The Power of Positive thinking....a bunch of bullshit?

Is that some crap they tell people so that people wont kill themselves?
Why I came up with this topic.

I had a fantastic job right out of college and then was laid off after the financial meltdown of 2009. Found myself working at a large institution, greatly underpaid ( instead of riding out SSI like some people, I got back on the hog after being unemployed for only 3 months) and continually striving for success at my new company. Since then I am still here, hating life, trying to get another job as soon as I can…Had numerous interviews and have not gotten 1 offer ( 5 different interviews, many of which, I have made it to the final round)
At least 3 different instances I walked out of the interview thinking " fuck yea, this is great! I killed it" only to be disappointed in the weeks to follow… :frowning:

I remained positive throughout all of them and quite frankly am burnt out…but I dont want to fail! I cant allow that to happen so I press forward. :slight_smile:
Ive read various positive thinking pieces or I guess they would fall under sales and self help… and cant help but becoming more and more cynical and negative as each day passes.

I look back to the days when I was “high on life” at my old job and realize I was a completely different person ( frankly, someone I miss) :frowning:

So the question bears, is all this positive thinking crap, just that? A bunch of crap?:confused::confused:

I sympathize with your post, and I am looking forward to the answers as well. I didn’t lose my job, but took another job that I thought was in improvement.

I especially share this sentiment:

Sometimes life is hard. These are tough times.

You have gainful employment, healthy, not homeless and presumably well fed and clothed.

You have went on *5 interviews *without an offer?

Forgive me for saying, but perhaps your perspective is a bit askew?

it may be…all were for jobs that I was well qualified for and in my industry (finance/sales) it is extremely competitive
i know for a fact that some positions i was gunning for were filled with people with more experience than me and that battle is hard to win…it just makes more business sense to hire someone with 6 years as opposed to 2-3 years experience :smack:

what really stings, is that my manager told me " i could hire someone off the street with your experience and pay them 15k more because thats what the market says your skills are worth… " after I was told I was getting a promotion only to have HR classify it as a lateral transfer and got a minimal raise…

Yes, it’s a bunch of crap.

In general, positive thinking makes you more pleasant to be around and temporarily may brighten your mood if you believe hard enough. But no matter how hard you believe, how you spin the facts of your life, deep down, you know the truth of your situation and the economy around you, and how long your odds are. Sooner or later, reality catches up with you, and smiling and being positive won’t change that.

Don’t be afraid to acknowledge when things suck. All that happy pretending takes too much energy. Learn instead to be grateful for the life sustaining things you have. You have a job you hate. Many, many others, do not have a job at all.

I heartily recommend the book Bright-Sided, How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America by Barbara Ehrenreich. It’s an eye opener.

Don’t feel bad about feeling bad. You aren’t wrong.

Is it possible that your’re not actually being “greatly underpaid,” but that you were being overpaid at your last job, and that might have something to do with why the company had to lay people off? Everybody thinks they’re worth more than they make, and your boss’s assessment of your market value could be out of date in the current climate.

I’m not trying to put you down, but you’re young and you admit you don’t have a lot of experience. What you’re describing in your OP just sounds like the real world to me. Welcome to it.

I appreciate your objective response, but the pay was downright despicable. I knew that going into the job, but thought, " hey, at least I’m already “in” and can work my way up the chain thataway" haha…now i see it…“welcome to the real world” hahaha

This is very true…Self Awareness is crucial

How would negative thinking improve your situation? If you had a bad attitude, would still have received the promotion? Is no raise better than a minimal raise?

Yes, the Secret and all that stuff is…just stuff and nonsense. Sure it helps to have a good attitude and outlook, but that doesn’t mean that you are going to attract money and jobs to yourself. By a similar token, you don’t necessarily attract bad things to yourself either just by thinking about them.

Consider this: Would starving people be better off if they just thought about attracting food and wishing away the warlords?

Im not saying that having the opposite attitude would change…
What I was getting at, I suppose, is reality when it settles in, can either be in or out of ones favor.

I have many things for which I am grateful, my professional status right now, is not one of them

I won’t go as far as to recommend it for everyone, but pessimism, misanthropy, and hopeless despair have always worked pretty well for me.

Lower your criteria for success.

There are poor-ass tribes out in the middle of nowhere Africa who can celebrate and be happy dancing around a fire. They don’t have jobs at large institutions that pay anything, they don’t have any possible job interviews lined up, they don’t have college degrees to propel them, they don’t have nice condos, cars, or flushing toilets.

Yet they can be happy, while you’re sitting here miserable. Why?

Because they have a lower criteria of what they need to have to be happy. If no one they know dies from diseases or wild animals this week, that’s reason to be happy. If they manage to stay full of food for a day, that’s reason to be happy.

Most people are inherently very negative. We’ve been brought up in a society that’s told us we’re never good enough. You finished Junior High? Awesome, but you’re not successful yet, you have to finish High School. You graduated from High School? Awesome, but you’re not successful yet, you have to go to a good college. You graduated from Harvard? Great! But don’t be silly, of course you’re not a success yet, you have to get a high-paying career to be a success. You’ve got that career? Shit, that’s great…but now let’s look at the rest of your life…you don’t have a BMW yet. You don’t have your own house yet. You don’t have a wife yet. You don’t have kids yet. You don’t have 6-pack abs yet. You can’t be a success until you have all those things!

The problem is even if you achieve all those things, you’re still just another guy who spent his life basing his self-worth on external things.

You can’t be happy until you’re being highly paid doing a job that you specifically want, and even when you get it all you’ll do is transfer that onto something else. Bob beside you will be making a few thousand dollars more and you’ll be miserable about that. Sally at another company will buy a BMW and you’ll be miserable that you can’t afford one of those and if you can just get a few thousand dollars more salary and a BMW THEN you’ll be happy. THEN you can finally be a “success”!!

