Fake Positivity

Fake Positivity

If you think that the biggest threat to positivity is negativity, think again.

It shouldn’t be a big secret to most people that I’m a big fan of positivity.

Because of this, you’re probably thinking that I’m completely opposed to negativity like the insanity of chronic complaining, blaming everyone else for our problems, and constantly making excuses for why we can’t find joy in our lives.

If so, you’d be right.

Even though that’s true, my concern these days isn’t with negativity.

I’m sure that there are literally millions of blog posts on the internet about how to deal with negativity. I’ve even written a few of them.

But for this blog post, I want to deal with an enemy of positivity that’s a much bigger threat than negativity.

What’s worse about this threat is that it’s not nearly as obvious as negativity, but it’s equally as dangerous, if not more so.

It’s called fake positivity.

I bet you’ve never heard of fake positivity before, have you?

If not, allow me to introduce it you.

And more importantly, allow me to encourage you to avoid engaging in this silliness under any circumstances.

The Dangers of Fake Positivity

Before I get into the details of what fake positivity is, let me explain why it’s such a threat to real positivity.

Fake positivity is the reason why many people believe that real positivity is a joke.

Fake positivity is the reason why when many people hear the word “positivity” they either cringe, laugh, or shake their heads in quiet disgust.

Fake positivity is the reason why real positivity is so completely misunderstood by most of the world.

I want to use this blog post to set the record straight.

In order to do so, I’m going to hit the two biggest forms of fake positivity head-on:

1) Illusion and 2) Delusion.

Without further ado, let’s start with the more annoying, but less dangerous, one first.

Fake Positivity: Illusion

This is a form of fake positivity that I’m sure you know very well.

It’s the person who shares inspirational quotes with regularity on her Facebook page, but spends most of her time gossiping and backstabbing everyone in sight.

It’s the person who proudly touts his religion and his near-perfect attendance at church, but when he’s at the office, he’s the biggest soul-destroying bully you’ve ever seen.

It’s the person who attends every motivational seminar, reads every self-improvement book under the sun, and has hired the best life coaches money can buy, but she never applies any of that knowledge into her own life.

It’s the person who loves to give unsolicited advice about how you can be a better person, but he’s secretly hooked on drugs, having an affair with his administrative assistant, and gambling his kid’s college fund on Sunday’s big NFL game each week.

This is fake positivity.

It’s the person who focuses on putting out the illusion that he/she is positive, but in reality he/she is not even close.

Sadly, I know quite a few people like this. They are very easy for me to spot these days.

Why?

Because I used to be the President and CEO of the Fake Positivity club.

Years ago, I worked hard (seriously, really hard) to keep up the illusion that I was a positive dude, but inside, I was secretly an arrogant, selfish, gossipy, fraudulent punk of a human being.

Actually, forget the “secretly” part, because anyone with a working brain was able to figure out what I was all about back then.

It took some pretty painful things to happen in my life to wake me up, and I’ll forever be grateful for them.

Thankfully, now I get it.

I know now that real positivity has very little to do with the blog posts we write, whether we’re religious or not, the quotes we share on our Facebook pages, the seminars we attend, or how nice and kind we say that we are.

Simply put, real positivity will never be about our beliefs and words.

Real positivity has everything to do with our actions and behavior.

I used to work with a woman who went around the office quoting Bible scriptures and telling everyone how “favored she was by the Lord” (her words, not mine), and in her next breath, she would verbally destroy her employees in the most mean-spirited manner imaginable. (Side note: Obviously, this is an isolated example. Please know that I’m not saying that all deeply religious people act anything like this woman.)

I also used to work with a guy who said that he was raised by his parents to believe that “everyone on this earth is worthy of my dignity and respect.” And for the 4 years that I worked with him, I never saw him treat anyone (seriously, I mean anyone) with anything less than dignity and respect.

Which of the two people above would you say is displaying real positivity?

Fake positivity is a lot of cheap talk and putting on a smoke & mirrors illusion show for the world to see.

Real positivity is aligning your positive beliefs and words with positive actions and behavior.

In other words, to be truly positive we can’t just talk about it, we have to be about it too.

Unfortunately, the phonies and hypocrites of the world are only half of the “fake positivity” problem.

Let’s get to the more dangerous half of the issue.

Fake Positivity: Delusion

It is very true that we can have too much of a good thing.

And yes, this definitely includes positivity.

There are people who take positivity to a dangerous extreme, and when it reaches that point, it’s no longer anything close to being positive at all.

