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I Will Never Be Pollyanna Positive

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From time to time I get chastised by so-called social media superstars for the fact that I am, at times, grumpy, moody, direct, and simply “not positive”.

“Turn that frown upside down!” People only want to hear positive encouragement on social media.” “To be a leader, you need to stop with all the negativity.”

I call bullshit.

I will never, ever be Pollyanna Positive and I don’t believe that’s all people are craving. Here’s the story of why.

I spent the first thirty years of my life quelling thoughts and feelings that were considered “inappropriate”. I pursued appearing to be the “right, acceptable” person in hopes that it would make my life go the way I wanted it to go.  I pretended none of the other stuff existed.

And, to be fair, it worked for a little while. I was a successful student, considered a leader, made Phi Beta Kappa, Omicron Delta Kappa and Mortar Board. Went on to successful jobs in the business world where I was touted as an Up and Comer most of the time.

But while all this was going on in the public eye, some dark nasty was happening behind closed doors. I battled depression and anxiety, my personal life imploded, and I was truly deeply miserable. It was more awful than I can put into words, so I’m not going to try.

During my desperate attempt to crawl out the deep, dark hole I’d dug for myself , A discovery was laid before in something I can only describe as miraculous. A wise wise person looked me in the eye and said “Human beings were given a complex range of emotions unlike any other creature on earth. And if we don’t use them, exercise them, give them fresh air and sunshine, they start eating at us like cancer.  And creating diseases just as deadly.”

This wise person went on to say that if I did not find a way to express my full range of human-ness, I would very like die. And not metaphorically.

A wake up call if there ever was one.

So I’ve spent the last 16 odd years learning how to live full self-expressed. Does it come with a price? Sure it does. Sometimes I say or do the wrong thing. Sometimes I make a mess I have to clean up. Sometimes I could keep my thoughts a bit more private. Sometimes I over-indulge in my negative emotions and wind up with a hangover. Sometimes people I really really like get angry. Sometimes people I really really like walk away.

But when I weigh this price against squelching who I am to the point of being a shard of a person, I’ll gladly pay whatever is asked.

And here’s the thing: in this obnoxiously loud online world where everyone is basically trying to say “Hey! Look at me and all my awesomeness!!”, I think people crave permission to exhale. To just be. To express whatever it is they need to express – positive, negative, whatever.

This is the gateway to living fully self-expressed. Which is what I want for you with every fiber of my being.

So I wave my magic wand and say “Permission granted! Go be the fully self-expressed human that you are!”

And if you are in search of Pollyanna Positive, she doesn’t live here. 🙂

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  • I absolutely love it. Glad you hit publish instead of delete. 

  • Hells to the yeah, Sarah, with a hearty side of “Right on!”

    Here’s to emotions, and the wonderful, unexpected, surprising, and healthy things they reveal.
    As to the possible messes that may come from them, well, here’s to mops. 🙂

    I especially like your friend’s quote: “…if we don’t use [emotions], exercise them, give them fresh air and sunshine, they start eating at us like cancer.” Fits someone very close to me (and very closed up) to a “t.” Damn.

  • BRAVO Sarah!  AMEN sister!  And this is what most attracted me to you years ago and was one of the greatest gifts I got from working with you!

  • Anonymous

    Well, damn, Sarah. another really really great one! I totally agree that we MUST fully express, acknowledge and love all parts of ourselves. (That’s what one of my projects/topics, The Truth About Stuff That Sucks, is all about, really.)

    Though I kinda believe you can be Pollyanna positive and feel all the other human emotions too. That they don’t have to be mutually exclusive. What I mean by this has to do with how you get to know, embrace, express and appreciate your “negative” emotions. I think Pollyanna can stick around as part of the gang, but she has to play nice and learn how to support everybody else when it’s their turn. Or maybe I’m being a Pollyanna? 🙂 

    Hugs (and keep on showing up just as you are!)
    Shannon

  • This feels like a response to Talk About What’s Good (http://goo.gl/qdkNh) and my reaction is based in that assumption. 

    I am never in search of Pollyanna Positive. And I don’tfeel like I know any online natives who are. I think that most online folks are as self-loathing on-line as they are in meatspace and spend a majority of their time carving their image in relief by denigrating anything they DISLIKE rather than standing for something they DO like. That is all that the call is for. To actively agree with you, it’s about being a fully expressed human being (on-line) by not needing to be a wit-fueled snark machine 100% of the time. 

    And if I’m reacting to a passing shadow just delete this 🙂

  • Well said Sarah. I think it’s important not to dwell on the negative, but ignoring it all together is not healthy either. I always tell people “I am who I am, take it or leave it.” Lack of authenticity is one of my biggest pet peeves, the world needs more people who aren’t afraid to just be themselves.

  • I like this! Very nice and thanks for permission to be fully self-expressed – I need more of that.

  • Anonymous

    And thank goodness she doesn’t live here 🙂  Permission accepted. Why I started hanging out with you Hooligans in the first place. Brava! 

  • Hi, Sarah
    Very interesting post and your attitude about the PollyAnna folks resonates with me.  I post from time to time on this issue, , often on the issue of motivational speakers who sell the idea that positive thinking solves all kind of real world problems and constraints.   While I understand the value of a positive attitude, it won’t make me a soloist at Carnegie Hall – just ain’t in the genes.

    I just posted an interesting RSA Animate video where Barbara Ehrenreich sounds a similar tune – you can see my post at http://strategiclearner.tumblr.com/post/11692940692/barbara-ehrenreich-shares-intelligent-thoughts  or just Google Ehrenreich to go directly to the video.

