On of the things I spend a lot of time working with clients on is how they can start looking at things more positively in a number of ways. I believe the first step to success in making lasting changes is to have a positive attitude towards making that change. That positive attitude, that mindset is important no matter what issue you are working on, be it weight loss, stopping smoking, or eliminating excess stress from your life.
Our beliefs and habits, the way we look at the world and approach the different situations we face on a day to day basis is essentially the stories we tell ourselves. And when we hear a story over and over again, regardless of how true or false it is, we eventually believe it. So If every day you say “I’m never going to lose those this weight” or “I’m never going to be able to stop smoking” we’re reinforcing those negative beliefs. And that reinforcement becomes extra powerful when, for example, you’ve decided you’re going to work at losing weight and eating healthy, all that stuff and it works for awhile, but then you end up tired and stressed out, you’re starving and you haven’t had a chance to go to the store and its so easy to just order a pizza and not worry about it. And maybe the next day you get some fast food. And then before you know it, you’ve gained the weight back and maybe a little extra. That’s really defeating to the psyche, and it reinforces “I can’t lose this weight.”
So having a positive attitude, changing that story to “I will lose this weight, I am 100% committed to reaching my goal and nothing can stop me.” Goes a long way. In fact, having a positive attitude like that – KNOWING that you ARE CAPABLE of achieving your goals even if you hit a bump in the road here and there, is essential to making positive changes in our lives.
But where it goes wrong is when people make the mistake of thinking that having a positive attitude means that you’re going to be “EVERYTHING IS AWESOME! WHOOPEEE!” All of the time. You’re expected to jump out of bed each and every morning and burst into song! Because you have to BE POSITIVE!
But let’s be honest, there are going to be days when things go wrong, days when we don’t feel like getting out of bed, days where our fuses might be shorter than normal. That’s just life! It’s not going to be smooth sailing every single day, no matter how much you click your heels together and wish it would be, and that’s ok. Because what really matters is how we navigate those choppy waters when they appear.
Numerous self-help fads which shall remain nameless have caused society to develop an attitude of what I call “toxic positivity” where the idea of “thinking positive” has replaced any sort of self-reflection or assessment that is necessary in order to understand how to overcome obstacles and achieve goals. This kind of positive thinking, actually PREVENTS you from reaching your goals because when those choppy waters appear, when one morning instead of a sunny day you wake up to rain, the message that is delivered to your subconscious is “I failed. I didn’t think positively enough. It must not be meant for me” and every bad thought, every bad story you’ve ever told yourself comes flooding in like a tsunami. Because thinking positive that the house won’t flood is a very different thing than doing the work to put sandbags down just in case.
If we want to achieve our goals and live up to our potential, we have to be honest with ourselves. This is why I absolutely can’t stand the phrase “fake it until you make it.” That’s a horrible thing to say! Because what you’re telling yourself is that you ARE NOT this thing you want to be. The story you’re telling yourself when you say “fake it ’til you make it” is actually “I’m a fraud, I’m faking it, I am not this thing that I want to be, and one day people will realize that and this house of cards I’ve built is going to come crashing down around me.” That’s horrible! That’s not having a positive attitude, its is the exact OPPOSITE of a positive attitude. It is toxic and harmful.
In the tale of Rumpelstiltskin, the power the imp has is that the miller’s daughter doesn’t know his name. But when she overhears him singing and gloating in the woods, she learns his name and thus Rumpelstiltskin loses the bargain. This is a trope that appears time and time again in folklore and fiction. Knowing the true name of something takes away its power. I think when we identify obstacles we face, or even our own weaknesses, we take away their power to hold us back from achieving our goals. We are able to overcome them – but only once we are able to know what we are facing.
If I say that I’m not good at something, or that a certain activity has a particular challenge for me, that is not the same as putting myself down or having negative self talk. I am taking a personal inventory of where the fault lines are that could create setbacks in order to overcome them. It’s only negative talk if I allow those things to keep me from ever starting on my journey. I am giving the monster a name in order to take away its power so I can defeat it.
This is what the toxic positivity people get so tragically wrong.
I live and work in West Seattle, a little peninsula across Elliott Bay from downtown Seattle. The West Seattle Bridge is the only way to get back and forth by car, without making an extended detour to the south and around. Now, early on in the pandemic, structural problems were discovered on the bridge and it was closed down while they figured out how to best address this problem – could the bridge be repaired, and should it be repaired if it can be or should it just be replaced?
Could you imagine, if the people in charge of these decisions had the attitude of “Oh, so the bridge could collapse at any time with heavy traffic on it because of these cracks? That’s negative talk, think positive! Just think positive and everything will be ok!” That is a disaster waiting to happen!
Instead, what they did was close the bridge and study the problem in order to figure out the best way forward. They said “This is not safe, so we have to close the bridge, understand what we are facing, and then come up with a plan that will serve the people of West Seattle AND be a long term permanent solution to the bridge so this doesn’t happen again.” It’s realistic, its POSITIVE because they know there is a solution there and they are going to get to it. If it was negative thinking it would sound would be “Well, bridge is unsafe. Just close it down. Guess people will have to go around or something forever, why bother.” And if it was toxic positivity they’d be like “Oh, lets just slap a coat of paint on it so it looks nice and just think really good thoughts that it will work!” I think you can easily see which is the right and positive way of looking at a difficult situation, and which ones are the negative and harmful ways of looking at it.
And this is why I think the phrase “fake it til you make it” is so harmful. At best, you are ignoring a harmful situation and kicking the can down the road so you don’t have to actually face it. Far too often, people will use positive thinking as a shield to not take action in order to make changes in their life. The phrase gives away what is actually going on – FAKING IT. And if you are faking a positive attitude, if you’re faking a willingness and desire and commitment to actually do the work of making the changes, how do you expect to actually achieve your goals? You can cheat on every test in school, get As but if you do that you haven’t actually learned anything.
Change can be hard and change can be scary. But it doesn’t have to be. Hypnosis helps us identify the limiting beliefs and obstacles we face, understand them, and neutralize them so YOU CAN BE SUCCESSFUL! There will still be good days and bad days, that’s just life. But with hypnosis you can face every situation with a truly positive attitude that empowers you, and you’ll discover that you don’t need to “fake” anything.