It becomes delusion, and this is the second form of fake positivity that needs to be dealt with.

There are people out there who strangely believe that being positive means that they must refuse to acknowledge all of the “less-than-positive” situations in their lives.

A particularly scary example of this was in an email that I received from a woman last year.

I’m paraphrasing, but she basically told me that she recently lost her job and even though the bills are starting to pile up, she is committed to “ignoring her financial troubles and avoiding every bill collector’s phone calls because she is only willing to focus on the beauty and positivity of the world from now on.”

Umm…yeah.

This is not positivity. Actually, I don’t even know how to describe this.

Sadly, I’ve seen this foolishness masquerading as positivity way too often.

There is a huge (I’m talking Grand Canyon huge) difference between transcending our problems and pretending that they don’t exist.

One option is the same as sticking our fingers in our ears and yelling, “La! La! La! I don’t hear you! I’m going to keep it positive! La, la, laaaaaa!” when our physician is telling us that we were just diagnosed with cancer.

The other option is hearing the life-changing cancer diagnosis from the physician, acknowledging the seriousness of the situation, and then somehow summoning the inner strength to fight harder than we ever have before.

I’m sure that it’s pretty obvious which one is real positivity and which one isn’t (at least, I hope that it’s obvious.)

There is nothing positive about ignoring our problems and deluding ourselves into believing that they don’t exist, especially in the name of “positivity.”

Actually, I’m not sure if there’s anything more damaging to our overall mental and emotional health than engaging in this type of fake positivity on a consistent basis.

The Reality of Positivity

Believe me, I understand why positivity gets such a bad rap.

A couple of months ago, I attended a professional conference and I noticed one of the attendees roll her eyes at me when I told her that I write for a blog called, “The Positivity Solution.”

“Oh, is that one of those blogs where you tell people to smile and yell ‘Life is awesome!’ after your house gets foreclosed on and you find out that your child has leukemia?”

Yep, this is what I’m up against.

I get a similar reaction when I tell people that I believe strongly in the Law of Attraction too.

“Uh, do you really believe that you just have to say, ‘I want a car! I want a car!’ and then you’ll have a brand-new shiny car in your driveway tomorrow morning?”

No, I don’t believe that because: A) that would be stupid, and B) it’s not even close to what the Law of Attraction is all about.

It’s the same deal with positivity too, unfortunately.

Many people are turned off by positivity because when they think of positivity, they’re not even thinking about real positivity.

They think of the fraudulent asshat who tells the world that she’s a positive person because of her beliefs, while she goes around treating people like crap on a daily basis.

They think of the deluded knucklehead who believes that true positivity is all about keeping a smile on his face and thinking “happy thoughts,” while ignoring all of his problems and taking no action to fix them.

Truthfully if that’s what positivity was all about, I wouldn’t want to have anything to do with it either.

Good thing that’s not the case.

Real positivity is all about one thing: Transcending negativity by taking consistent positive action.

This means rejecting the urge to mindlessly bitch and complain, and instead, choosing to be the hero in our own life story.

This means choosing to face our problems head on, instead of running from them.

This means not just talking about treating people with kindness and respect, it means consistently doing it too.

This means loving ourselves enough to ruthlessly remove the toxic people from our lives.

This means looking at the shit that life sometimes serves to us and saying, “this sucks right now, but I will find a way to make it better.”

Most of all, real positivity isn’t for the big talkers, and in some cases, it’s not just for the big dreamers either.

Real positivity is for the doers, because it’s the doers who will be the ones who change the world.

That’s why I had to set the record straight about positivity in this blog post.

If you know someone who engages in fake positivity, can you do me a favor?

Can you tell them to knock it off, direct them to this blog post, or both?

These clowns are making it harder for the rest of us, and believe me, the last thing that we need to do is turn off anyone from becoming more positive.

The world needs positivity more than ever.

Specifically, the real kind.

Your Turn

Have you ever dealt with someone who engages in “fake positivity?” If so, how do you deal with them? Jump into the comments below and make your voice heard!

Shola

Shola

Founder of The Positivity Solution
Author, keynote speaker, and kindness extremist who is committed to changing the world by helping as many people as possible to live and work with more positivity.
Shola
Shola
Shola

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Comments

  1. It is a sad thing that truly positive people have to combat the garbage trail that fake positive/delusional people have left in their wake.

