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I’ve been thinking a lot about personal narratives – the stories that you tell yourself about your life.  We all craft a narrative every single day, and our narrative can be positive or negative (or a bit of both). Maybe your narrative currently includes thoughts like: “I hate my job,” “I love my family,” “I need to lose weight,” “I live in the best city in the world!” or “I am so tired of being broke.”  These thoughts flit casually through our minds or are mantras that we brood on and obsess over.

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One of the aspects of personal narratives that I find interesting is how our thoughts can compound and grow into something bigger – both in a good way and a bad way.  I think a lot of us are aware of how one stress-induced moment can explode into something much, much larger.  An event that triggers a “God, I hate my boss!” narrative can quickly snowball…  You think the nasty thought every day for a week, and then you start gossiping about your boss with your coworkers, which only reinforces all those negative feelings.  Every time you interact with your boss, that narrative comes roaring back – even if your boss is being nice!  It’s so hard to let go of some narratives.  Before you know it, your entire job is poisoned.  You don’t just hate your boss – you hate your job, you hate your benefits, you hate everything about your office.

 

But positive narratives can have a similar impact. I’ve found that so much of life is choosing to be happy.  Choosing to be content.  Choosing to look on the bright side.  Choosing to have a positive narrative can turn a stressful situation into a lighter one.  I think many of us overlook the power of CHOOSING a positive personal narrative.  Because just like negative thoughts, positive ones can snowball, too.  A positive narrative impacts everything you do and everyone you interact it.  A positive narrative cannot change your circumstances, but it can make everything more enjoyable and easier.

 

Here’s the difficulty in choosing a positive narrative:  there is a lot of negativity in the world.  A ton of toxicity.  It’s everywhere, and because it’s constantly being spewed at you from all angles (with frenemies, with family, on reality TV, in magazines, online), it seems so PERVASIVE.  So in-your-face.  Don’t get me wrong – the positivity is there, too.  And there’s a lot of it – if you look for it.  But it never seems as loud or as urgent as the negative narratives.  The negative narratives can even be kind of fun – especially if you’re harping on someone else.  The positive ones sometimes feel… quaint. Or naive. Or just silly.

 

One of the things that I realized while pregnant was how important it was for me to eliminate all forms on negative talk about parenting.  And there is a LOT of negativity about parenting out there, both in real life and online.  Now – don’t get me wrong.  I understand venting (I do it), and I appreciate the need to be honest about parenting struggles (I do that, too).  One of the worst things our society does to mothers (and women in general) is make us feel like we can’t express anxiety, sadness, disappointment, or unhappiness in any way, shape, or form.  Expressing true emotions is not necessarily being negative.  In fact, it can be incredibly positive, both for the person speaking the truth and for the person who hears it and feels like, “I’m not alone!”  So many voices in our society say that we’re NOT allowed to express our difficult emotions – because if we do, we’re bad moms who don’t love our kids.  That’s silliness.  Difficult emotions are human, and difficult emotions can be part of a positive narrative.

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So I think it’s important to make the distinction that positive narratives don’t always whitewash the hardships of a situation.  It’s not that at all.  I think of positive narratives as, yes, being optimistic, kind, forgiving, and hopeful, but also being vulnerable and honest.  I don’t think it’s damaging to your personal narrative to think, “Man, I am really struggling here.”  But how you’ll feel about the situation depends heavily on whether you conclude that thought with “…But I can face my fears and do this” or “…Hell, this sucks, I’m going to pour myself another giant glass of wine and brood on it some more.” The negative narratives are hurtful.  Mean.  Snarky.  Toxic.  Maybe there are some things that I would consider negative that you wouldn’t and vice versa, but in general, I think it’s pretty clear what type of talk falls in each category.

 

Other mommas have probably encountered the snarky mommy narrative. You know what I’m talking about – blog posts about how pointless and stupid kids’ birthday parties are or memes about how children ruin your life.  Motherhood sometimes feels like it’s something to be laughed at or trudged through or survived.  The narrative is so, so mean – it’s a form of honesty, sure, but it’s nasty, too.  And I wonder about the impact of this negative narrative on our collective attitude about parenting.  Even if you have GREAT kids, if you see meme after meme about what a drain children are on your good-time life, do you slowly start to integrate that thought into your own narrative?  Honestly – I think you do.  There’s a point where it stops being something to just giggle at as you scroll through your Facebook feed.  If you keep exposing your mind to those messages, a little nibble of it sinks in.

