By Lisa Sugarman
I get made fun of a lot. But it’s ok, I have a thick skin. I can take it. I’m tough.
It’s really just people being playful, I know.
Truth is, I get made fun of—are you ready for this—because I like to be positive. I know, right? Ironic that of all the things people could legitimately bust on me for, that’s why I get heckled. But it’s just how I’m wired. What can I say?
My mom is actually the happiest person on the planet, so I guess I was genetically predisposed to be happy from conception. And anyone who knows her is giggling right now, because they know it’s true. There’s honestly nobody happier than Sandy. So it’s in the genes. But you would not believe how many people call me out on it. People make cracks about it all the time, almost like I’m a deviant. Cracks me up.
And it got me thinking…
Doesn’t it seem a little odd that the person who has a good attitude and likes to spin things positive is the one who gets ragged on? Have happy, positive people really become that much of the moral minority?
I mean think about it for a sec, doesn’t there seem to be a disproportionate number of people out there who actually seem happier when they’re unhappy? Who knows, maybe they function better that way. It’s like when you’re sick—I mean Swine Flu sick—and somehow moaning makes you feel better. And moaning, when done correctly, is just plain wretched. But the moaner feels better somehow. See what I mean? I guess for some people having something to moan about just gives them a purpose.
Seriously, though, even if the-cup-is-always-half-full kind of happiness is outside your wheelhouse, I truly believe that deep down, everyone has the capacity and the fundamental desire to be positive, at least most of the time.
I mean just look at what the Grinch accomplished in only one night. He was a miserable bastard and he had one garden variety epiphany and BANG, he turned it all around. So it can happen. But happiness, I truly believe, like anything, is a choice—a conscious choice.
And choices are what propel us through the day. Through life. They’re what everything we do is based on. We choose to eat right. Or not. We choose to exercise. Or not. We choose to be faithful. Or not. We choose to be nice. Or not. We choose to give the guy who cut us off on Pleasant Street the finger. Or not.
I tell my kids a lot of things on a regular basis. I’m a little redundant. And one of the things they hear constantly from me is that I believe we all actually have very little control over most of the stuff in our life. I think we all spend the majority of our time reacting to things and to people. That’s why I tell them that it’s so important to remember that although we really don’t have any control over how other people act and react, we do have complete control over how we as individuals react to what goes on around us. That we can control. That we can manage. And that, my friends, is a powerful little nugget of truth. And, just between you and me, may actually be the key to happiness. Because once you’ve got that down, you’re driving the bus. You’re in complete control.
It’s a commitment, this being positive thing. It takes work and a conscious effort. But don’t most things that are worthwhile? And doesn’t a person’s overall attitude toward life seem particularly worthwhile, especially when you stack it up against other, slightly less important things like soaps or March Madness. Being positive seems like a pretty legitimate thing to throw yourself into.
Now look, we all know that I’m really not the only one out here who acts this way. But I do see a definite, obvious pattern of people just not making the effort or the decision to be positive.
Look, Pollyannaism is a real term for a reason (yes, seriously, it’s real), because there are actually plenty of positive people out there. And I guess I’m calling the issue out because I still see a lot of lazy people out there who just can’t be bothered to think positive and I don’t like it. And because this column is about what I think, I get to say anything I want. When you write a column, you can say anything you want.
There’s this local grassroots group called the b Positive Project that I love because these guys believe in nothing more than promoting a positive lifestyle and attitude. They do it with t-shirts and headbands and hats. And they’re just one tangible example of how easy it is to send the message that attitude actually is everything. Their message is simple but impactful, “The difference between a good day and a bad day is your attitude.” And that’s all I’m really saying. It’s a choice.
Learning to manage the impulse to be negative is just a clear-cut behavior modification. But it’s do-able. Maybe not an overnighter, but well within the acceptable range of achievable for the average person. Just like when we re-train ourselves to stop biting our nails or swearing. It’s challenging and it takes discipline and commitment, but people do it successfully every day just by making a conscious choice to make it happen. I think that some people are actually just afraid to let go of the negativity that holds them back because it’s become almost like a crutch that keeps them stable. It’s something to hide behind. The irony is, though, if they’d just cut it loose they’d be happier for it.
So at this point, I’m not even going to broach any of the obvious benefits of staying positive because you’re hip to all that. Like you don’t need me saying anything about how being positive will help reduce stress, improve coping skills, reduce depression, make you more likeable. Pfffffffft. You know all this.
Plus, and this has to be reason A#1 to harness the positive within, no one wants to be around a complainer. People hate that guy. When you’re always the one who finds a problem with everyone and everything, watch how many people really seek you out. And, on the flip side (which of course I have to give you to prove my point), see how many people gravitate to the person sending out the good vibes. Actually pay attention to how being around that sort of person feels. Feels pretty good.
When I was a kid, my aunt Charlotte had an old sign on the wall of her New Hampshire ski house. Three simple words that said it all. Illegitimi non carborundum. Don’t let the bastards get you down. The same words hang in my house now. And I don’t let ‘em. And so far, so good.
Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItisWhatitisColumn OR read her blog at https://itiswhatitiscolumn.wordpress.com.