There is new research out that suggests that a) positive thinking really does have an effect on your life in general and b) being nicer to yourself—showing “self-compassion”—is really integral to a happy life.
Great. Something else to feel bad/guilty/unworthy about.
I found out about the New York Times article on self-compassion from the northern half of Evelyn David right after I had seen the report on “Good Morning, America,” about positive thinking. Apparently, by being self-compassionate, your diet and weight loss program will be more successful, and more importantly, you may have less stress, depression, anxiety and gain “more happiness and life satisfaction.”
I guess all of this news should make me happy as I consider myself a “glass is half full” kind of person but it just makes me worry. What if I’m not positive enough, not compassionate enough to myself, to keep things like stress, depression, and anxiety at bay? Does that make me a failure as a positive thinker? Do I need to work harder? Will I make myself sick because sometimes I let negativity get the best of me?
See where I’m going here? It’s kind of like when someone tells me to “relax!” Instead of calming down, it’s like some kind of caged animal has been released into the world. It’s the antithesis of relaxing.
Some of the research on positive thinking points to someone being “wired” a specific way, a way in which no matter how hard they try, their outlook will always veer toward the negative. To me, then, all of this new research begs the question: are we trying too hard to be what we’re not? How much stress are we adding to our lives by thinking about our personal mindsets and that we may be failing at the one thing we are born doing—thinking?
Curiously, there is no research on that, but I think some lip service needs to be paid to feeling what you feel when you’re feeling it. I come to this conclusion from having spent five years of my life pretending everything was just FINE! even though I was undergoing a very debilitating cancer treatment while working full time, writing, and being a mom and wife. I found that while pretending that everything was FINE! was great for everyone around me, it was not so great for me, because it masked the fear and sometimes hopelessness I had in my own heart while everyone around me felt great. The downward spiral would come when I beat myself up for not being more positive or for not being kind to myself or that thinking negatively was having an adverse reaction on my health—one that I couldn’t control. However, by just allowing myself to say “Wow, this stinks” and dealing with the fear or anxiety, the fear and anxiety would pass. Talking to a friend would also help. But trying to talk myself into a more positive mindset would have the opposite reaction. It would just make me feel more negative because I couldn’t feel more positive. It was an enigma wrapped inside a conundrum, or something like that.
I think these kinds of studies are important but I’m not sure where they lead or what, really, they tell us.
In reality, I’m all for positive thinking, but I’m interested to know if there is anyone else out there in the Stiletto world who feels that when they read these articles or learn of these studies they feel as if they are deficient in certain areas or that they need to work harder to change their particular mindset. Do you let your “wiring” dictate how you feel or do you make a conscious effort to work against feelings of negativity? And just how exhausting is that?