 

I think this concept applies to many aspects of life:  work, relationships, health, family. What thoughts do you have about your life?  Where did these thoughts come from?  How are they influenced by others – in good ways or bad?

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Some  suggestions for developing a more positive narrative… (These are things that I continue to work on within myself every. single. day.  I’ve noticed that the more I actively work towards these principles, the happier I am. I don’t think the goal is to be ‘perfect’ in your positive thinking, but I try to put more eggs in my positive basket than my negative one.)

 

Identify Sources of Negativity:  I challenge you to consider how the people that you speak to, the articles that you read, the music you listen to, and the forums that you participate in influence your narrative about your life.  The connections between your negative narrative and negative sources of information may be direct – you’re struggling with parenting and are reading too many snarky mommy sites, which only reinforce your outlook.  But don’t forget that negativity brews negativity regardless of the source or topic.  Maybe you’re feeling really down-in-the-dumps about your body.  You’ve got a friend who is always complaining about not having enough money, status, material possessions.  Even though the two topics aren’t related, her attitude can impact yours.

 

I had a friend who recently went through a really hard breakup.  The woman was gone, but he was still really unhappy because her negativity had permeated everything about his life.  He declared that he was going to eliminate all sources of negativity.  He cut out everyone who treated him (or others) poorly.  He stopped reading depressing news articles.  He began to go to a more positive-focused church.  Cutting out the toxicity was the best thing he ever did – he was so much happier as a result.  He was still single, but he was exponentially happier – and then, when the right woman DID come around, he was open and ready for her.

 

So – consider unsubscribing from that magazine, turning off that reality TV show, logging out of that forum, or cutting off a relationship.  If you want a more positive narrative, the first step is removing negative ones, even if they feel unrelated.

 

Seek Out Sources of Positivity:  Replace the negative narratives with positives.  To me, this is the ultimate “fake it until you make it.” If you’re struggling with parenting, find positive but honest – not picture-perfect – moms to hang out with.  If you’re grappling with body image issues, fill your Facebook feed with positive messages.  If you’re struggling with finances, grab the bull by the horns and enroll in a budgeting course.  You get the idea – surround yourself with positivity, and you will become a bit more positive.  It’s really is that simple.  And when you are more positive, you can be that beacon of honesty positivity for others, which is so powerful!

 

Yes, it is a little quaint.  And yes, you may feel a little jaded about all the sunshine, kittens, and roses.  But just like negativity brews negativity, positivity brews positivity.  If you want to truly have a more positive narrative, you’ve got to begin by opening yourself up to outside sources of positivity.

 

Challenge Your Negative Thoughts:  When you do find yourself engaging in your negative narrative, you’ve got to turn that thought around.  Through Operation Beautiful, I’ve interviewed hundreds of teens and women, and the one thing that people consistently agree on in regards to positive thinking is this:  you have to replace your negative thought with something positive BUT realistic.  You can’t simply tell yourself that you’re a supermodel when you feel like the least attractive woman in the world – it will fall on deaf ears.  You can’t tell yourself that you absolutely adore every aspect of parenting when your toddler is having a meltdown and you haven’t had time to brush your teeth – you’ll laugh yourself silly!  But you can reframe your negative narrative with something like:  “My legs have cellulite on them, but they are also strong and capable” or “All mothers need a break every now and then – it’s normal that I feel frustrated in this moment.  This feeling won’t last.”  And – for goodness sake – if you need it, get yourself to therapy!  It can be an amazing process for deeply integrating these suggestions into your life.

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Have an amazing day.  <3

{ 82 comments }

 

Leave a Comment

  • Christina April 10, 2014, 8:16 am

    Amazing post! So well-written. I especially like “our thoughts can compound and grow into something bigger”- just hits the nail on the head.

    Reply
  • Jenn April 10, 2014, 8:53 am

    This is exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you <3

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  • Linda April 10, 2014, 8:56 am

    So thoughtful and well said. We can all use this reminder each and everyday.

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  • Alicia Hupprich April 10, 2014, 9:10 am

    This is a great article. Life is after all 10% how me make and 90% how we take it! Thanks for the tips and the honesty of how you deal with it. I enjoy how you keep things real on your blog. There is so much negativity that can brew in life, especially on the internet, but we have the opportunity to turn that negativity into positivity. Hope you have a great day!