    I, too, compare it to what I, as a Christian, have to combat due to all the extreme (and delusional) Christians who spew hate, but base their beliefs on the same Bible I love and follow. *sigh*

    So, all that being said, I will continue to lead my life as a positive person. I will profess my belief that having a positive attitude will increase both your quality and duration of life.

    I will continue to give workshops on how to protect your positive attitude from the debbie downers and negative nancys in the world, cause it is worth it!!!

    Thank you for shedding light on these two dangerous people! I think I will need to include this (if you don’t mind) in my workshop. These are more people who are a risk to positive attitudes due to the chaos and bad feelings they leave with others! (I’ll just ignore my bills and lack of a job??? seriously???? yeah… until you are sitting on the sidewalk, eating grass because you have no home!)

    Thank you for always making my Monday something I can face. You, sir, ROCK!

    • Kathy, you are so right. There is quite a smelly garbage trail of fake positivity out there that makes it harder for real positivity to shine through. Just like you, I had to shake my head when I read the email from the lady choosing to ignore her bills. Like you said, it won’t be long until she’s eating grass and living on the street if she doesn’t choose to take positive action to fix her situation. Thankfully though, there are amazing people like you out there who are doing fantastic things with your workshops (among many other things) that set an incredible example of what real positivity is all about. Keep it up, my friend!

  2. I like this a lot…It’s a great way of differentiating. Fake positivity is one of the things that I dislike about Facebook. There is a lot of it there. Certainly, I am not perfect. There are days when I complain, there are days when I am irritated there are days when I feel really down and sad, and I always try very hard to keep it to myself. I think about the pretenders (what I call them) and I try to imagine why they are that way. What might they gain? Maybe they don’t even realize they are pretenders! There is a saying that I heard that says “Going to church on Sunday doesn’t make you a christian anymore than parking in a garage makes you a car.” I’ve been thinking about the pretenders a lot lately and particularly the ones who pretend to be kind, compassionate souls and the ones who do nice, charitable things but it’s b/c they want to be recognized. I feel bad for them and their apparent need to be better than/noticed by others. I read something else this weekend about two boys who left money in the shoes of a poor farmer and then hid so they could see his reaction. The farmer dropped to his knees professing tearful gratitude and after he left the boys came out of their hiding spot and a “smile crept across their souls.” Isn’t that wonderful? That’s what I want, I want to have a smiling soul…

    Thanks for another great post Shola…I truly enjoyed it! 🙂

    • Spring, I love that quote about going to church and the garage–brilliant quote! It is sad when people only do nice things in hopes of being recognized and noticed, instead of coming from a place of real kindness and positivity. It’s like the politician who brings a camera crew with him to the homeless shelter in hopes that he’ll score a few more votes if the audience sees him serving them food. It’s so pathetic, and in my opinion, real positivity is nothing like that. It’s all about taking the action that will give us a smiling soul (I love that term). I can’t think of anything that would be better than that.

  3. Kathleen Carey says:

    Shola,

    Such a great post I can’t even begin to thank you. I’ve dealt with the fake positivity people a great deal of my working life. Mostly the kind that have been discussed…doing something nice because it makes them look good. I left a job of 13 years because of people like that and now I’m in the situation of looking for a job at 54. My career coach keeps telling me to “keep the smile on, you never know who you’ll meet” – some days I can’t muster it and I would rather be sad that day than fake an attitude of how wonderful life is, when another bill came I can barely afford. I am facing my challenges and working through them. I always do my best. The wise person never goes around telling everyone how wise they are…they just are.

    • You are so welcome, Kat! I left my previous job because of the fake people that I had to deal with on a daily basis–it was brutal. On a different note, I know that it’s hard to stay truly positive in the face of very real challenges like finding work, but you’re showing real positivity by taking action and always doing your best. Truthfully, that’s what positivity is all about. Keep showing up my friend and I’ll be rooting for you!

  4. Hi Shola,

    This morning as I was reading Facebook I stumbled upon a comment that you left on ” The Good News Network” page. What a breath of fresh air! Thank you so much for your blog and postings! This has been such a great way for me to start my Saturday. So much for those weekly chores but soul work is so much more important!

    My work environment is really distressing and your guide and article on fake positivity is just what I needed to boost my morale. I will share and hopefully someone will catch a spark! Good work!

    • Welcome aboard Robin! I hear you my friend–our “busy work” may be important, but nothing is nearly as important as taking the time to nourish our souls. I’m so glad that this blog post has boosted your morale! Make yourself at home and make sure to jump into the conversation at any time, ok? I’m so glad that you’re here and thanks for being part of the solution!

