Why “stop being negative, be more positive” can be counterproductive

Many are complaining that Get Real Philippines is so negative. They want us to come out with more positive articles. They say we are not helping with our negative messages.

Oh, really? How sure are you about that?


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As fellow blogger Kate Natividad wrote, being positive has become much too overrated already because it serves only to quell needed criticism. I earlier wrote an article at Antipinoy where I asked, Do Filipinos really know how to be positive? I think many don’t. This is because many people see positive things as only things they want to see or hear. What they seek are only pleasant things, and they refuse to face problems and critical issues squarely, thus leaving them unsolved.

This for me seems to be a fulfillment of this Bible verse: “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

Sounds a lot like these “positivists,” doesn’t it?

Also, it’s because what’s positive to one may be negative to another. For example, at work, you tell a colleague, “why did you put your relative in this job, even if he doesn’t know anything about it?” The colleague replies, “Shut up! You’re being negative! Just think positive and he will do fine.” If someone tells me, it’s negative to say Pinoy Pride is wrong, I will disagree. Pinoy Pride itself can be negative, because that message tries to imply that Filipinos don’t believe in themselves, so they have to make a ra-ra “I’m superior” cheer just to feel good. But it’s based instead on getting a temporary high without getting long-term results. It’s more positive to be humble and go about one’s business without drawing attention to oneself. Besides, the noisier people on the Pinoy Pride bandwagon actually want attention for themselves, not for the country.

The reason why people would ask for positive, or only feel-good messages, is because they have low acceptance. Acceptance is a necessary stage when dealing with crises or problems, such as grief after someone’s death or substance abuse. If you haven’t reached the stage of acceptance, you’re in a stage of denial. Most sources equivocally say, denial will prevent you from solving your problem. You will instead engage in escapes – such as immersing yourself in “positive” things only, trying to shut out the negativity. But that won’t help. What helps is accepting that there is a problem and squarely facing it.

“Be Positive”: Fad from the so-called self-help movement?

In the article, 8 Reasons Why it’s Hard to be an Introvert in the Philippines, the number 3 reason mentions “Parents who are stuck in the 1950s” who read Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People (1934). The way this is written implies that Carnegie’s ideas may be obsolete today. For example, some may believe Carnegie said extroverts tend to be more successful and better people. This causes some to condemn introverts. Thankfully, a new generation of self-help books, such as Marti Olsen Laney’s The Introvert Advantage, help challenge the old paradigms.

A contemporary of Carnegie, Norman Vincent Peale, helped influence modern ideas about positiveness. His seminal work, The Power of Positive Thinking (1952), is perhaps where the term “positive thinking” and the insistence to “be positive” were popularized. While the book has its merits, there are now many criticisms.

The criticism of Peale’s book, and others, was that, while it did seem to have a good premise, somewhere along the line appeared a corrupted variation of “positive thinking.” This variation could be traced to the New Thought movement associated with Phineas Quimby. This became the basis of the popular The Secret by Rhonda Byrne (perhaps even of The Secret of the Ages by Robert Collier, which Byrne reportedly sourced her ideas from, and probably even Napoleon Hill for his Think and Grow Rich. Another is The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace Wattles). This “positive thinking” had the belief that people naturally have mental powers that can change reality. Thus, if people think something, like “nothing will go wrong,” “my sales pitch will be immediately accepted,” or “I will be a millionaire,” it will become real. Some people even go to the extent of thinking this without acting.

The beliefs held by Byrne, Hill and many others usually circulate in multi-level marketing circles, such as in Amway. Many now know that these are actually used to manipulate people and make them shell out money to help their uplines, only to realize later that they will never be rich and only made their uplines rich. Positive thinking is used to silence dissent so that people can be kept oblivious of the real nature of some MLM schemes and will follow like sheep. Many Filipinos have probably gone through this and may be the ones demanding that we be more “positive.”