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  • Kim April 10, 2014, 9:12 am

    Good heavens, I needed this today.

    Like really, really needed it.

    Thank you.

    Reply
  • Melanie April 10, 2014, 9:14 am

    Thank you for posting this! I need to hear this over and over again. I’ll come back and re-read this one alot to help me remember to stay positive and I can be happy!

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  • Randi April 10, 2014, 9:23 am

    Loved loved this article!!!! SO true. Fake it until you make it, and being optimistic totally rolls into other areas of your life and the power of the mind is amazing!!!

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  • Linda April 10, 2014, 9:24 am

    Wow – such a powerful post! Thank you so much for writing it. I wish this was a podcast that I could listen to first thing every morning. It’s brilliant – really and truly!!! Have a GREAT day!!!

    Reply
  • Lauren @ La Dolce Pita April 10, 2014, 9:26 am

    Caitlin, LOVED this post… it came at such a good time for me. Such great advice, thank you for sharing your insight! :)

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  • D April 10, 2014, 9:31 am

    Thank you for this post!

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  • Ellen April 10, 2014, 9:34 am

    I think this is a fantastic post. I never understood the negativity around parenthood. People act like they are martyrs because they have kids, but going into it you know it was going to be life changing. Sure some parts suck but for the most part its just life! You have to view it as any other aspect of your life. I hate negativity at the work place. I think it can be so draining. I feel if people bitch and hate their job so much that they are affecting others they need to go somewhere else. I had to find another job recently because of the negative atmosphere in my previous employment. It is like a breath of fresh air coming to work now. I have a great team and for the most part everyone is positive and work well together!!

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  • Katie @ Talk Less, Say More April 10, 2014, 9:42 am

    I love it! It took me YEARS to realize that I needed to choose a positive narrative for myself, that I needed to choose which thoughts I allowed to linger and which to leave as quickly as they came by, and even after YEARS of this practice and completely changing my life (and outlook on it), it’s still something that I struggle with from time to time, because as you said, there’s a lot of negativity out there. But also like you said, there’s a lot of positive too, if you’re willing to SEE it!

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  • Alexandra April 10, 2014, 9:52 am

    This is exactly why I follow your blog. Thanks for such an insightful post <3

    This topic resonates with me as I'm in the middle of exams, all my thoughts are "I hate exams, school, studying, essays etc." Serious snowball effect. It's so toxic. I'm only hurting myself! Time to add some positivity!

    Reply
  • Marci April 10, 2014, 10:00 am

    I think when a crappy situation comes around, you can sulk, be depressed, have your “life’s not fair” moment and cry to deal with those emotions that are natural, but then you have to move forward. Just last week I found out that baby #2 had a terminal birth defect that meant we had to terminate my pregnancy. It was the worst two days of our lives, but we are looking at the bright side that technology found this early, we are young, have one healthy child, and this defect was not genetic. It really helps to move forward, even though the situation is really crappy.

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    • Caitlin April 10, 2014, 10:08 am

      Oh my god. I am so incredibly sorry. So many hugs to you.

      Reply
      • Marci April 10, 2014, 10:42 am

        tell me about it! total shock. but seriously, choosing to be positive has made a major difference.

        Reply
  • Colleen April 10, 2014, 10:02 am

    Well said, and much needed on this Thursday!

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  • Abbey April 10, 2014, 10:13 am

    This is fantastic and exactly what I needed to read today. I’ve already forwarded it on to a number of coworkers. Too often (way too often) when there is discord the immediate (perhaps natural) reaction is to drag others into the unhappiness. ‘If I’m unhappy with my current situation, I want others to know why/how I’m being mistreated’. It’s a very self-centered way of thinking which I believe is the root of the negative thoughts. Thanks so much for putting this in perspective!

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  • Lindsay April 10, 2014, 10:16 am

    Is is an awesome post, and Exactly what I needed to read today! Thank you

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  • Katie April 10, 2014, 10:23 am

    Currently writing “CHOOSE A POSITIVE NARRATIVE” on a sticky note and putting it on my desk.

    I seem to be in a very full boat when I say: I really really really needed this.

