"I want to be less negative but positivity feels fake"

If “positive vibes only” make your toes curl but you want to be less negative - read this.


Do you often find it hard to be positive? Feel a bit judged for having less shiny, happy emotions? Me too. And I don’t think this is because we are miserable people - or not capable of being positive. I think it’s more that part of us recognises that “positive vibes only” isn’t really appropriate for life. And forcing yourself to be positive when you don’t feel it, or when the situation really doesn’t warrant it, isn’t healthy. But does that mean negativity is the only other option?

No! You can try neutral thinking instead.

I don’t believe in 100% positivity

Before I start on neutral thinking, I want to explain why positivity is something I have come to take with a pinch of salt. Firstly, there is of course toxic positivity - the pressure to only display positive emotions, suppressing any negative emotions, feelings, reactions, or experiences. When we do this to ourselves or others, it invalidates our human experience and can lead to isolation, and unhealthy coping mechanisms. 

Secondly, there are the judgments we make around positivity - that positive people are somehow better and that the ability to be positive means you’re winning at life. There is some truth in this - natural positivity comes from things like knowing who you are, understanding the impact of your past, and reprogramming negative core beliefs (all things we do in resilience coaching). But natural positivity isn’t forced - and it’s not a constant state of being even for the healthiest and happiest. 

And then finally there is the value we can get from negative emotions (yes, really!). Negative emotions are signposts that show you what needs attention. Resentment for example is a sign that you’re feeling unheard, people pleasing or ignoring your own desires. While jealousy can point you towards your deepest fears - or just changes that you’d like to make in your own life but haven’t. These offer us valuable data about useful changes we can make in our lives. And that data is lost if we sweep any non-positive feelings all away with a “good vibes only” approach. It also leaves whatever part of us is hurting and generating those negative emotions totally ignored and abandoned - and that can stack up a lot of problems for further down the line.

I don’t believe in negativity either

A negative state of mind happens to all of us sometimes and, as I’ve said, can be useful. But it’s not a place you want to stay. Negativity can send us into fight, flight, freeze where we are unable to think clearly, take action to help ourselves or enjoy our lives. We don’t want to stay there for very long. The battle many people have is thinking that the only alternative to being negative is being positive. And if you are hurting, exhausted, stressed, lonely or sad then making the jump to positivity is like trying to leap from one side of the Grand Canyon to the other. And attempts at doing that can leave us feeling even more hopeless and disappointed if we can’t summon the positivity we think we should be able to.

But actually you don’t have to do that. There is an alternative.

Neutral thinking

This is a truth and behaviour-based method of thinking that focuses on the objective facts, without judging or grading. The simplest example?

  • The glass is half full (positive).
  • The glass is half empty (negative).
  • The glass is refillable (neutral).

I like neutral thinking because it’s just an honest statement of fact. But also because it moves us out of the negative headspace - and that’s actually the most important thing here. You don’t have to be more positive to see the benefits in your life, just less negative. We want to get you away from being stuck in the physical and mental impact of negativity - and neutral thinking will achieve that. And doing that is enough to make a difference in how you feel every day. 

Why choose neutral thinking?

Here are some of the benefits of training yourself to choose neutral, instead of negative thinking if positive isn’t available to you.

  • It roots you in the present moment and stops you from spiralling off into fear or anger.
  • You’re focusing on the facts, rather than on a value judgment about the situation.
  • Stating facts feels more credible, honest and true to yourself rather than forcing positivity if it’s not what you feel.
  • Neutral thinking doesn’t make you feel positive but it does take you out of a negative headspace and that’s actually the most important thing.

By opting for neutral thinking you avoid toxic positivity (which is as harmful as negativity). Here are a few examples of swapping toxic positivity for a neutral statement that will actually be more empowering:

  • Things could be worse (toxic positivity). Things are really tough right now (neutral statement of fact).
  • I need to get over it (toxic positivity). This is hard but I can do hard things (neutral statement of fact).
  • Failure is not an option (toxic positivity). Failure is part of growth and can be a great learning lesson (neutral statement of fact).
  • Delete negativity! (toxic positivity) Suffering is part of life and I am not alone (neutral statement of fact).
  • Good vibes only (toxic positivity). It’s ok to not be ok (neutral statement of fact).

What's crucial here is how this shift will make you feel . Neutral thinking frees you up from the tension of trying to live up to some perceived external standard and just allows for acceptance of what is. Which is the starting point for every great change in life.

We live our lives based on the blueprints for thinking that we acquired as children and often don’t realise how stuck in other people’s ideas and habits we really are. One of those is often that we need to be positive. And this is holding us back more than we realise. This is why finding other ways to respond when life feels hard can make you feel much more empowered

One of the reasons resilience coaching is so powerful is it gives you the chance to rewrite your blueprint with new information and data. So that you can enjoy a way of thinking and feeling that really works for you - and create the life you want. Book a free 10-minute intro call with me to find out how this works.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Winchester, Hampshire, SO23
Written by Alex Pett
Winchester, Hampshire, SO23

Alex is an ICF trained and NLP cert coach focused on helping people to deepen their resources to adapt and bounce back - and go on to thrive. She works with resilience to help clients build confidence, motivation, recover from burnout, set boundaries, find joy and move beyond limiting beliefs. Clients achieve tangible change in 6-9 sessions.

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