Let Barbara Ehrenreich explain how delusional positive thinking has become in this excerpt from her speech, accompanied by an RSA Animate graphic presentation:

Ehrenreich puts it nicely. Telling people to “be positive” was actually a method of social control and quelling dissent. Isn’t that what many Filipinos, like those who are members and supporters of the Aquino administration, are doing?

There is even the proposition that self-help writers actually wrote these books as their money-making machine. When they describe their experiences in making money or hitting it big, these are all actually fictional accounts. This is how John Reed believes Robert Kiyosaki did it. In other words, it’s possible that many of the original self-help movements and works were actually the first money-making scams. They just use this formula: take some nice quotes, put them in a book, put your name on the book and let people pay you for it (wait a minute… isn’t that plagiarism)? Think of the Bible verse above.

What is Real Positivity?

I’m actually fine with real positive behavior, or avoiding unnecessary pessimism. I am aware of research saying the right amount of positiveness is good. However, some Filipinos are overestimating the value of positiveness in thought only. Real positiveness is manifested in action.

Perhaps this piece of advice from the real positive gurus is the right one to highlight: if you want positiveness, don’t ask for it from others. Make it yourselves. Because that is the object of true positive thinking. You believe something is right, go out and act to make it happen.


You think I don’t want to be happy? I do. But I believe you can’t be happy by being all positive. Happiness also comes from being able to properly deal with the negative. Shutting out the negativity will only hide it, but it’s still there. Real positiveness is accepting the problem, no matter how negative it is, and saying, “yes, I can deal with it.”

We are unfortunately a culture that’s absorbed with self-image, afraid that negativity will only push down our image and bring us down to shame. But this is wrong. Image is nothing. Doing what is right is everything. That is one of the most positive thoughts you can have for any day.

21 Replies to “Why “stop being negative, be more positive” can be counterproductive”

    1. Seriously, these people and some of those so called entrepreneurs love to hit on ordinary employees even if majority of their costumer base are from…. THE RAT RACE people.

    2. I just thought that we can call this current administration the MLM government. Everyone inside is already an upline, and they don’t need to recruit. They’ve already gotten these recruits called taxpayers, then these already pay up the “uplines” to make them rich.

  1. A psychologist once said ‘Filipinos are born to be ‘slaves’. Subservience is in their history, their culture, their politics, and their very DNA. The country is built upon and ruled by a Master-slave relationship/dynamic’

    and one lesson a slave learnt early on was – do not complain. Be grateful for being alive and fed and for what your master does for you. And if he beats you, then he is only trying to help you to become better.

    Pacquaio is the slaves hero for ‘escaping’ and living their dream, but even he does not dare to fight the ‘master class’, so must either morph into one himself, or keep quiet in the masters domain. transgressions are punished. everyone must know their place and act accordingly.

    1. Come to think of it. Maybe we are. Our attitude of being contended will get us nowhere. It seems progress is inversely proportional with positivity. Singaporeans are considered one of the unhappiest people in the world.

    2. If you come to think about it, there’s a hint of truth to what you just said. You’re spot on when you said that a slave shouldn’t complain. The thing is, Filipinos DO complain but do they ACTUALLY do something to change the situation that they’re in? Of course not. Filipinos complain that the Philippines is corrupt but they don’t do anything to stop it. They blame others like Noynoy blaming Gloria. Noynoy says there’s corruption and yet, he’s corrupt himself -he’s mentally, psychologically, and intellectually corrupt.

  2. Well, isn’t GRP all about putting reality over self-delusion—particularly, the one that keeps common pinoys in a state of perpetual bondage to inefficiency and mediocrity?

    Pinoy society seems to be in need of a major reality-check. They need to be jilted into a realization that something seriously wrong is waiting to happen if their very thinking or mindset does not change.

    After the kind of response we got from our gov’t during crises, I’ve come to realize that this situation is worse than I thought. I used to think that filipinos learn & make improvements only after experiencing a crisis. Now, even after experiencing not only a crisis, but several terrible ones, I see no motivation to improve their situation. Worse is, even the ability to recognize how terrible their situation is, is being suppressed by gov’t and their media backers. How many more lives are going to be wasted simply because the common pinoy doesn’t or refuse to know any better?