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  • Ali April 10, 2014, 10:28 am

    I think this post is really timely for me. I’m going to a girls weekend with my friends from grade school and high school this weekend and I’ve been really dreading it. I’m the only single/no child(ren) one and usually I leave this group of friends feeling useless and like my life has zero meaning because I don’t have children or a husband. BUT, I’m happy. I’m going back for my PhD this fall, which is something I’ve always dreamed of doing and likely wouldn’t have been able to do if I had children because of moving, jobs, finances, my field, etc. Being married with kids isn’t the be all, end all for everyone and when I have friends who try to make me feel like I mean nothing to society because of that or that going back to school in your early 30′s is stupid because it’s not producing a family, it’s time to make a change. I’ve had to cut the toxic “friend” out before – it was extremely liberating when it was over but so hard going through it. I never regretted it though.

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    • Kelly April 10, 2014, 11:50 am

      Ali – this resonantes with me so much. Of my college friends, I’m the only one unmarried (well – divorced) without children. I also am the only one with a Ph.D. :-) I’m now in a VERY happy relationship, have a great job, and get to do what I want when I want. I used to get very down (still do at times – it just happens) about not having kids {yet or ever – regardless} but have realized that I have a really fun and active life that I’m happy with. In fact, some of my friends are jealous!! Not that they begrudge their children, but just that they envy my flexibility and free time. That actually helped me to reframe my thoughts – I AM lucky to have this life. If kids come my way eventually then I’ll be lucky because of THAT too… but in the mean time, I’m loving life!!

      Reply
  • Samantha B. April 10, 2014, 10:28 am

    I got a little choked up reading this. You are so right about reinforcing positive thoughts and changing out narrative. I really needed to read something like this today, so thank you!

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  • SHU April 10, 2014, 10:35 am

    I love this post, Caitlin. Especially about the overplayed and dangerous negative parenting cliches, and the need to actively replace the negative witht the positive.

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  • Christin April 10, 2014, 10:39 am

    Caitlin, this is so, so good. I’m bookmarking it to reread! This is the vibe your blog gives off, and it’s so uplifting. I do this negative narrative thing, sometimes and once you’re mired in it, it’s hard to pull yourself out. It becomes a lens… or a filter through which you perceive everything. It’s so important to step back and be grateful.

    I’m married and don’t have children yet, and I’ve been so disheartened by all the “children ruin your life” things I see posted on Facebook, in Pinterest memes, and even one-on-one with my friends who are mothers. I know a lot of them feel like they are being “real” or “honest,” but I think they overcompensate and the end result has been scaring me! “Enjoy your clean house now! Enjoy your free time now! Enjoy your sleep now!” Haha. I know I want kids (I’ve always wanted to be a mom.) but there is this underlying mentality of fear that is promoted by all the snarkiness and complaining. Ugh – I hate it. I don’t mean for this to sound like I’m slamming my mom friends (like I said, I often have a negative narrative, too) but it’s been something I’ve struggled with a lot this year.

    So thank you for the reminder, and for being that example of a positive mom who is honest about the struggles, but also free to share the blessings. I just love your blog! :)

    Reply
    • Stacy April 10, 2014, 4:59 pm

      Oh my gosh, Christin (and Caitlin), I’m in the exact same spot. We’re newlyweds, and all the negativity about having babies has literally made me cry because NOW I’m not sure what I want. So far, my friends with kids have me convinced that a.) having a child is going to ruin my married life. b.) the child will always be sick so I won’t be able to keep my job or travel c.) I won’t be able to do fun things anymore d.) I won’t have money anymore e.) I’ll be hugely “weighed down” by the responsibility of it all…are these things TRUE? I’m now so confused.

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      • Caitlin April 10, 2014, 5:08 pm

        NO! This is NOT true. My marriage is stronger than ever since we had kids. There is a lot of responsibility. A lot to do. Especially when they are young, the work is constant. Having an involved and supportive partner helps A LOT. Like, a million times. Have some super honest conversations with your husband about duties and involvement. Work on communication. Go to couples counseling (before you need it).

        I have managed to continue my career AND be an active parent. Sure, my work situation is unique, but I still travel for work a lot and we can make it work in a way that makes everyone happy. I didn’t have to ‘give up’ everything. I gave up some stuff, sure, but I gained a LOT more. On the flip side, many of my friends work full-time and love being working moms. Daycare isn’t necessarily this evil place it’s made out to be… So many of my friends have had great experiences (but yes – your child will probably be sick a lot!)> Some of my friends did NOT like working and have kids in daycare but they figured out ways to make their situations better (working part time or quitting or finding more flexible jobs).

