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Just Think Positive?

She said, I don’t want to be here. Why can’t I just think positive? What is wrong with me that I can’t think positive right now? And she continued to beat herself up because she couldn’t “flip the switch” and suddenly want to be there excited about competing.


This fall I got a call from one of my college clients. She’s a Division I elite level swimmer. She was at a competition and struggling with “thinking positive”. If you know anything about college swimming, once competitions start in September, they don’t stop until your late November or early December invitational. Add school work into that equation and making up school for travel days, and it can be brutal! And she was exhausted.

She didn’t want to be there, she was tired and she was having a hard time finding a good attitude. She admitted it. And when she went to her coaches to get some “motivation”, she got a “just think positive” from them.

She did her best to “think positive” but was failing miserably. So, she called me. She said, I don’t want to be here. Why can’t I just think positive? What is wrong with me that I can’t think positive right now? And she continued to beat herself up because she couldn’t “flip the switch” and suddenly want to be there excited about competing.

Two things dawned on me. First, we, as women are really hard on ourselves, aren’t we? We show so much love, compassion and grace to our friends and our family, and we show very little to ourselves. We beat ourselves up and wonder, What is wrong with me?

And second, we have really confused the term, “think positive.” So often, we think that to “think positive”, we must be happy, excited, cheerful and hopeful, all wrapped up with butterflies, rainbows and cotton candy. Ever notice that? And I think we’ve confused this term, because the term has been overused and abused for a long time! Whenever we struggle and we have the courage to admit it to someone, we usually get a, “just think positive.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am a 100% believer in thinking positive. But let’s be real. When life is going well, it’s really easy to think positive. But when we hit those inevitable moments in life when there isn’t a whole lot to be positive about, it can be a struggle.

If you know me well, you know I don’t like “fluff.” I like to talk about the real stuff; the dark, ugly, embarrassing stuff no one likes to talk about. So, when I hear “just think positive”, it frustrates me. Because I want to know HOW to think positive. How do you think positive when life is not going well, you are exhausted, you haven’t had a good competition in months, school is ready to break you and you are deflated and disappointed from failure after failure. Please! Tell me how! Because I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a “switch” that I can just flip and I suddenly turn into this positive, happy, cheerful woman that’s just so excited about life.

My client didn’t have that switch either.

Here’s what I told her; First, stop beating yourself up! You would rather be in bed watching Netflix right now, right? A big YES! was her answer. Of course you do. There’s nothing wrong with that. You don’t have to feel bad about that, or think something is wrong with you because you’d rather be under warm covers, dry and happy.

BUT, the reality is that you are at a competition. And here’s what I know about you; you are a fighter, and you are not the type of woman to ever dive in and not give 100%. Right? She knew it. She answered, “Right.”

Ok. Stop thinking you have this switch that you can flip and all of a sudden you’ll be thrilled to be there, filled with energy, excitement and rainbows! You’re allowed to be positive but real.

She exhaled. Oh, so I’m not a weakling or a negative person for feeling this way? I’m normal and allowed to feel it? Something clicked for her. She let herself off the hook and stopped beating herself up. She’s human. BUT the coolest part was that she realized she had to take responsibility for herself. She knew that it was her responsibility to turn this around and start thinking positive. But not the “positive” that we have confused it to be. It’s not always rainbows and cotton candy. It’s reality. And sometimes reality ain’t pretty. She knew she had to find her “positive but real”.

“I don’t necessarily want to be here, I’m tired and grumpy and cold. I admit it. BUT the reality is, I am here. And I am a fighter. And I will fight my ass off every time I compete.”

She ended up having a great competition. She fought her ass off actually.

I thought about what would have happened if she would have walked away from her coaches and just continued to struggle. She would have done the whole “fake it til you make it”, but down deep, she would have known the truth. Down deep, she would have just accepted defeat. She would have accepted that she can’t “flip the switch”, and she would have never taken responsibility for herself. She would have never taken responsibility to find “her positive but real.” (FYI: The “down deep” in women is very powerful. It wins every time. More blogs on the “down deep” in a woman soon.)

Life is not always rainbows and cotton candy. Life can be brutal. Life inevitably brings disappointments, failures, tragedies and heartbreak. We go through “slumps”, we get exhausted, we struggle. And that’s ok. But we must take responsibility for ourselves.

Instead of beating yourself up for not “thinking positive”, instead of beating yourself up for not being able to “flip a switch” and suddenly be cheerful and full of sunshine, let yourself off the hook. Allow yourself to be real, but take responsibility for your reality, even when that reality ain’t pretty. Find “your positive but real.”







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