It is about how I have maintained a positive outlook even though I was often critical of positive thinking and self help ideas.
I trust that my story gives you a little insight into why I am now so impressed with positive psychology.
I have maintained a positive outlook
Over the years I’ve maintained an optimistic outlook on life. I believe this is good and helpful. Slowly I’ve overcome my shyness. I’ve built up my confidence and security in my relationships with others. I’ve learnt to keep my thoughts focused on the positive and not to dwell on negative experiences. I would also like to think that I’ve been a positive influence on others.
I have also resisted the temptation to spiral into self pity – usually! I am now more at ease with myself than I was in my earlier years. Yes, I build my self esteem but not by any techniques of positive thinking but by keeping my optimistic outlook with plenty of realism and gradually the humility that I aspired to. In my family life I have found that these help me to be the husband and father that I want to be.
I’ve been critical of positive thinking
Since studying psychology at university I’ve been aware of issues related to self esteem. Very early on I became very critical of some of the positive thinking approaches to building your self image. They just sounded selfish and self indulgent and quite unrealistic. I also believed in serve others and putting them first so I struggled with the idea of thinking of myself too positively, even though I often came over more arrogantly than I would admit.
My introverted personality type and tendencies to be melancholic have produced their own issues. I have learnt to cope with the stresses of life that always keep coming but I never really found the self help type approach very useful. I wasn’t comfortable making affirmations I knew not to be true. Often I find myself more concerned with helping others than dwelling on my own problems.
I’m impressed with positive psychology
Over the past couple of I have developed an interest in the relatively new school of thinking called positive psychology. I started with Martin Seligman’s accessible book Authentic Happiness before moving onto some others. What impresses me is the way that they take the idea of being positive and developing character strengths without hyping it up into unreality or selfishness as a lot of positive thinking exponents have done in the past. In fact he sees attitudes such as humility and cautiousness as positive strengths to develop.
As someone who, like many of us, is still working on my diet and sometimes on keeping my temper I have found positive psychology’s ideas about developing self control helpful. In positive psychology the idea of positive thinking often equates to hope and optimism. I am learning to be aware of when optimism can bring about a positive outcome by building a healthy confidence. This is the real value of encouragement.