Sunday, January 29, 2012

Life Lesson: Positive Affirmations are Bunk

Positive affirmations don't work for pessimists.
I'm not saying this because of what most optimists believe to be true about pessimists - that we are pessimistic because we actually don't want things to work. (And you call yourself an optimist...) No, positive affirmations just don't have the same effect on pessimists.

I had a Stuart Smalley moment the other day and wrote positive affirmation statements on the wallpaper of my smartphone in an effort to quit smoking: "I am superwoman. I will defeat this monster. I CAN WIN!" For an optimist (although I don't think true optimists ever become smokers) they would probably read this affirmation and feel empowered. "Yes, yes, YES!!!" they would cheer rousingly from their chair.

For a pessimist though, a little voice deep inside says:
"You are not superwoman. You have no job. You come from a family history of depression. You "defeated" this smoking moster before and yet, here you are, trying to quit AGAIN. Sure, you can quit, but it won't last."

The fake it till ya make it mantra just doesn't work for a pessimist like me. That little voice in my head rings loud and clear with all kinds of reasons why the positive affirmation is not true. Trying to beat back the doubtful thoughts in my head makes me feel worse about myself and my predicament. It's a struggle to constantly feel at war with my thoughts... with myself.

Why do people want us to become optimists? It's like a biblical mission for some people. I know there are perils of being a pessimist. I probably won't live as long, I will probably get sick more often, I may not perform as well, yadda yadda yadda. Personally I think the sad future prospects for pessimists is more because we are told that we should not be this way. It's the optimists (with their heads in the sand might I add) that suggest something is wrong with us.

Nothing is wrong with me. I refuse to be a victim and perpetuate feelings of loss and insufficiencies in myself. Life is not rosy, no matter how many times you optimists try to tell me it is. So instead of trying to rid myself of my pessimism and become an optimist,  thank you but no. I accept my pessimistic side, I own it and I am learning to live with it.

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