“Faking or forcing positivity” is a topic I’ve seen around a bit and I wanted to talk about it because it is something I’m familiar with and the reason I started blogging. Some of the things we do in order to cope with life are insane. But what’s even more insane is that we aren’t even aware of them. In 31 years of living, I’ve just become aware in the past three years of things I’ve been doing to cope. To me, faking positivity is not something done intentionally. I hope not? Because it hurts the person doing it more than it hurts their audience. They have to fake. That takes work.
So what is it?
I say faking positivity is when you don’t acknowledge your “negative” feelings. You shut them down. Anger, sadness, fear, anxiety, depression, jealousy are some that come to mind, and then you cover up those feelings with “positivity” or “happiness”. You pretend as if you aren’t bothered. You aren’t angry. You aren’t sad. You aren’t scared. Even though you are. I mean we’ve all done that somewhat, right? Someone asks “How are you?” Your response: “Fine.” Even though you feel like crap. But that’s a “white lie”, a kind of faking you do occasionally. Maybe you don’t feel like telling someone your entire life story when you’ve got to get to work. This faking positivity I’m talking about is completely different. This is an ingrained behavior. You do this everyday. It’s a mask. A whole different persona that you’ve developed. For example, people who are sad, but don’t cry, because it’s a weakness. They hold it in. And they do this all their life.
Why would someone do this?
I’ll tell you why I did it. For two reasons. The first reason, unconsciously I learned that negative feelings push people away. I have a severe fear of abandonment and throughout most of my life I’ve had low self-worth, it was practically non-existent, so the last thing I wanted to do was push people away. Sadness, anxiety, and depression were all seen as being weak and made others uncomfortable, so when they were expressed I was avoided and shamed. Anger was mean and would hurt people’s feelings, so when it was expressed I was avoided and shamed too. So my coping mechanism, in order to get love/worth, was to suppress all my negative feelings and pretend to be happy all the time. I learned that happy, positive people attract others that admire and love them. So by being happy/positive all the time, I can get love. Well, that only hurts me in the long run. And everyone else gets this “fake” person.
The second reason I feel I did it was because I felt I had to be the “strong” one. I had to keep everyone else happy. So I couldn’t afford to be sad.
How did it affect me?
Emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, it was exhausting. It wasn’t the real me. It was a fake me. And it takes a lot of work keeping that persona going. It caused anxiety, depression, and resentment because I couldn’t express my anger and hurt and I so badly wanted to. Physically I always had headaches, lost a lot of weight, no appetite, digestive system was always messed up, I was always tired. It wasn’t me.
How did I change?
Awareness. You have to become aware, become conscious of your behavior in order to change it. When the guy I was involved with left, I knew I was hurting but I couldn’t express myself. So by him leaving I was pretty much forced to change. If I had kept everything I was feeling in, I don’t know what would have happened. I probably would have died. That’s why I started journaling/blogging. I started meditating which allows you to bring your true self to the surface. I also saw it in other people, him particularly, and that’s what made me realize I did it. Neither one of us were good at expressing emotions. Also, seeing “negative” emotions as guides to what’s going on inside and not as weaknesses helps.
Self-Love. You have to learn to love yourself and get your worth from yourself. Once you do that, you won’t care what others think of you. You’ll start living the way you want to live.
Courage. I was scared to death to express my sadness, anger, etc. I thought people would leave me. When actually it’s the opposite! People like when you’re real/honest. We’re human. No one is happy 24/7.
I’ve learned it’s a journey. Don’t beat yourself up over it. We all have flaws. All your soul wants is to be heard and loved. As corny as that sounds. Flaws and all.
-Sonja Jackson, OpenHeartTin