How Pretending to Be Positive Permanently Changed My Social Life for the Better
Going from fake positive thinking to actual positive thinking and dropping cynicism
Sometimes cynicism can have its moments, but most of the time it makes things worse. This is a story of how a cynical solution to an issue turned out to lead to an end to cynicism. I was in my early thirties and a long term relationship had ended. My life, to be honest, was pretty crappy. Then I met this woman who was a lot of fun, in a kind of hippyish way, very new age and really not my type. But I really liked hanging out with her. We spent a few weeks together and it felt like things were going really well. I was coming back to life, or so I felt. Then the hammer dropped.
She asked to get together and then got directly to the point. She told me she really liked me and wanted to spend more time together but that she had decided not to. When asked why, she told me that I too negative and cynical and it ended up bringing her down, even when we were otherwise enjoying ourselves. This was a shock to me as I’d always considered myself one of those ‘bright sides of life’ people. But here was someone I respected telling me the opposite. I had no idea how to respond (that in itself was new!) and she said she was sorry and left. I could see the conversation had been hard on her and it certainly was for me. What to do?
After thinking about it for awhile I arrived at a very cynical solution. I would do a week long experiment. Every time I interacted with anyone I would be relentlessly positive, upbeat, and encouraging, even if I wasn’t feeling it at all under the surface. I would fake it.
At first it really required effort and I felt that my conversations must sound incredibly phony to those I was talking to. But I kept it up, being cheery with bartenders, store clerks, people on the street, my family, co-workers, and friends. I encouraged schemes that made no sense to me and was lavish with praise. At first it was like a weird game that I had to work at. But slowly a transformation began, one I didn’t see coming.
People noticed the change and complimented me on it
Someone said to me well into the week that I seemed a lot happier. They wondered why. Of course I said something motivational and upbeat. But then another person made the same observation. This time they seemed to think something transformational had happened with me. And I was starting to feel it. I reached the end of my week long experiment and discovered something- I did feel better and I liked myself better when I was not tearing things apart or being jaded. And I actually did not want to go back to ‘normal’.
A few days later I ran into my ex and we discussed some stuff we needed to deal with. I was positive in a situation that had typically descended into an argument and one party being very frustrated. I refused to play that game and she gave me a look that said, what is going on with you? Then she said that I felt different to her. This was not a reconciliation- we both had agreed that our thing was done, but we did leave without bad feelings for once. Just that was transformative for both of us.
Leaving your cynical youth aside is a sign of maturity
I decided to drop the cynical skin I’d gotten so accomplished at wearing and stick with the positive where possible. I started to see how cynicism is a shield and a form of immature communication. Most teenagers adopt it as a coping mechanism, but many don’t outgrow it. I had been fortunate to catch myself before it became more self-destructive and ingrained, all because of some shock therapy and being a fake positive person for a week!
What about the girl?
After a few weeks of learning about this new self and getting more comfortable with it, I called the girl and told her I wanted to thank her for something important. We met and I told her this story. We did spend some time after but she was an itinerant soul and we eventually went our separate ways. But that itinerant soul did me a major favor by simply standing her ground and speaking the truth, even when it was painful. I’m forever grateful for that.