It’s easy to be self critical, and most people have experienced an internal dialogue wherein they convinced themselves that they weren’t good enough. When we doubt our own ability to handle a challenge, or try to gauge if we deserve a promotion or some form of recognition, a lot of us look for flaws. We discover shortcomings and blow them out of proportion.
Psychologists talk about negativity bias: A person experiencing both a positive and a negative event will feel worse than neutral despite judging the events to be of equal importance and magnitude. The poor experience simply matters more to us.
The same thing happens when we look at lists of pros and cons, where we automatically assign greater value to the negative aspects. Similarly, many people spot threats before opportunities. Early in human evolution, this was quite useful, as we struggled every day to stay alive. Notice the animal creeping up on you, and don’t forget which plants might kill you if you eat them, and you stand a better chance of surviving, and thus to pass on you genes. And so we are stem from ancestors who excelled at spotting potential problems. Useful in todays world? To a degree, no doubt. But we can benefit greatly if we focus out attention more on what’s right and what’s working for us, since that’s what we need more of if we are to be successful – and happy!
In todays’ modern work environment, our love for the negative and our keen eye for potential hazards can be an unnecessary burden we carry with us. However, there is hope. By seeing the world through a more positive lens, we can counter our insticts. It’s time to notice whats good in the world.
Activity: Write down all advantages and positive aspects
Sit down, grab a piece of paper or your journal, and write “List of positives” at the top. Then proceed to making a list of all the things that count in your favor. The topic you focus on can be broad: What am I good at? It can also be more specific: Reasons why I’m qualified for the job I want to apply for, or Evidence that I can handle this project. This activity works at home as well: Evidence that I can manage my finances, or how about The advantages regarding my current living conditions. You’ll find positive evidence in past successes and experiences, feedback, education and training, recognition from others and so on.
Please note, that we are not talking about deceiving ourselves with false evidence. Recognizing the natural pull of bad news and negative aspects, all we are doing is balancing the evidence and thus leveling the playing field by giving the actual and real positive sides the attention they deserve. This comes not by itself, but it can make all the difference in your level of happiness. Try it out – set aside 15 minutes to come up with your list, and see how it adds perspective.
My Positivity List is a one of the 12 ways to happiness at work featured in the illustrated ebook The Happy Dozen, available for free download.