Are you trying to be positive when you’re miserable? Don’t be. Choose honesty instead

September 12, 2022

I often hear people with pain and other chronic health conditions say something like the following: “I am really struggling right now and I feel that talking about how much it sucks is negative. I need to be more positive.” OR, “I am trying to be positive, but it is so hard!” What’s wrong with just being honest and saying how we actually feel rather than ignoring it or making up a different reality? Why is it negative to express true feelings? On top of this, many of us judge ourselves for not “being positive.”

If this describes you, isn’t it exhausting hiding reality and isn’t self-judgment really the ONLY negative in these situations? So, in our attempt to be positive when we don’t feel positive, we are ignoring reality (a negative choice), and then we judge ourselves when we face reality and honestly express ourselves because we think we are being negative (another negative choice). Where in any of these scenarios are we doing ourselves any good??

This all said, this isn’t license to moan and groan all the time and abandon the power of positive thinking and not look for the good in all things. This is merely the opening to a discussion about putting “positivity” and “negativity” into perspective.

I live with a painful, life changing neurological movement disorder called dystonia and I know how hard it is to be positive and how it feels to be told by others that all we need to do is be more positive, which is basically a disregard for how hard we struggle. While others put the muzzle on our true feelings, we then do it too! All in the name of “being positive” which might not be our reality at the moment, because if you feel like shit, say you feel like shit. Don’t spin it into something else. Say it as it is, but be careful about ALWAYS only talking about the tough times in life. There has to be a balance.

I personally look at all challenges as an opportunity to practice patience, introspection, self-discipline, self-compassion, courage, humility, and gratitude. I look for the silver lining in all obstacles, but this doesn’t mean that I ignore painful parts of my reality. I just don’t let myself become consumed by them. So, sharing negative feelings can a good thing so we can purge these emotions, but if this is all we do, then it becomes problematic. We need to be honest, deal with our personal truth, and then move on with peace and grace.

For many years I suffered with brutal symptoms of pain, along with severe involuntary muscles contractions 24/7, anxiety, and deep depression. “Being positive” was not even in my vocabulary. I wanted to die and everything in life sucked! That was my reality and if you read my story, you will see just how profound my depths of helplessness and hopelessness, and I still suffer with all of the same challenges to varying degrees and I am NOT uncomfortable at all sharing it, versus hiding the truth and fighting to “be positive.” Isn’t it actually MORE positive to face the things we are struggling with, talking through them with supportive people, and then moving on?

To me, being positive is a mindset where we acknowledge the struggle and focus on solutions rather than problems. It is about looking at obstacles as challenges to overcome rather than setbacks. It does not mean denying the existence of mental and physical pain that everyone experiences to varying degrees. If we deny it or ignore it or try and “be positive” when all hell is breaking loose, there is no way through whatever challenge we are facing. I like to say that we need to FACE IT to EMBRACE IT to ERASE IT. It’s one of many forms of self-care and personal responsibility.

For those who have read my books (Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey or Beyond Pain and Suffering: Adapting to Adversity and Life Challenges) and/or my articles and blogs, you could make the claim that I am all about positivity. This is only true to an extent. My message is not, “just say and think positive thoughts and everything will be fine.” Not even remotely close, but that is how my message is sometimes perceived and how some people mean it when they talk about “being positive.”

It is more #stressful living in a fake world of #positivity or a #chronic world of pure #negativity, especially when neither is #reality. Click To Tweet

People sometimes feel they need to avoid talking about their pain and struggles with me because they think I will think it is negative. I think the absolute opposite. BE HONEST about how you feel so we can work on it and move past the pain. This is the positive approach because expression of true feelings means we are facing our problems honestly. It is more stressful living in a fake world of positivity or a chronic world of pure negativity, especially when neither is reality. We all have both good times and hard times in our lives.

So instead of “being positive,” be honest, realistic, and proactive. Work hard to accept that things are tough, roll with them, and be in a solution-oriented mindset rather than a reactionary one. I like to say, “how do I/we make the best of a difficult situation.” This is a non-reactionary, non-emotional, rational way of recognizing that a tough situation exists and there are ways to make it better if we are open to options, rather than shutting down and pretending things are fine when they are not fine. We MUST find a way to cohabitate with our pain/problems, and a big part of this approach is to acknowledge how we feel in an honest manner so we give ourselves a better chance of working through the pain rather than working around it, and this goes for any tough time in life.

Once again, it is a positive approach to be honest because expression of true feelings means we are facing our problems. It is more stressful living in a fake world of positivity or a chronic world of negativity, especially when neither is reality.


Tom Seaman is a Certified Professional Life Coach in the area of health and wellness, and the author of 2 books: Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey (2015) and Beyond Pain and Suffering: Adapting to Adversity and Life Challenges (2021). He is also a motivational speaker, chronic pain and dystonia awareness advocate, health blogger, volunteer for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) as a support group leader, and is a member and volunteer writer for Chronic Illness Bloggers NetworkThe Mighty, and Patient Worthy. To learn more about Tom, get a copy of his books (also on Amazon), or schedule a free life coaching consult, visit Follow him on Twitter @Dystoniabook1 and Instagram.


6 responses to “Are you trying to be positive when you’re miserable? Don’t be. Choose honesty instead”

  1. I want to know how do I deal with dystonic tremor in my right hand. And cannot write holding a pen is impossible I have no support

    • Tom Seaman says:

      I am so sorry. The only thing that comes to mind in the moment is to try different sensory tricks. Perhaps also trying to use your other hand to write. Also, I would look into different exercises (for neuroplasticity) to see if that might help.

  2. Amy DeHart says:

    Excellent article, Tom. It is hard to stay positive when we are in so much distress. Thank you for speaking up for all of us.

  3. I love this! Great advice.

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