        We still travel with Henry! We went on a cruise (AWESOME) and we go to the beach. Sure, we’re not jet setting around Europe, but those times will come again.

        We are a lot more broke :) That part is true. Kids are expensive. But I would personally rather be poorer with children than the other way around.

        But… oh my god. The JOY. I can’t tell you about the JOY of having a child! It is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO worth it, in my eyes. Maybe not everyone feels this way (actually, studies show that is definitely true – lots of people regret it). But I feel like 1/2 the battle is going in with your eyes open, having a support system, and CHOOSING to be happy. Sure, your life is NOT the same after kids… But life is never the same for long anyway.

        You’re a newlywed – so enjoy being a newlywed! Take three or four years just to be together, to get financially stable, to grow your career. Take some time for yourself. No need to rush into it, unless there’s a biological clock chiming or other health issues. All things in life have a season.

        And – if you decide you don’t want to have kids after all – that’s cool. I have lots of childfree by choice friends, and it was the right choice for them. Not everything is for everyone… but don’t let the negative narrative by others scare you. There’s so many things about parenting to enjoy. :)

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        • Stacy April 10, 2014, 5:33 pm

          Thanks so much for taking the time to respond Caitlin. I really think you are a great role model for staying grounded and just keeping everything in perspective. I think my husband and I would make GREAT parents, but you make a good point, we don’t need to think about it so much just yet! There isn’t a biological clock factor (I’m 27), so we still have plenty of time. I was thinking we’d start trying around my 30th birthday/our 3 year anniversary. I would want 2 children, but no more than 2, so that would give us time before the 35 year old risk increase is a factor.

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        • Christin April 11, 2014, 8:53 am

          Caitlin, this brought me to tears. Thank you so much. I think all the time I’ve spent around moms (I’m 30 so many of my friends have kids.) and listening to what I’m sure is just venting has really freaked me out. Like Stacy said, you are such a good example of a positive, balanced parent. (My friends are, too, but you know how friends often hear more of your venting than anyone else.) This encouraged me so much – thank you!!

          Reply
  • Kim L. April 10, 2014, 11:20 am

    This was an awesome post!!! We need more positivity in our lives and in our world. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

    Reply
  • Joy April 10, 2014, 11:23 am

    What a wonderful post to read this morning. Thank you! Cheers to the positives that can be found every single day in our lives.

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  • Kelly April 10, 2014, 11:47 am

    This is so spot on, Caitlin!! I love it. Thanks for sharing.

    I particularly like the idea of “cutting out” bad relationships. I’ve recently had to do this and while many people thing of that as a negative thing or a “bitchy” thing to do, I see it as the complete opposite. A few years ago, I attended a leadership training seminar in DC that taught me the idea of “nutritious people”. It was simple, but profound for me. I knew immediately who the nutritious people were in my life… and similarly who were the toxic ones. Cutting out toxic people isn’t always easy (e.g., if it’s your boss, a co-worker, a non-avoidable family member)… BUT you can certainly learn to protect yourself from them. I have avoided happy hours due to a current toxic co-worker. I thought I would feel like I was being anti-social and that I was missing out. The opposite was true – I was so happy to not spend an afternoon with a negative person who made me feel uncomfortable… and have since learned that I’m not the only one feeling this way. So, now I’m able to surround myself with those nutritious people who support and encourage me. It’s not “bitchy” … it’s life-changing.

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  • Lindsay April 10, 2014, 11:57 am

    Is that the Burlington Boat House?

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    • Caitlin April 10, 2014, 2:09 pm

      Yes :)

      Reply
  • Sara @ LovingOnTheRun April 10, 2014, 12:17 pm

    Love this post! Was exactly what I need to hear today!

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  • Shelley April 10, 2014, 1:31 pm

    Thank you so much for this! I love when you cover these kinds of topics, and I definitely needed this today.

    Reply
  • Kelly April 10, 2014, 1:32 pm

    Excellent post! Over the last year I have cut out so much negativity from my life. It is amazing how even one small change can make such a big difference. Facebook used to be a huge downer for me. I hid people, “unfriended” some and now “like” and follow so many uplifting, inspiring pages. My feed is now completely full of such wonderful positive posts. Social media is a huge part of our lives these days and it’s important not to get sucked into all the negative crap that goes along with it.