    This brings to light the profound selfishness of yellow supporters who benefit from their political benefactors at the expense of more lives wasted—sites like GRP have to speak-up, & not gagged into conformity with selfish yellow agenda.

    1. Perhaps, realists are simply very different from the common pinoy. Realists want to be told if their credit cards are running low so they can ease on the spending—Common pinoy “positivists” refuse to be forewarned and just go ahead in their spending until crisis ensues. Realists want to be told if their illness gives them only a few months to live, while the common pinoy “positivists” would rather be oblivious to their situation and die unprepared or simply leave better alternatives unexplored.

  3. This article is spot on.

    I hired a niece this year, as she seemed qualified and interested, and also with the intent of helping her support her son. She turned out to be irresponsible, and unmindful of her work and her performance. I “fired” her after a 3-month probationary period. One of the most satisfying moments in my life.

    There are thousands of young people out there in need of a job, and willing to go the extra mile. They add value. It makes me sick to have my own relative cheat me of my hard-earned money. Once I accepted that as a fact, I acted on it.

    One definitely has to act when faced with the truth.

    1. I hope your niece learns. My brother-in-law got me into a temporary job once, and I made sure to do it well. It was a survey of building tenants. I had a partner to go with me. But the partner bailed out early and I decided to go it alone. Nothing wrong per se with getting a relative in if they’re doing the job right, but if they mess up, they have to go.

  4. Thank you GRP!!! I am an avid reader and I cannot commend you enough. Thank you for being the voice of the minority of Filipinos who really want long term “progress” and not just band-aid solutions. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Every Filipino should read all your articles. I’m sharing your posts hoping that Filipinos will be enlightened.

  5. Great article! Keep them coming!

    As a “realist” I see things as they are in all there often dirty, nasty,evil,horrible unsavory “hellish” aspects of life which should propel and be a positive force for one to do something to change some it which is very realistic and positive! However, to do this one has to take “responsibility” and “take action” in order to change ones condition or circumstances rather than waiting around for someone or something to do it for you!

    I sort of see “Get Real Philippines” as the giant 2X4 to knock the living day lights out folks to wake them up and to see what they could be doing to change their own lives, culture and country and even this world, in “yes” positive ways!

  6. I am one of those who has criticized GRP over this issue of the subject matter always being negative – only to be given a link to the “GRP Solution”, which is supposedly the ONLY viable solution to the nation’s problems.

    I understand the intentions of the authors, but have doubts about the effectiveness because they are usually preaching to the choir. The only alternative voices are “agnostics” like myself that find the comments more interesting than the stories and the “noytards / Yellow Army” that cannot be convinced no matter how sound the arguments are.

    The people that need to be reading the articles will never read them as they have their head in the sand as depicted in the image at the top of the article.

    1. As ghoulish as this may sound under current circumstances, crisis does breed opportunity. A lot of people saw how badly government responded, and are rightfully angry about it.

      So it’s an opportunity for the authors to share their views to a bigger audience. Not everyone is going to agree, but at least the message is out there.

  7. First…it was, “sssssh…tumulong ka na lang.” Now it is : “Be positive”!!!They want people to shut up from their criticism of Mr. Aquino and his administration.
    Luckily, I don’t read those self help books. They make the authors rich, by the sales of the books.
    Being positive, and being able to psyche and focus to your goals, are two different worlds. Positive emotions , is also the reverse of negative emotions.
    Anyway, in our country. You don’t need those faculties. You just run for Congressman or Senator. And you become rich, if you win. Think and Grow Rich…Enter Philippine politics!!!

    1. They want to silence others just because it would hurt Noynoy’s precious widdle feewings. Lol.

      It’s funny now Noynoy gets mad whenever someone criticizes him yet he kept on criticizing Gloria.

  8. True “Positivism” does not merely mean just thinking positive and shunning the negative. It’s also acknowledging that the negative will always be there, and can be used to launch positivity. Light is never without dark, good never without evil.

    True positivism is achieving BALANCE over one’s self.

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