Why Positive Thinking Can Be Bad for You

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Positive thinking may seem like a beneficial ideology for a better life, but here’s why that isn’t always necessarily true. According to this ideology, a positive mental attitude reinforced by affirmations is the key to achieving anything in life. Here is an example of a positive affirmation…

One of the main ways positive thinking is said to be inculcated is through positive affirmations. Positive affirmations are optimistic statements said out aloud and repeated to motivate a person. Many popular self-help books, talk shows, vloggers and bloggers sell this highly appealing idea that we can attract the things we want into our lives simply by believing we will have it and repeating positive statements to ourselves. This idea is often supported by the belief in the law of attraction, which is assumed to be one of the natural laws of the universe (such as gravity).

The dark side of positive thinking.

Positive thinking may sound all bright and cheery, but there’s also a dark side.

The belief that life is a manifestation of our thoughts (both conscious and subconscious) can be very debilitating as it’s not possible to keep track of every thought we have. The dark side of this ideology is that when bad things happen to us, it is our fault as well. So if you meet with a tragic traffic accident because somebody was drunk-driving, somehow you have subconsciously attracted this incident into your life by thinking negative thoughts and it’s all completely your fault. This train of thought can be very damaging to a person and can make some people very anxious.

Life is not black and white.

Many times in life, there is no clear-cut positive and negative thinking. For example, if your pet cat suddenly dies, it is probably quite normal to feel sad and even to feel bad, but feeling sad and down in the dumps because your cat died isn’t necessarily a negative thing. Imagine if your friend was overly joyful after her cat just got hit by a car, it would be creepy wouldn’t it?

It makes you want to pull your hair out!

It can be very frustrating when you’ve been seriously committed to repeating positive affirmations to yourself every single day for a long period of time and nothing happens. Instead of repeating ‘I love myself’ to yourself every day, you could actually do something to prove that you love yourself, like being kinder to yourself by taking it easy and accepting the good thoughts along with the bad thoughts instead of making yourself feel silly by repeating positive affirmations to yourself throughout the day. As they say, actions speak louder than words.

It’s not realistic.

Sometimes positive thinking is not very realistic.

When you’re feeling like shit, trying to make yourself feel good with positive thinking can make things even worse. You end up feeling disingenuous and hypocritical. This is because it is quite hard to stay positive when things are going really badly.

Another thing is holding two contradictory viewpoints about yourself can result in cognitive dissonance and a lot of unnecessary psychological stress. Cognitive dissonance is basically the psychological stress and mental discomfort experienced when holding two or more contradictory ideas or beliefs. For example, it can be taxing to believe that you have abundance in your life when you’re forced to eat instant noodles 5 times a week because that’s the only thing you can afford. Imagine telling yourself that you have everything you need when you’re craving for a proper meal.

Negative thinking and being discontent has a function too. It pushes us forward and gives us a certain drive to improve our situation and lives. For example, reading the newspaper can be awful as there is so much of terrible things going on in the world and so much of bad news. It’s quite hard to feel positive after reading so much bad news. However instead of shutting out and ignoring the bad news, perhaps it would be better if we allowed ourselves to feel bad for a while so that we can find the solutions to some of these problems.

Completely ignoring and shutting out all the negative thoughts in your life is like trying to live in a fairy tale instead of the real world. Creating the illusion of a beautiful world is not going to help – that bubble is bound to burst one day, leaving you in a worse off situation than before. Accepting reality and our negative thoughts is important. The denial of negative thoughts could be dangerous and may eventually lead to emotional outbursts and nervous breakdowns.


Here’s what you can do instead…

Give yourself a time limit to feel bad.

Allow yourself a certain amount of time to feel emotions, even if they make you feel bad. It doesn’t feel good to be sad, angry, jealous or guilty and sometimes it can be terribly uncomfortable, but it’s very important that you allow yourself to feel these emotions anyway because they have a function as well. Anger can sometimes be helpful as it can push you to take proactive steps towards resolving certain predicaments. Feeling guilty is also a good sign that your conscience is functioning well and you’re not a sociopath.

A good way to acknowledge uncomfortable feelings is by talking about them with someone. Talking to others about your feelings is not only a great way to unload your burden, but also helps to build up relationships and interpersonal skills.

On another note, it is just as important not to dwell on “negative” feelings too long as they can make you feel really bad. Depression tends to set in when you let the ‘down’ feelings pull you under. It’s important that you don’t let it go that far. Wallowing in self-pity is not going to help. This is when you need to pick yourself up by reminding yourself of the good things in your life (A.K.A positive thinking).

Create more realistic affirmations.

There is nothing wrong with positive affirmations per se, but sometimes they can be a tad too unrealistic for your own good. For example, instead of trying to convince yourself that you love your body, it might be more realistic to assert that you love something specific about your body such as your height or your skin instead of trying to focus on loving your protruding belly and crooked nose.

For more articles like this, read Forget Perfection, Live a Purposeful Life Instead. Here’s How to Start, and How to Fall in Love with Yourself When You’re Not Feeling Good Enough.

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