our spare time. Personally if I had to do all of that kind of bullshit, I’d never get around to actually doing any work.
To be clear, I am not saying that positive thinking is wrong or stupid. I do believe that changing our outlook on things can have an impact, for example being positive about ourselves is
very important to feeling good and achieving what you want to achieve in life, it certainly has its benefits. When I feel depressed for example, I always try to challenge negative thinking in order to improve how I view my own situation. It just shouldn’t be a standard to which we are all forced to live to and then made to feel bad if we are not smiling all the time. With posters that say “don’t expect to live a positive life if you have a negative mind” it actually makes us feel worse about your life, and less willing to talk to people about things that upset up for fear of being labelled “toxic”.
Social media has been incredibly destructive towards this end. Relationships have been destroyed and depression and anxiety has increased due to our competitiveness to live up to the “positive ideals” posted on Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook etc. It is at this point that the level of positivity that society expects from us is naïve, cruel and impossible. The level
of positivity that is expected of us creates an artificial standard which we are all expected to aim and achieve. Perversely this narrow minded view of life is what leads us to come full circle and end up being completely miserable, by putting pressure on ourselves to lead a “don’t worry be happy” lifestyle we end up an anxious wreck when reality smacks home. People should be free to express themselves how they want, whether that is jumping up and down with joy over watching a video of a dog chasing its own tail, or if that person simply wants to say a massive fuck you at bullshit such as Valentine’s day. By no means should you take happiness advice from me, I am just another poor bastard that has to scrap through life minimising pain and trying to find meaning the same as you. If there is something I want to leave you with and that is that if you feel sad and are in a negative frame of mind, fair enough, don’t beat yourself up about it, because it’s these simple minded grinning chimps that try to force us to be positive that mean that they end up making the world just that little bit more fucked up and intolerable for the rest of us. If something seems shit it, it probably is shit, shout and scream about it and be happy being the person you want to be, and not the person that society expects you to be.