What the Positive Thinking movement gets wrong

I was the first in my family to attend higher education, and was very proud of that, but after starting university, I used to feel like maybe I wasn’t good/smart/hard working/lucky enough (depending on mood and situation) to achieve my dreams compared to all my fellow students, and at various points I figured that those 5 years were all for nothing, and I might as well drop out right away. Especially during my ERASMUS year in Krakow I for the first time felt that my degree wasn’t going to get me anywhere, and I even started applying for apprenticeships in some related fields! But to be honest, my heart wasn’t fully into that either so I just continued with my Bachelor’s and eventually my Master’s after returning back to Germany. I was a lot more happy after deciding that I wanted to pursue American Studies, which was previously only my minor, but after applying for studying abroad in that field and not being accepted I felt down and discouraged again.

At some point during my Master’s though, things started to change. I was continually unhappy with myself, and I knew I just had to make a change somehow. The most obvious sign of this that I had gained an awful lot of weight, I was only eating junk food and drinking sodas and I just wasn’t happy with the way I looked or felt. So I knew I had nothing to loose and somehow stumbled upon the Blogilates Youtube channel. I started doing Cassey’s workouts, and after a while also started eating more healthy, and for the first time in a really long time I felt like I was back on track and had my life under control. For most part of my life, I used to blame all my disappointments and rejections on things beyond my control, but now I finally realized that I could control my own life and the results were really amazing. I became a lot more confident, and via Cassey’s workouts and positive attitude I learned more about Positive Thinking and Laws of Attraction philopsophy. I started to believe I could achieve anything if I just put my mind to it (and if something didn’t work out, it just wasn’t meant to be). When my studies where coming to an end, it became time to start writing job applications and receiving rejection letter after rejection letter, but still my faith in the future was basically unwavering.

Then more or less out of nowhere I got invited to the Assessment Center which led to my internship in India (I had applied months earlier and completely forgotten about it, since I wasn’t actually positive enough to believe I could get such a great opportunity ;)), and everything was indeed coming together. But as I already mentioned in some of my previous posts, India definitely managed to knock me down 😀 Don’t get me wrong, I love this country and having the opportunity to live and work here, but moving across the globe to a completely foreign country will knock anyone down. And as much as India is an amazingly diverse, rich and breathtakingly beautiful country, it can also be overwhelming and terrifying. I think the IncredibleIndia slogan from the Indian tourism board fits perfectly, since for better or worse India is indeed incredible.

And while I was struggling with my new life in India, I also noticed where the idea of Positive Thinking has its limits. The basic idea is that to succeed in life, you first need to believe that you can. As simple as that sounds, that’s certainly one of the most important lessons I have learned in the last few years. Another important pillar of the movement is the idea that nothing can really influence you, unless you choose to let it influence you. Basically, unless you let something make you angry, it has no power over you to make you angry. And while that also has often helped me, I recently noticed just how limited that point of view is. I still love all those cheesy inspirational quotes on Instagramm, Facebook and Tumblr, but being positive won’t solve all your problems (in fact, it won’t solve any unless you go and solve them).

Being able to shrug off rejection letters and telling yourself “it just wasn’t meant to be” is nice and easy when you don’t need to worry about paying the bills or even buying groceries. Loosing your job can be a mind-opening opportunity to find your true passion, but it can also mean not being able to pay your bills or put food on the table. When you’re walking outside and get caught in a rainstorm, sure you can decide to be positive about it and have a dance in the rain, but it doesn’t mean you won’t get wet and catch a cold. Often enough, the things that happen to us really are bad, and they do have very real and negative effects on our lives, no matter how much we would like to think of them as “challenges” or “opportunities to grow”.

More often than not, I now get more annoyed with people trying to cheer me up, to tell me to distract myself, enjoy myself, and be happy regardless of all the things that bother me. It feels like I need to go through life pretending to be perfectly happy about it, and never getting a chance to truly be myself. And sometimes my true self is angry or sad or frustrated. Sometimes, things just suck and they will continue to suck and there is nothing you can do about it. No thinking or visualization or mantra can change that. And then, the best thing you can do is just accept that. No need for Positive Thinking. Be sad, angry, frustrated. And then know that while yes, everything sucks now, you will get through this. Because you have to, and do whatever it takes to make it. But you don’t need to do it happily and cheerily and smiley. You just need to do it.

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Matrimandir, Auroville