Staying positive when you’re dealing with a difficult situation in life is clearly important and can really help to get you through whatever it is you’re facing. I can’t help feeling though that all too often there is a tendency for us to believe that positivity is an easy answer to our problems, a mental attitude superpower which, when activated, will fix everything in life.
I would suggest though that this over-reliance on positivity as a cure-all can actually make dealing with our situation harder as it prevents us from exploring the root of our problems and fully understanding ourselves before we start to apply the smiley-face-sticking-plaster which has nothing of substance to adhere to.
Some people may believe that I’m being too negative by writing this but if you’ve been following my blog posts you will know that I’m generally quite a positive person. I just believe that, as a society, we have a very unhealthy and warped view of positivity to the point where it’s become a stick to beat us with if we fail to access it straight away, especially when we are dealing with huge personal misfortune.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that when you’re struggling in life that positivity isn’t necessary or something that we shouldn’t aspire to but are we also not allowed to own and accept our misfortune and the negativity of a situation we may face?
Based on my own experiences, I would always argue that positivity should lose its magic wand status and instead be viewed as one tool in a box of many. I also feel that there are a few necessary steps we need to take before we depend on positivity to put us back on the right track.
My struggle with positivity
When I’ve been at my absolute worst with MS, experiencing relapses that could leave me with any number of permanent and scary disabilities or feeling so fatigued and ‘hungover’ with brain fog that I could barely function with no time limit on when it would end I was, quite understandably, not feeling my most positive.
Some of the best, most amazing people around me at the time might not have completely understood my situation but could at least support me and join me in acknowledging that sometimes life can be rubbish and they were (and still are) absolute lifesavers! They didn’t try to belittle my problems or tell me that I just needed to stay positive and they didn’t make me feel bad for being upset.
I don’t know if you have found this while surviving your own hurdles but I was also really surprised by how many people couldn’t deal with or accept my negative situation. When I was struggling they would insist that with the power of positive thinking I could overcome anything. If I didn’t get on board with this instantly then the implication was that my struggles were of my own making because I wasn’t thinking positively enough!
There have been a crazy number of times I’ve had to hold my tongue whilst someone (who usually had no real interest in what I was experiencing or how drastically my life had been impacted) suggested a positive yet inappropriate approach to a predicament I was facing, who then sighed and mentally washed their hands of me as a lost cause who refused to help herself when I give my reasons for why their particular plan wouldn’t work for me.
Please believe me that I would love it if the heavily-promoted vague, one-size-fits-all and ultimately superficial types of positivity had the power to solve all my problems in life, how amazing would that be?! But the reality is I would be setting myself up for a big fall if I believed this. I would have blamed myself when it failed to work believing that maybe I wasn’t trying hard enough or maybe throughout my struggles I just wasn’t being positive enough every time I faced a new hurdle.
The truth is maybe at that point I really just needed to focus on surviving.
Surviving and accepting your situation
When something happens which devastates you so completely your life becomes about ultimate survival and to do that takes everything you have. When you’re forced to operate at this basic level there isn’t room for anything else; not ‘fixing’, not putting a positive spin on a bad situation, not brushing your problems away and not presenting a positive façade to others. You must concentrate instead on accepting where you are before you can take any further steps and believe me, this acceptance is hard.
You also need people around you who can step-up, accept your situation, make you feel naturally more positive from being in their company and who don’t push positivity as a way to make interacting with you easier for them.
Acceptance can take time and you will get there with support but it can’t be forced. Only once you have started to accept your situation should you start to move forward by taking small positive actions which help you to adapt. The more you accept your life and make suitable changes the more positivity you will gradually begin to feel.
Experiencing a difficult situation can also help you to become more naturally appreciative of all the good things you do have in your life and over time you will find that this new-found gratitude will also organically lead to a more positive outlook.
So please don’t let people try to brush your problems aside or make you feel pressured to react positively to your struggles too soon as denying yourself the chance to fully understand your problems will make them so much harder to deal with.
There is time for small, manageable and realistic positive actions at a later date when you’ve come to terms with your life hurdles, accepted them and decided to take steps to adapt to your situation. You will get there in discovering a more meaningful approach to positivity but not straight away and that’s ok, after all you are busy surviving some massive life hurdles right now!
I’m clearly in a much more positive place than I was in the months following my MS diagnosis and I know it’s because I stopped trying to fix my situation through positivity alone and started accepting the reality of where I was at instead. For me, this involved understanding and finding ways of adapting to my limitations rather than fighting against them or expecting too much too soon.
I’ve written a couple of articles with advice on the first steps to take in surviving life’s hurdles and how to successfully carve out a new path in life, both of these articles explain the process I followed in a lot more detail so if you’re interested in receiving a bit more guidance on what to do next then please check them out. I would definitely recommend following the processes I’ve outlined as an alternative to trying to make positivity work in isolation, this will help to ensure you don’t feel as bad as I did all those months ago!
Do you have any of your own suggestions on the best way forward from a difficult situation or your own experiences you would like to share?I’m always after new tips and ideas as I’m still learning and developing too!
I hope you found this article helpful and if you’d like to show my blog some love I always really appreciate any social media follows or shares!
As ever, wishing you all the best.