    Thanks for the reality check and for the personal disclosure.
    John

    • Dcmwhite80

       Positive thoughts definitely heal the body and actually someone with a positive attitude and determination will end up in Carnegie Hall long before anyone with a negative attitude. It does make a difference.

  • Anonymous

    Sarah, what makes people connectable is their humanity. That’s what makes them real. Real people connect with other real people. I’m happy that I’ve reached a point in my life where I’ve allowed myself to be human. Sounds like you’re there, too!  Thanks for sharing the gift of you!

  • It’s funny how we as humans feel like we need permission to feel and do and act. Sometimes, we don’t even realize that we can give permission to ourselves! 

    I know a lot of people just gasped and thought, “WHAT? Me give permission to me?? It just doesn’t work that way!” Well, it does. Waiting for permission is just another way of not taking action and procrastinating. Sarah and I just called you out (and gave you permission to give yourself permission!). So, what are you waiting for? Go be you.

    And if you ever get stuck remember the saying, it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission. ;p

  • Catvirzi

    Thank YOU! I could say so much, yet I’ll be succinct:
    Total authenticity of this caliber is the stuff of our evolution. Thanks for opening the door, Sarah.

  • Love this post! The trick is to recognize the negative emotions but not let them overtake you. It’s called being “real”.

  • Kim

    I  could have written this post – verbatim. This is EXACTLY my story. Always the good girl – never making waves or being disagreeable. Putting on the perfect front so no one would see my “dirty laundry.” Well, it came to a head earlier this year shortly after I turned 40 and gave birth to my second daughter (a most unexpected, but incredibly delightful surprise!). I battled depression and anxiety for years and struggled mostly alone through post-partum after the birth of my now 7 year old daughter. All these things were bearable. But it was a recent crisis in my marriage that turned my whole world upside down. Basically, it scared the shit out of me. While there was no physical infidelity, there was a stinging emotional betrayal. The bottom line is that I never allowed myself to fully commit to my husband and my marriage because I was still trying to be the perfect daughter. I put my parents ahead of myself, my marriage, and my kids. Pleasing them was my main focus.

    And now that I’ve made this comment longer than it ought to be, I may as well share that I had a child at 18 that I placed for adoption. It’s been a wonderful open adoption process for all parties, but the collateral damage was that I carried an unbearable amount of guilt around with me. I had let my parents down by embarrassing them and having a child out of wedlock. And so my 20s and 30s were all about “making it up to them.” My marriage wasn’t what it should have been. We were often like roommates and less like husband and wife. I was afraid of confrontation and arguments for fear that he would leave me. And so, I held back. Towed the line and kept the peace. But it was a fraudulent kind of peace. So transparent…and so destructive. While I’ll never condone marital betrayal, there is a small part of me that sort of expected him to find comfort with someone else. Thankfully distance prevented any physical relationship from happening, but had we lived closer, I’m sure the temptation would have been great. This betrayal was the wake up call I needed to snap out of my delusional thoughts and my pretend way of life. It was time to start getting real. Time to stop being the nice girl and time to allow myself to actually FEEL my emotions. I’d always been so afraid of feeling things because I’d been so used to protecting myself from anything that wasn’t perfect. Or that didn’t present the image that everything was perfect. I love my parents, but I’m starting to create more healthy boundaries with them – something the old me would never have dared to do. And I have put my husband and myself first. His betrayal still hurts, but I’m moving through it. And I’m talking to him and with him. And honestly – things have never been better. 

    Thanks for your brutal honesty. I call bullshit too and I thank you so much for not being a Pollyanna. Keep up your blog and your tweets – they are so inspirational!
    Best – 
    Kim

    • Dcmwhite80

       I had the same thing with the please the parents and it’s affect on my marriage but I got help and I don’t think I ever felt nearly as angry as you. If that is what is making it work for you, I am glad for you but it sounds like you still have too much bitterness inside you. Pollyanna really isn’t a bad person. There is no reason to have issues with a positive attitude.

  • Sarah, so glad you shared this. Certainly there are many who can benefit, myself included. I try very hard to maintain this “everything is rosy” picture to the social media world. Yesterday I was feeling a bit weepy – no real idea why and I actually thought about putting it as my FB status but decided against it because I didn’t really want to potentially deal with the “turn that frown upside down”.  

    What’s equally important is that you are being REAL, authentic and overall human…..thank you for being who you are. 

    On a separate note – I have to send you an email. 

    <3 you and keep on being REAL!

  • Chuckles…you’ve definitely stimulated some discussion here!  I think one of the things that draws people to you and your blog is your willingness to be you…and to “self-express”…and thereby giving others permission to be themselves, too.  Thanks for being you…and for your courage to live “full self-expressed”!

  • Anonymous

    @2241b99d4982cc23aecb07017481e1bf:disqus 
    My neighbor makes $96/hr on the internet. She has been unemployed for 10 months but last month her income was $7253 just working on the PC for a few hours. Go to this web site  …. http://alturl.com/xrk9w

  • Fantastic post, Sarah. Thank you for having the courage to BE YOURSELF. 🙂

  • this is so true… People aren’t usually aware that by “protecting” who they really are, and they really feel, they’re actually killing themselves.  Most live lives they think is theirs but is actually an image they think others want to see… and in the process of coming out that shell and living who you really are and feel, many decide that’s too much for them. And that’s ok, because then you will be left with those that really love and care for you.

    Genius post.

  • Well-put.  

  • faith

    love this post … pollyanna positive is baloney.

  • Dcmwhite80

    I’ve been in that same dark hole and spent a lot of time there. I also learned that it is important for me to be able to get angry, but I don’t bathe in it. I prefer to be upbeat and happy.