Since the destructive “machine of happiness” is at work, some have forgotten that life is made of ups and downs, that we can’t always be happy and there are moments when we feel bad, very bad.
The misunderstanding and subsequent spreading of positive psychology is leaving behind dissatisfaction, frustration, blockages and, in general, a bitter taste in the mouth of all those who can’t always smile.
In fact, some of the self-help tips are not as positive as you think, especially if they are considered absolute truths. Some may also have a diametrically opposite effect and could ruin your life.
1. You can do whatever you want
There is a big difference between trying to give the best of us and thinking that we can do everything, or that everything depends on us. In fact, one of the most important sentences that psychology borrowed from the Greeks is “know yourself”.
This means that we must know our strengths and virtues, but also our limitations and defects. When we set ambitious targets without knowing well ourselves, we run the risk of feeling useless and failed when we fail to achieve them, especially if we have a kind of mindset like everything or nothing and assume the experiences in terms of successes or defeats.
In addition, this idea can produce illusory thinking, which is not based on reality but on our expectations, which takes us away from the objectivity that is so necessary to make our projects turn into reality.
Therefore, a good advice would be: “Always wait for the best, prepare for the worst and accept what’s coming”. Remember that everyone is different and does not have to follow the same goals as others. Also, sometime the most important things are not the results, but what happens on the way, because the growth does not occur when you get to the top but while climbing.
2. Smile, always
It is true that pessimism can get you paralyzed and does not make you feel good, but all emotions have their reason for being and are not negative in themselves. For example, sadness tells you that you are wrong and you have to change something.
Even though in our society the “negative” emotions have been demonized to such an extent that we are trying to hide them and when they ask us how we are we always answer “well”, even when it is not true, these states send signals. We can think of “negative” emotions as road signs indicating that we should not take that road or that we should drive cautiously, if there were not signals it would be more difficult to change direction and we should face worst problems.
Therefore, printing a smile on the face is not the solution, because trying to hide or deny the emotions will only make them become chronic. The psychologists at Michigan State University analyzed the impact of a false smile on our mood. They followed a group of drivers for two weeks and discovered that while they were pretending more smiles, the worse was their mood when back home, a mood signed by irritability, anger, and sadness.
You do not always have to smile, especially when you do not want to do it. You do not have to hide your real emotions when you feel bad because it will not solve the problem, on the contrary, it will add more pressure.
3. Think positive
It is true that positive thinking helps us in many circumstances, but it is not a magic formula that can be applied to everything and everyone. There is also toxic optimism. In fact, psychologists from the University of Waterloo and New Brunswick found that people with low self-esteem feel worse after repeating the positive phrases contained in many self-help books.
The researchers asked people with high and low self-esteem to repeat themselves positive words, so they evaluated how they felt. They thus flogged that people with low self-esteem felt worse.
The problem is that phrases like “I am a beloved one”, “I will succeed” or “I fully accept what I am” in these cases have a contradictory or irrational character. In short, we are not able to fool our minds in such a childish way, the fact that you continually repeat something does not make it true, is needed a much deeper work. Also, this type of affirmation can make you feel like in a farce, and this will further damage the image you have of yourself.
4. Don’t give up, never
There is a time to persevere and another to leave. In fact, intelligence consists in knowing when it is time to persist and when to quit. There are situations where surrendering is the best solution for our emotional balance and is not synonymous with weakness.
Persevere, when a goal has lost its meaning or when conditions have changed drastically, it just means being stubborn. That way you’re just going to dedicate to a project a precious energy that could be used in other things that would please you more.
Of course, this does not mean that we have to abandon immediately, but we must be mature enough to understand when we are insisting only for fear of failure or that others judge us weak or failed. The key is not giving up too soon or insisting for too long.
5. You must be happy
The ideal would be to be happy, when we are really happy we feel satisfied and serene. However, we can’t always be happy. In fact, the obsession for happiness could turn us unhappy. Several studies have shown that people who are mostly concerned about being happy are often more unhappy and depressed.
In a study of the University of Denver, the psychologists asked the participants how much they appreciate happiness and how important was to commit themselves to be happy. They found out that those who gave more emphasis on the need to be happy reported less than 50% of positive emotions, 35% less satisfaction in their lives, and 75% more depressive symptoms than those who had other priorities.
This does not mean that we should not try to be happy, but that we should not be obsessive because the pressure to be happy is counterproductive. Happiness lies in small things and is an incredibly easy state to be reached, is enough knowing how to flow with life and appreciate what we have.
Scott, B. A. & Barnes, C. M. (2011) A Multilevel Field Investigation of Emotional Labor, Affect, Work Withdrawal, and Gender. Academy of Management Journal; 54(1): 116-136.
Mauss, I. B. et. Al. (2011) Can seeking happiness make people unhappy? Paradoxical effects of valuing happiness. Emotion; 11(4): 807-815.
Wood, J.; Perunovic, W. & Lee, J. (2009) Positive Self-Statements: Power for Some, Peril for Others. Psychological Science; 20(7): 860-866.