  5. Greetings Shola!

    I am a new blogger trying to make connections with fellow bloggers. Came across your post via Blogengage 🙂 I can totally see how these people would give true positivism a bad look. I see this all the time in my family but its not “fake positivism” its just delusions and illusions.. they don’t even pretend to be positive. It’s quite sad when people have “checked out” with reality. It happens. 🙂 Take Care -Iva

    • Hey there Iva! Thanks for connecting with me, my friend. Sometimes I wonder what’s worse: the people who fake like they’re positive and really aren’t, or the ones who don’t even pretend to be positive and spread their black cloud over everyone they come in contact with. All I know for sure is that I’m committed to limiting my contact with both types as much as I can!

      • Hello Shola!

        I’m going to go with the black cloud.. I swear when I visit this particular relative its like a black cloud of negative energy and force in the house. Your energy is drained and its as if you check your soul in at the door upon entry. You wonder how these souls live in this house on a regular basis however, when you see their demeanor and behavior it is no surprise it is very destructive to say the least. Touche on keeping your distance! While family, sometimes it doesn’t matter and you have to know your limit before their negative energy affects yours. Sometimes you have to love from afar!

        Happy Monday!
        -Iva

  6. Hi, Shola. There’s a form of false positivity I have to deal with and I’m not sure how much is illusion and how much delusion. Basically, it’s being a people pleaser.

    I’ve often been told that I’m a cheerful sort, yet most of the time I feel it’s a front – I don’t feel especially good about myself or the world around me. I tend to jump when asked, though I resent it, and standing up for myself is one hell of a problem – amongst the many good things I inherited from my Mum, I think I also inherited her tendency to keep the peace at any cost.

    Lately I’ve been noticing it and doing things to correct it, like acting on my instincts when my fear is telling me to sit and do nothing. It’s an uphill slog, though, but like you wrote elsewhere, if I fail I’ll be tested again and much harder next time.

    • Hey Rob! Believe me, I totally feel you my friend–I’m a recovering people-pleaser myself. I would say “yes” to almost anything in order to keep the peace or get people to like me, and I was slowly dying inside in the process. I wish that I could say that it’s easy, but one of the most life-saving things that I’ve ever done for myself is learning how to stand up for myself and being okay with saying “no.” The fact that you’re aware of the issue puts you light years ahead of where I was just a few short years ago. But as you already know, the universe will test you on this–and if you fail the test, you’ll experience the pain of having to take the test again–except next time, it will be much harder. It’s an uphill slog indeed, but it’s one worth taking, my man. I’ll be right there with you!

  7. Thank you so much for writing this. You have really opened up my eyes. I have stopped and looked at my own actions…and have found how I myself have been putting out fake positivity. I am in a financial mess all my fault…and all because I’ve been afraid to take on my financial messes head on…and chose to ignore while thinking I was being positive. I’m in the very very beginning stages of finding where to start to fix the mess I am in. However, I plan on using real positivity to give me strength and courage to take these battles head on! Thank you.

  8. Shola,

    Normally love your articles but I just wanted to make a couple of comments. It’s not fair to judge others at all. I believe everyone is doing their best and is on their own path. Whether they are focusing on the positive while dealing with cancer in a way that may seem extreme to others, or having five minutes of break from negativity by posting inspirational quotes, it’s their path and their positive way. We are all learning. That’s all..on a life journey, learning and living.

  9. Great article,
    because talking about a subject that is still taboo is an act of bravery and wisdom. impostors and false gurus must be unmasked.

  10. This is a fantastic Blog…

    If I was a better, even more articulate, more intelligent writer, i would love to follow this up.

    However, I’m not sure that would even be necessary Shola. You seem to have hit the nail squarely on the head here. These is the never ending awareness of who is real and who is not. It goes past positivity. I would venture to bet, the types of Fake Positive people, are the same exact people you might run into at the market, or PTA conference discussing what’s best for the community at each and every chance they get, calling all those out, who are somehow different, and yet not even see their own related deficiencies.

    Thank you for writing this, you were able to put words to what i have seen as cancerous types of people. Personally speaking, I’m a realist. And with that comes negative and positive, but always with optimism. It’s great that you were able to ID these people, but the fact is, most of us who are truly aware, see these people a mile away. I just really like, that i’m not alone in that. It’s nice to see that i don’t have to be, not that i would allow it anyway, but for lack of a better phrase, don’t have to take them for their word, just because everyone around me is trying so hard to find the positive. But then, I’m one who likes deeper waters anyway.
    I can’t give in to shallow, just because the words fit for the moment.

