The 3 tricks to staying positive in a negative world


Guest post by Minerva Siegel
Positive vibes only mug by Etsy seller kathywellerart
Positive vibes only mug by Etsy seller kathywellerart

We're constantly told by the media daily that we need fixing; that we need to buy better mascara because our eyelashes aren't thick enough, that we need to buy diet pills and work out videos because we aren't thin enough; that we need cosmetics because we aren't pretty enough, and that we need better clothes because the way we look isn't good enough.

How can someone even think of staying or becoming positive in a world that's constantly saying we're unattractive "before" pictures to be churned up and spit back out into beautiful "afters" (only after fortunes are spent!)? How can we be satisfied with what we already have and stop aching for more? It can seem to be a daunting if not impossible undertaking, but I can tell you how to be positive in three steps…

1. Needs vs. wants

We live in a very materialistic society. It's so easy to feel like we need things; we get obsessive over them, we lust after them and they consume us. I did this not too long ago with an expensive skirt. I saw it online and "needed" it. It cost triple what any other skirt I had cost, and rent was coming up, but it consumed my thoughts. I couldn't get that beautiful, glorious article of clothing out of my head, and it started to affect my self-image; I felt like I was worth less because I didn't have it in my life, like if I could only have it, my life would be complete and I could die happy and content.

I bought the skirt, lived off of chips and salsa for the two weeks until rent was due, and, guess what? I didn't feel like my life was complete and all was right with the world, I just wanted more stuff. I realized then that I needed to be more content with and grateful for the things I already had. I felt a little ashamed. I had several similar, perfectly good skirts in my closet; I could've easily done without the tremendously expensive one (which I returned). Taking a moment to take stock of what you have and think about what you want vs. what you need is such a healthy and productive thing to do, and a really great step toward over-all happiness and a healthy perspective.

2. Realize that you are enough

Just as you are. Right now. You're allowed to feel attractive, loved, and valuable just as you are. Not ten pounds from now, not a makeup palette from now, not a better wardrobe from now, but RIGHT now. There will always be something you want to fix or alter about yourself, and having goals is fine, but letting it eat you up inside and affect your self-image negatively is not okay. Learn to love yourself as-is, and be content in the now, or you'll never truly be happy. Stop looking to the future and chasing an image of future-you, twenty-pounds-lighter you, after-cosmetic-surgery-you, and love yourself in the Now.

Photo of the author.
Photo of the author.

3. It's all about perspective

This one's the third, and most challenging, step of them all: cut out negative thinking. At first, it may seem impossible; thinking negatively for some (if not most) of us is so habitual that it can seem to be ingrained into the very fiber of who we are. Changing this behavior has to be conscious and requires work.

Whenever you have a very negative thought, stop and really think about it and find a more positive angle. For example: I used to be super-negative about my body, and had a horrible body image. I'd look at myself in the mirror and think, "Wow, I'm so fat and ugly today! Nothing looks good on me!" I thought this almost every single day… it was really stuck in my brain. To stop the cycle, I forced myself to find the positives and focus on those instead. So, as opposed to thinking, "I'm fat and ugly," I'd think, "I have some extra chub, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, and 'fat' isn't synonymous with 'ugly'. Plus, my skin looks very clear and radiant today!" It felt silly at first, but I got used to it. You just have to keep stopping yourself from focusing on the negatives and make yourself see the positive in a situation until it becomes a natural habit.

A negative state of mind breeds a negative life; you can't have a positive life if you're always thinking negatively. Luckily, the inverse is true: if you think positively and have a positive outlook, your whole life will seem more upbeat, and you'll be more content with yourself and what you have.

It's so easy to be discontent with our bodies, our possessions, our lives; stepping back and realizing exactly how many amazing positives there are in each and every one of our lives is a huge step toward having a healthy mind and a happy life.

  1. Just as this popped up in my email inbox, an amazing quote from Audre Lorde appeared in my Facebook feed! In the epilogue to Bursts of Light, Audre says "“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” I think being satisfied with what you have and recognising that you are good enough is an act of self care and definitely an act of political warfare in a world that seems hell bent on telling you otherwise.

  2. I'm a very positive person, and this has been my motto since I first discovered the quote as a teenager: "Recognize joy when it arrives in the plain brown wrappings of everyday life." ~Judith Viorst

    It's so easy to get fixated on the negative things that happen. (Particularly when listening to political happenings when stuck in traffic after a long day of work…) I try to be mindful of all the nice things, too. It really helps.

  3. One thing that helped me with having more positive thoughts about my body was to challenge myself, for one month, to not say anything negative about myself. You could try to push it to avoid even thinking anything negative. If a thought came up, I just told myself my month wasn't up yet, and ignored it. It helped me because a lot of my negative thoughts were habits more than anything else… I found that if I didn't speak those thoughts out loud, I didn't think of them as much either.

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