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What I learned about positivity and why sometimes you should be negative

young woman

(Private photo)

Negativity and hate are something that I have been dealing with for as long as I can remember. Ever since kindergarten, I have had trouble making and keeping friends. And this tendency didn’t really go away – it only intensified the older I got.

I used to blame others for my failure to create and maintain relationships, and my mum would tell me that God always has a plan for us and if something was meant to happen it will.

However, the more I grew up, the more the whole destiny and God narrative didn’t make sense to me anymore. The advice that my mum and my friends were giving me to ignore the situation and to suppress my feelings was not the way to go for me.

Thinking that I was perfect, but everyone else was wrong and the world was against me was simply not true. To illustrate this phenomenon of ignoring negativity and pretending problems don’t exist, I want to share a personal story.

The first time I felt true rejection is when I wasn’t accepted at the high school of my dreams. I had known the high school where I wanted to study since middle school. I used to live in Sofia, and at that time the Spanish high school was one of the top-rated high schools in the country.

And not a single one of them actually said the truth

I really wanted to get accepted there because that was the only way that I could make my mother proud. All she would ever talk about was how when I got into that high school, we would go and buy that uniform and buy those clothes and that backpack.

In other words, she had already planned everything and all I needed to do was to get accepted. That high school was kind of a tradition that ran in the family – my cousin went there; my older friends went there, and I was sure I was going to get in as well.

Because I was so sure it was my “destiny” I got lazy, I stopped paying attention in class and I would barely write any homework. I also didn’t take any preparatory classes because it was too much work and I preferred spending my time in front of the TV watching “Courage the cowardly dog”.

And to my utter surprise, 4 months later, I wasn’t accepted. I wasn’t even close to the grades they required for acceptance. I started crying, started doubting myself, started regretting not studying enough, started to feel jealous of all my classmates who got in that high school.

Then my friends and family would step in and they would try and console me by saying how bright I was, how much I studied and that I gave my best, how destiny and God had other plans in mind for me, how I should be more positive and grateful for the school that I actually got into, etc, etc.

And not a single one of them actually said the truth:

“Desi, you were lazy, you didn’t study, and your results reflect the lack of effort. This is the reality and it is up to you to deal with your emotions in a healthy way, draw your conclusions and create an action plan for the future”. I guess that was too much to expect from a fellow 12-year-old to say…

Little by little I started to realize that I shouldn’t blame God or destiny for my failures

Back then, this fake positivity felt good. I wasn’t mad at myself anymore. It was the world that was against me…or at least that is what I was telling myself.

Years passed (5 to be exact) and it was time for me to apply to universities. During my years in high school, I had plenty of time to think about the mistakes I made during middle school and little by little I started to realize that I shouldn’t blame God or destiny for my failures: I should blame myself.

I always liked this quote by the “great man and philosopher” Uncle Ben: “With great power comes great responsibility”. If you actually turn it around, it goes like this: “With great responsibility comes great power”.

So, the more responsibility I took for my own mistakes, the more I strived to develop myself, the more I strived for success and, ultimately, the more power I got over my own life. And with power comes opportunity.

I became better at realizing my own failings and acting upon them, I became more self-aware of my own negative emotions and I learnt how to embrace them, learn from them, act upon them and in the end, let them go, when they were no longer useful for my development.

The result? I graduated from high school with a diploma 5.98 out of 6.00, I got accepted at my dream university – Copenhagen Business School – and at my dream exchange university that I will be attending this fall – ESSEC Business School. Next stop? My master’s degree applications.

Although I would still like to succeed, my reasoning and my primary “why” has changed. I no longer want to please my parents or achieve success because I want to please other people. Now, I want to do it for myself, because it was long overdue.

I hope that my experience might push you to adopt a new paradigm and start seeing positivity and negativity in a whole new light.

Here are the lessons I’ve learned (so far):

1. Constant positivity is a form of avoidance, not a valid solution for life’s problems.

Being constantly happy and satisfied with life and with my own situation made me complacent, passive and lazy.

While there is something to be said for “staying on the sunny side of life”, the truth is, sometimes life doesn’t go as planned, and the healthiest thing I could do is take responsibility for my own mistakes, stop blaming my parents for trying to make me feel good by feeding me false positivity and make an action plan that would help me avoid the same mistakes in the future.

2. Negative emotions are a necessary component of emotional health. To deny that negativity is to perpetuate problems rather than solve them.

It took me about 5 years to realize that destiny and God were not what was going to get me those university acceptance letters. It was me. The more I realized that it was my own actions which brought me here, the more I started to feel the pain and fear of rejection.

However, this time I didn’t ignore them. I navigated through my emotions, understood where they came from and, little by little, I was able to alleviate the pain by taking responsibility for my own mistakes and building my own future.

Balance is key to a successful and fulfilling life. And that statement is not only true for diet and exercise. Negative emotions are a necessary evil that helps us better understand our psyche and reach our fullest potential.

3. Problems add a sense of meaning and importance to our life

When I forced myself to stay positive at all times, I denied the existence of my life’s problems. And when I deny my problems, I rob myself of the chance to solve them and generate happiness. Thus, to duck our problems is to lead a meaningless (even if supposedly pleasant) existence.

If it wasn’t for my high school rejection I wouldn’t have had an end goal in mind to get accepted in the best business universities in Europe. And if it wasn’t for my challenging environment, I wouldn’t have developed a strong character.

To end on a positive note, I can state that after having dealt with multiple rejections in life, I don’t regret any of those missed opportunities. Not because other doors opened (which they did), but because it gave me the opportunity to explore my negative emotions, take responsibility for my own mistakes and improve my overall mental health.

For me, that’s a clear win.


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