  11. elizabeth says:

    I am really glad I read this piece. This is my first time on your website. I googled “fake positivity” because I was a bit annoyed at one of those chronic inspirational meme people on facebook that wasn’t anything put positive in real life. I guess I was wondering if it was some sort of trend or just them.

    Well when I read your piece it hit me like a slap in the face. I was the one of these fake positive people as well or at least I was. A few years ago I discovered the Law of Attraction and people in my area that taught it (the wrong way). It’s embarrassing how young and naïve I was. To make a long story short things were starting to get better for me when tragedy struck in my life. I had a massive car accident that cause chronic health issues that took me a year to fully get over.

    When it happened my friends in the Law of Attraction community distanced themselves from me and blamed me for the accident. (It was caused by a drunk driver that ran a red light at 11 am during the day not me.) They said my bad vibes had attracted it somehow. The sad part was that I believed them and doing so caused me so much pain.

    I wallowed for a bit and then I decided I would fight. I went to every therapy appointment. I followed all the doctors said to the T. I prayed a lot both to show gratitude that I have survived and for the strength to get well. Slowly I made a full recovery which was not expected in my case. Especially so quickly.

    I knew there was something to positive thinking. I was doing it with prayer and faith though under a different name than what the new agers call it. I do believe being positive helps tremendously. I just wish these “fakes” would understand that no matter how positive you are there are always setbacks but it’s how you deal with those setbacks that matter.

    Thank you for post I look forward to reading more.

  12. I am so glad I found this article as I have been slowly losing my best friend of 15 years to this problem. I have been searching for an explanation as to why i find her so frustrating lately and this article nails it. She is the poster child for the delusional type described here. For years, she has refused to work and has racked up crushing debt, and before 30 she was living in her elderly parents basement (with her three children), no money to her name and had not paid taxes or credit card bills in years. But she got into this MLM (multi-level marketing) scheme and adopted a bunch of new friends who all were delusional about their financial problems and were brainwashed into thinking that “the power of positivity” would transform them into wildly successful entrepreneurs. She tried to suck me into the mess, but I wanted no part of it. I was already successful in starting my own company and held a business degree and wanted no part of some get rich quick scheme. But instead of following in my footsteps, she was more attracted to the MLM life. She has stuck with it for 3 years and has had no success whatsoever, and refuses to get a job. She spends the majority of her day on social media, posting positivity memes and gagging us with super bubbly posts about how awesome her life is (and I know that actually it’s the opposite and she’s just trying to attract clients for her down line which is how MLM people succeed). She has recently started shunning any sort of negativity. She won’t pay her bills or complete her annual tax return because she doesn’t do anything that makes her feel icky. Her car was repossessed and she is avoiding the collection calls because the bill collectors are so negative. She has started calling me “negative Nancy” because I sometimes talk about how stressed I am about my divorce (stress is a pretty rational emotion during a divorce and she’s my best friend, I should be able to confide in her.) She doesn’t want to hear about any struggles other people are going through, she plugs her ears because it brings her down.

    I am at my wit’s end with her as I worry she needs serious help. Her heart is good, and I believe she is intelligent enough to function well in life, but I am losing respect for her with every bad decision she makes. Thank you for helping me make sense of her behavior and why our friendship is falling apart.

  13. I was raised by your 2nd kind of fake positivity. It was like a cult. Anything negative was not allowed and not real. But now as an adult I make a point of telling my kids that negative feelings are our gages on our dashboard. They tell us when there is a engine trouble, or we are running out of gas or we have a broken part. I tell them that they are so vital – they are our warning lights. I tell my kids to listen to them, and then find the solution, so that we can feel better. I find it very odd when people seem so twisted up and have made themselves act so peculiar becuse they are having to do so much metal gymnastics in order to try to replace every slightly less than positive thoughts with a shiny rainbow one. For goodness sake, just let it be terrible that your house burned down. Yes, it will be nice to have a new house eventually, but it’s just weird and unnatural to act like it’s a sin to say, wow that really sucks and I’m feeling pretty sad about it! That’s real. Yes, your going to be positive after that and work it out but right now, ya, it really sucks!! Just be real. We all have real feelings- all the feelings are important. If we ran around historically laughing it woudn’t be healthy just as it wouldn’t be healthy to go around bit*hing about everything. But they both are part of what makes us authentic and true, and real, and when we let them be in balance we are more whole people!!!

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