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  • David Emil Lombard April 10, 2014, 2:22 pm

    Amen to that!

    We are definitely ‘story-maker-uppers’…
    so raising awareness to help people tell themselves
    a more empowering story is a great service you’re doing, Caitlin!

    When I am speaking for entrepreneurial fitness professionals, chiropractors, nutritionists, etc… it always comes back to this inner work.

    You can have all of the strategies and tactics in the world to build your health and wellness business, but unless this area you spoke of is addressed,
    people tend to keep manifesting old beliefs…
    …so thanks again for raising awareness!

    Love & Light,
    David

    Reply
  • Elyse April 10, 2014, 2:37 pm

    One of your best posts ever! Thank you so much for sharing. I think about this all the time too. For me, choosing to be my best self (not perfect, just the best version of ME) a few years ago has had a huge positive effect on my life. I stopped letting negative people drag me down, started seeing me for me (not others’ version of myself), making positive life changes (being healthier, etc.) and learning to say no (a very important, yet difficult skill).

    As a runner, I often think about how a positive attitude can help so much with workouts. I usually love it, but sometimes I need to remind myself that getting to run is a privilege and I feel so grateful for my strong legs, the time to take care of myself and the beauty of the world around us.

    Thanks for reminding me of all of this this! Amazing post. :-)

    Reply
  • Hilary April 10, 2014, 2:52 pm

    This is so so so good. I decided to give up facebook for lent and I’ve been so much happier. Sometimes it’s not just surrounding yourself with negativity but comparing yourself to others that can make you feel down about your own situation. I don’t have to hear about all my friends gifted children, their amazing trips to France, their incredibly romantic/ handy husband, all their awesome activities they do with their myriad of friends. I get to feel happy about my own situation which,admittedly, is pretty awesome.

    Reply
  • Andrea April 10, 2014, 3:01 pm

    Like so many others have said – I needed this today. Thank you! I was seriously searching for something positive this morning and thought – let’s see what HTP has to say today. Thanks again!!

    Reply
  • Abi@AbsofSteel April 10, 2014, 3:28 pm

    this was a great post! I really appreciate how genuine you are, I’m a pretty positive person but this is a great reminder of why I should continue to try to be that way. It’s incredible how much of our happiness depends on our perspective on life and what we surround ourselves with.

    Reply
  • Amanda April 10, 2014, 4:13 pm

    Another great post Caitlin! I’ve been challenging my negative thoughts and have started a positive mantra of three words to repeat to myself. It seems to be helping! Also, I agree with cutting out toxic people and even tv shows. All of that reality crap really isn’t good for my head!

    Reply
  • Janette April 10, 2014, 5:11 pm

    Your latest post is why I follow your blog. As a mum of a 2 year old I enjoy reading about your role as a mother and what Henry is up to. I enjoy the food inspiration and definitely try and use your exercise discipline and enthusiasm to motivate me. Then you do posts like this one. Thoughtful, uplifting and inspiring and you raise the bar to a whole other level. Thank you for this post. It is one of the best things I have read in a long while.

    Reply
  • Michelle @ A Healthy Mrs April 10, 2014, 5:22 pm

    Great post! Lots of things to think about & be mindful of :)

    Reply
  • Ali April 10, 2014, 5:30 pm

    Love this! I’m nearing the end of my first year of university (procrastinating studying for exams right now, haha) and this blog post basically sums up what it took me months to learn. I was SO unhappy when I first started and was really focusing on all the negative things that were present (like a particularly bad prof or difficult week of tests), but I slowly began to realize it was about 50% what it was and 50% what I made of it. Since then, I’ve been able to slowly build up a network of positive people like I had in high school and began to make more positive changes in my life, and I am SO much happier for it! This is super-sappy, sorry, but I really can’t underestimate the power of a positive narrative on my day! Even little things like going for coffee with a good friend or leaving an OB note has such a positive effect. Thanks for such a lovely and well-timed post! :)

    Reply
  • Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat April 10, 2014, 6:42 pm

    Caitlin, I think this is one of my favourite posts from HTP! These are such great tips. I especially like the one about investigating the sources of negativity, because I think that needs to be addressed before anything else. It can seem difficult at first to cut negative people/things out of your life (and to identify them as negative) but I think the benefits far exceed the initial big decisions to do so. Great post!

