The Single Biggest Way to Deepen Relationships: Come As You Are
Check out one of the earlier posts in my series about toxic positivity here.
I have a mixed relationship with positivity.
Of course, I think it is great to feel joy and happiness, but the truth is, we have an entire range of emotions. And, if we feel we are consistently trying to “look on the bright side” and not let anyone “see us sweat,” we are doing both ourselves and those around us a disservice.
Enter toxic positivity.
As I shared in a prior post on this topic, to live in a state of forced positivity and to white-knuckle ourselves to happiness is counter-productive to our growth, our truth, and our peace.
While many people embrace positivity for the sake of their interactions with others – and wanting to appear in a certain light or not rock the boat – ironically, one of the main areas of collateral damage from toxic positivity is its negative impact on our relationships.
False (+Forced) Positivity in Action
I had a coaching engagement with a client who was working on her relationships. She saw herself as a positive person who always thought positively of other people. She didn’t question them. She acknowledged that she put people on pedestals, as in an art gallery or a museum.
Do these people ever do anything wrong? Respond negatively? Do they ever hurt you? I asked.
She responded that, if they do, she then puts them in a closet.
“I assume they don’t care or want to hurt me; and I don’t want to be around them. If they apologize, they can leave the closet.”
“What are the chances of this?” I inquired.
“Not too big,” she ultimately replied.
If they did overcome and apologize, she let me know she would put them back on the pedestals but would keep her eye on them.
In our work together, we came to a place where we recognized together that her desire for constant positivity had severely impacted her relationships. When everything was positive (even if only on the surface) everything was “fine”; and her relationships could remain. When anything became too real, serious, constructive, or negative, she feared ruining her relationships and would put them away.
Did this help? In the short term, it may have, but ultimately, we realized, she would have a lot of people in closets, unable to connect with them, and everyone else out on pedestals collecting dust.
Deeper, authentic and more genuine relationships with all would open up the possibility for more hurt but would also allow for a new level of connection.
The view from the other side
Through false positivity, we keep people at arm’s length and can be found putting people on a pedestal simply to avoid the truth.
When initially confronted with ongoing positivity, I may react… well, positively… but as our relationship grows, I may feel something is wrong or false. I will come up with a lot of assumptions and might be afraid to ask because I am not sure about our level of trust. I may wonder, are you hiding something from me?
This questioning is simply because we are human, and this is what our brain does when we know something is wrong. We sense a discrepancy, and this initiates a feeling of danger.
If we are putting on a “positive” show and not being truly ourselves, what will people see? What will they feel? How deep will our connection be?
If we know some of these negative impacts, why do we still force our positive attitude?
In most cases, we are afraid of judgment. What we have observed is that if you are “good” and “positive” you receive many compliments and have less problems. We see the behavior that is rewarded; so, it is only natural we try to mimic that which is beneficial.
As we recognize this and work to expand our relationships authentically, there are a few things we can keep in mind.
Tips on how to make relationships deeper, stronger, and more sustainable.
I am very careful when I look at people, but what I remember is they have inner light. I will give them chances to open their heart, to trust me and show this light. This is about creating relationships. If we allow each of us to ignite one light after another, what a beautiful planet it could be.
Showing up as you… real and raw… is actually beneficial and can deepen your relationships. Here are some ways to do this:
● Don't put people on a pedestal. They are humans and we all can use some compassion.
● Stop assuming. Start asking.
● Share your feelings. Don't blame. Express your truth.
● Start any conversation by sharing your intent.
● Listen to learn, not to respond.
● Remember about the inner light. Look into their eyes and try to recognize this light. It’s always there.
Are you ready to kick toxic positivity to the curb in your relationships? Are you ready to dig deep and get real?
It can be challenging and vulnerable, but the pay-off will be great.
Practice some of these tips and share with me your results.
Photo by Cornelia Steinwender on Unsplash