The Power of Positivity.

By Shannon GrayAugust 1, 2013

Throughout my life, I have struggled to accept that no one is perfect, that perfection does not exist and therefore cannot be achieved. Perhaps this is because it has always felt like everyone else in my life is perfect—everyone else is the traveling dreamer, the one nobody forgets, the one whom friends flock to, the one dressed to perfection, the one whose intelligence people want to tune into. A culture of motivation has also taught me that if I want to achieve something, I can, with just enough drive and intention—but when does motivation and personal criticism become destructive?

I know my imperfections all too well, and I think most people can relate when I say I am my worst critic. Over the years, I have said I feel as though I’m “mean” to myself. I was not nice to myself the way I was to my friends. I have had arguments in my head that even the worst enemy I could conjure up would not have with me. It did not matter how many clubs I was involved in, how many friends I had, how good my grades were, how I managed my time … it all amounted to nothing, because, at least to me, it was never “enough.”

Then, I came across a piece by Yoko Ono that changed my thinking entirely. It stated: “Try to say nothing negative about anybody. A) For three days B) For forty-five days C) For three months. See what happens to your life.”

I knew I needed to reflect on my thinking habits. I began to ask myself: “Would I say these things to a friend who was in the same situation as I am? If someone else were being this mean to me, would I believe they were right? Would I defend myself? WHY am I so mean to myself all of the time?”

I realized I would never say the things I said to myself to a friend; in fact, I would probably tell them how much worth they actually have. I would never let a friend put me down the way I put myself down; I would actually be extremely offended by their words and hurt that they felt they could say such things to me. And I didn’t know why I was so mean to myself—but I knew if I kept being so, I truly would never see myself as “enough.”

That moment was a big turning point for my perspective, and I decided to make it my mantra to be as positive as I could.

The first thing I noticed was that I was not the only one viewing my life with negativity. I began to realize how often people are negative, and I commonly heard the use of the phrases, “I’m tired,” “It’s cold,” “It’s cloudy,” “Traffic sucked this morning,” “I’m going to bomb this test,” “My day has been so crappy,” or “I just want to go home.”

I was in shock. I had not made a conscious effort before to see not only how negative I was toward myself, but how negative our normal, passing conversations with friends or even strangers can be. I thought about how I could change the conversation around if I was the positive factor. How could I be the catalyst in changing these conversations?

So, for every negative comment someone made, I counteracted it with a subtle, positive one. For every person who passed me and seemed to be having a bad day, I smiled their way. I came to find that not only did it change my entire outlook, but it changed theirs, too. My friends lit up more when they were around me. People started to say they were proud of me or they noticed the hard work I put in. I noticed within myself that I was just simply happier. I wasn’t constantly putting myself down for not doing enough; I was instead praising myself for the wonderful things I did accomplish and learning to love the mistakes I made, even turning them into lessons and more opportunities.

However, positivity is also something that can easily fade, if you let it.  So I came up with some ways to sustain my positive thinking. I started a positivity wall with words of encouragement, pictures of places I have traveled, letters from family and friends, fortunes, drawings, photography … if it inspires me, I display it. I started to write down one thing that made me happy each week, as well as one thing I would have liked to improve upon (that was realistic). I started to use facial feedback by making myself smile when I was frustrated. I began turning my dreams into actions by pursuing hobbies, goals, and even overcoming fears by actively taking myself out of my comfort zone. I learned to love the crazy turns life threw my way. I stopped trying to plan my life and instead started living it. And every time mean thoughts started to arise, I’d simply stop, take in the thought … and then let the criticism go.

I am so grateful for the life that I have, the people in it, and the opportunities I have been given. I still find myself getting into bouts of trying to do everything and to do it perfectly, rather than just trying to do my best. But these bouts don’t last nearly as long as they used to. By having more confidence and focusing on what I am rather than what I am not, I am much happier—and I see now that that’s “enough.”

—Shannon
TWLOHA Summer 2013 Intern

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Comments (11)

  1. Anonymous

    This is me.
    Wow, thank you so much!

    Reply  |  
  2. Taylor Vink

    Im going to try my best!

    Reply  |  
  3. Abby

    I am exactly like this. I am now going to try this as well. Every time I get down I’m going to read this again. Thank you for sharing this. Very inspirational.

    Reply  |  
  4. anonymous

    I’m glad I’m not the only one that feels perfection doesn’t exist.I heard a quote “perfection is a state of mind not a reality” but it can be hard to believe that.

    Reply  |  
  5. Today I feel like cutting

    Thank you so much. I need to reread this and get a hug from my husband.

    Reply  |  
  6. Molly Stallman

    Lovely blog post that I think tons of people can relate to. I love the the idea of a positivity wall! I might just have to start one myself. Thanks 🙂

    Reply  |  
  7. Sarah Brunton

    I love your “positivity wall” idea! I have a lot of trouble with positive thinking in my life, but this has definitely helped with giving me ideas to change my perspective! Thank you! 🙂

    Reply  |  
  8. Alex

    Wow, I thought I was the only one who was that negative towards themself. Thank you so much for sharing, this has really helped me.

    Reply  |  
  9. Tricia

    hey everybody out there you are not alone i am beside you always

    Reply  |  
  10. Megan

    Ima survivor, three weeks ago I split my vein and almost died, not even meaning to, just went to deep. twloha has helped me see im not the only one hurting, that im not crazy or damaged, so thank you.

    Reply  |  
  11. Fernando Galvan

    I am at work right now, and given that I am the same type of person, I started to have a panic attack due to a situation that I cannot control here at work, and of course it deals with a girl. I was reading this, and you mentioned smiling in frustrating situations. I did that as soon as I read it, to try it out, and I am amazed how much that changed my mood right now. There is too much detail, but my worries went away, and accepted that althogh I cannot control the sitaution I wish to, and I cannot influence it in the way i would like to either, I am still the great person that I have always known to be. Thank you for this, because it genuinely helped in a time that i dont have an escape from my situation, literally.

    Reply  |  
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