    Reply
  • Kath April 10, 2014, 9:07 pm

    Wonderful post Caitlin! I try to seek out positivity each and every day, and it really affects so much of my outlook on life. There are people who think that if I note that I eat my lunch standing in the kitchen instead of at a white tablecloth that I *hate* my child. Seriously? Eye roll. If I let comments like this get to me I’d be in a tough spot. Thankfully I don’t!

    Reply
  • Sharon April 11, 2014, 12:47 am

    Wowzers. Thank you so much for this!

    Reply
  • Emily April 11, 2014, 3:43 am

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this post <3 I think "Catching Fire" said it right by the phrase: "Remember who the real enemy is" it's US. We're in complete control of ours thoughts and our choice to be happy. For me negative narratives are something I struggle with, regarding me being my harshest critic. Recently I failed a placement for nursing and I felt like a failure – but the way I look at it now is a learning experience and I have all the feedback to transform the way I practice and become a registered nurse.

    Via Facebook I like to put up positive memes as I feel that if I put a smile on one person's face each day that gives me a very positive narrative.

    I absolutely love the way this was written <3

    Reply
  • Runner Girl Eats April 11, 2014, 6:21 am

    I love this post and it was exactly what I needed to read this morning. I am always stopping myself from negative thinking and countering with a positive thought. It honestly does change everything.

    Reply
  • Ashley M. [at] (never)homemaker April 11, 2014, 8:13 am

    Great, great, great post, Caitlin!!!

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  • ZERO ZAVEC April 11, 2014, 9:43 am

    So well-written post. Amazed of every word!

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  • Caitlin P. April 11, 2014, 10:19 am

    I love this post and I’m reading it at such a coincidental time. I just watched the documentary called “Happy” yesterday and it was exploring a lot of similar themes. It explored what really makes people happy and how happiness really can be a choice – and in most cases, no matter your circumstances, it’s still a choice. It’s all about perspective, and having a positive perspective on life is such a powerful thing. :)

    Reply
  • Anna April 11, 2014, 10:22 am

    I really appreciated this post today (she types as tears drip onto her keyboard). I’ve been on the job hunt for about six months now, and I’m coming up to my one-year graduation anniversary. I have been so negative, because I feel like my job hunt is totally out of my hands (learned helplessness). I need to reframe my narrative. Maybe a change of mind will help me!

    Reply
    • Caitlin April 11, 2014, 2:53 pm

      Good luck with your job hunt :)

      Reply
  • Nicole April 11, 2014, 11:33 am

    There was a psychologist (http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200403/marriage-math) who somehow figured out that happily married couples have 5 positive interactions for every negative one. Unfortunately, we all DO (legitimately) hear the negative voices louder and are more apt to take criticism and pessimism to heart than we do compliments or optimism. The 5-to-1 thing is a good reminder for me personally, not just in my relationship or my friendships, but in my own self-talk as well.

    Thanks for this reminder.

    Reply
  • Stephanie @ Whole Health Dork April 11, 2014, 1:17 pm

    I couldn’t agree with your more! I think this is an important concept and I’m so glad you’ve written it! I’m surrounded by a lot of negative people where I work–and these are people that work with cancer patients! I don’t understand how they can complain about the menial things and feel bad for themselves when they’re treating people for terminal ilnnesses! To me, working with these people makes me grateful for all of the blessings I have in my life and makes me appreciate all the little things. It has actually made me a more positive person. It’s not always easy to be positive, it’s definitely something you need to work at, but I truly believe that, as you say, you can change your personal narrative! I wish I could print this out and hand it to people!

    Reply
  • nicoleandmaggie April 11, 2014, 1:56 pm

    In cognitive behavioral therapy, the reframing is called Positive restructuring. It’s a really valuable skill. And it isn’t all Stuart Smalley, you still restructure using the truth, but a positive version of the truth.

    I went to a talk last week that talked about how we get better at reframing things positively as we get older. It’s definitely a survival mechanism for getting through life.

    And, having a growth mindset, taking setbacks as learning experiences, helps a lot too. We can always learn and grow.

    The book, Crucial Conversations, also talks about how we can reframe other people’s negativity into moving forward, which allows us to make potentially negative conversations into positive ones that make real progress.

    So, to sum, we at grumpy rumblings whole heartedly endorse this post. (Despite the tongue-in-cheek title of our blog. Mostly we grumpily rumble at the patriarchy.)