…except you’ll just keep adding more and more silly external goals to shoot for to keep yourself in a state of misery…until you learn to base your happiness on smaller things, and learn to get your self-validation internally instead of externally.

I just ate a steak. It wasn’t steak from The Keg or anything, it was just from the grocery store, and it wasn’t even technically a real T-Bone steak or anything, it was a pork steak shoulder. But it was delicious. For me, today is an awesome day, I got to eat a steak! That rules and as far as I’m concerned my day is awesome. :slight_smile:

My criteria for success is very low, it doesn’t take much to make me happy. That doesn’t mean I don’t strive to achieve big goals, but I approach them in a positive optimistic way full of tons of little successes instead of beating myself up the whole way for not achieving one huge success. You and I will both achieve our goals, but your day to day is full of :frowning: and mine is full of :slight_smile: It’s naturally easier for me to achieve my goals because I go “shit, I didn’t get the job…that sucks, but hey, at least I have one in the meantime, and I can apply for another one at another place later in the week, and hey, I have this delicious steak! Life ain’t so bad!” so I get right back up and try again without it negatively affecting my psyche for more than a couple minutes.

You’ll probably get a job if you just keep applying. But if you don’t get a job, it might be time to reconsider what’s really important for your self-worth. This is pretty much the whole message of Fight Club’s first half with the guy’s Ikea furniture burning up. “You are not your fucking khakis.” and all that jazz.


I agree heartily. Read this book if you can find it. “You have it better than so many others” is indeed the truth, but your unhappiness with your situation is real too, and won’t go away by shaming yourself for feeling badly when others have it worse.

I read somewhere (so take it for what it’s worth) that optimists often crash harder than people who have a bit of a negative outlook. The pessimists saw it coming, but the optimists just hold on, telling themselves to be happy despite reality, then one day crash because they finally can’t lie to themselves anymore.

I just don’t like the idea that “if you start each day with a smile, you’ll get somewhere! And if you fail, it must be because you didn’t try/smile hard enough!”

It’s extremely difficult for people to accept that life can just BE good. There isn’t always an “other shoe” that’s going to drop. They sit and look at a positive person and go “ya but SOMEDAY that guy is gonna’ come CRASHING down when he realizes life is actually miserable and shitty like us realistic people KNOW it is!”

It’s like, relax, life is good. If you’re unhappy with your circumstances, attempt to change them. If it turns out to be hard to change them, well, you wouldn’t appreciate it as much if it wasn’t a challenge right?

It doesn’t mean a job offer is going to fly down from the clouds and shower you with money. You still have to work, gain experience, you may even need a little luck to help you out…positivity isn’t a magic pill. I couldn’t decide tomorrow to be a doctor and just “be positive” about it and suddenly be working in a hospital the next day.

Positive thinking doesn’t eliminate bad situations, it’s just a way of reframing bad situations so that they don’t cripple you if they happen. Silver lining on every cloud and all that jazz. :slight_smile:


Life is a struggle, but sometimes you can choose what to struggle against. Maybe a new field of work would be a better solution for you. I never liked sales because it seems to me that you’re banging your head against the wall 95% of the time. I went into the service field instead and found that I’m only banging my head against the wall about 10% of the time. It also helped that I started my own business instead of working for someone else. Could that be a possible solution for you?

I would recommend it for everyone, just so I wouldn’t have to deal with these relentlessly cheery idiots I seem to be unable to escape from.

The power of positive thinking is closely related to self-fulfilling prophecy. To learn more about self-fulfilling prophecy, read about The Pygmalion Effect or “Pygmalion in the classroom”. In a nutshell, people behave in ways which make what they believe will happen actually more likely to happen.

On the other hand, if you expect the worst you should be more happy when the worst does not happen. Some time ago I read that the happiest people on earth (Norwegians?) are that way.

There is a lot of self-help happy crappy out there; “The Power of Positive Thinking” is not part of it, though. Scientific studies have shown that positive thoughts activate the same parts of the brain that are affected by selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) which everyone and their dog (literally!) are being prescribed these days for the depression/anxiety epidemic that we are experiencing.

I think where you might be getting confused is that accepting is not the same as enjoying or liking - you can accept what is actually going on in your life without liking it much, but you can’t really get anywhere with your own life without accepting where you’re starting from. I’ll give you an example from your OP. Accepting means saying something like, “I don’t like my current job, and I’m looking for a new one.” Negative thinking goes like this, “I hate my job, I hate my life, I’m tired of this crap, and nothing good will ever happen for me.” Positive thinking goes like this (positive thinking must stay realistic to be effective - just lying to yourself doesn’t work either); “I don’t like my job right now, and I’m badly underpaid, but I’m doing the things it takes to get another job and sooner or later something will shake loose - it always does.” Look at both those statements - which one honestly looks more true to you?

I know that positive thinking works from my own life; I have a few pet positive thoughts that I trot out when I feel low, and I can feel my mood lift instantly when I say them to myself.

One danger I see in “positive thinking” (at least certain forms of it) is a massive compassion deficit. After all, if a person can be anything they want to be just by being cheerful and working hard, why should we extend any sympathy to anyone who is down on their luck? It’s their own damned fault for being so negative!

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been clinically proven to get results. I don’t have any beef with it.

However, whenever I hear the phrase “Positive Thinking” I associate it with the crazy shit in Barbara Ehrenreich’s book and I cringe. There are some people who take the notion of “Positive thinking” and turn it into Magical Thinking.