    Reply
  • Cecily April 11, 2014, 2:49 pm

    This post really spoke to me, and I want to commend you on sharing your insights. I’ve been having a really hard time lately (actually just diagnosed with gluten intolerance- hello GF life!), and this post came at the exact right time. Thank you for addressing topics like this that show we’re all human beings, have negative thought sometimes, but can still be happy and productive. <3

    Reply
    • Caitlin April 11, 2014, 2:53 pm

      Sorry to hear about your diangosis. I wish you well!

      Reply
  • lynne April 11, 2014, 5:23 pm

    Well said! I don’t have kids yet but i think the ‘negative meme/sayings’ also bleeds into marriage-talk. And it drives me crazy!! Before I got married, people would joke about how life was so much easier before they got married or how guys are sooooo messy or ‘give it 5 years and you’ll understand needing to take a vacation with just girlfriends,’ or whatever it may be. And post marriage, when you ask someone how married life is, it seems more often than not, people will joke about it being a drag or talk about the annoyances. All in jest (hopefully) but it really drives me crazy. I’m almost 2 years married and when I realized most people choose to start with the negative, I decided to change the discussion when someone asks me. How is marriage? I love it. Yes, some days are hard but more than it’s hard, it’s the best. When people say they’re engaged, I don’t offer unsolicited, ‘well, kiss your independence goodbye!’, I talk about the things I love most about being married.

    To your point – it’s not refusing to acknowledge the hard parts and it’s certainly not saying everything is rainbows 100% of the time – but I think talking about the hard parts of marriage FIRST sets that underlying message of negativity. If we choose to share the GOOD things first, we all are happier and think about the positive aspects of our relationships and what we love about the person we picked to be our life partner – not a husband leaving his dirty dishes in the sink or a wife always taking too long to get ready.

    Reply
  • Eva April 12, 2014, 9:23 am

    Wow. this might be the best piece i have ever read on the blog world. you are right on. the story of our life is the thoughts we tell ourselves every day.

    Reply
  • OMDG April 12, 2014, 1:31 pm

    Honestly, while it’s true that sometimes negativity can snowball, sometimes things just suck and feeling that is what impels us to change and improve our lives. Being told, “This is just how life is, you should be more positive,” can be really destructive too.

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  • Kelly April 13, 2014, 7:56 am

    I totally agree with this- I just had a baby and during pregnancy the negativity was TERRIBLE. As if I didn’t feel bad enough and then people are like SLEEP NOW OR ELSE YOU NEVER WILL AGAIN. Um, thanks? Are there hard parts, of course? But like you said, it is worth it. I think the negativity thing can be tough though… I think the Pinterest world sometimes makes moms feel like they have to do EVERYTHING and sometimes it makes us feel better to read an article about how a kids birthday party really isn’t the end of the world… haha, and I think thats why so many people read and support an article like that. Social media can be really negative, but it also can paint a really positive picture that people feel like they can never live up to… so it’s all a balance, and definitely something worth talking about! I love your post :)

    Reply
  • Jessica April 14, 2014, 3:03 pm

    Thank you for this, Caitlyn! I’m trying to get/stay out of a dark spiral regarding an old relationship–this is good advice. :)

    Reply
  • Chewy April 17, 2014, 3:33 am

    In basic terms you’re advocating denial. Ignore the negative, place emphasis on the positive aspects of your life and then hope the subsequent boost to your mood helps you feel better.

    Personally speaking I think it’s better to acknowledge the negative and deal with it. Take some personal responsibility for the situation you are in and work on a solution. That alone will give you some heart and comfort that at least you’re facing up to what is bothering you. You should trust your own ability to deal with bad stuff and dealing with bad stuff is what we all have yo do at some point or another. Denial can be helpful in the short term but in the long term it doesnt solve a thing.

    Reply
  • Kelsey at The Primal Yogi April 18, 2014, 12:47 pm

    Thank you for this…it’s exactly what I needed at this moment! Negative thoughts definitely can spiral out of control. I will start challenging my negative thoughts, now!

    Reply
  • Erin@Running for Coffee April 23, 2014, 8:47 am

    Thank you , Caitlin!!! This post was amazing and clearly resonated with a lot of people, including me. There is so much to be said for taking control and realizing yer each have the ability to write our own story :)

    Reply