Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

Since I’ve been posting about happiness all week, I thought this topic was appropriate to end the week—seeing the world through the eyes of the kind of optimism that being happy can give you. Sometimes when I try to be optimistic about someone following through on their word or I try to do the right thing by people with a positive attitude, I’ve been labeled as a Pollyanna. According to the Miriam-Webster dictionary, a Pollyanna is “a person characterized by irrepressible optimism and a tendency to find good in everything.” Guilty as charged. I’m called that like it’s a negative things to be but, I’d rather have an optimistic outlook than worry a lot more!

When you’re cheerful and optimistic, you’re usually happy too! It’s much better to try to create the best-feeling thoughts that you can. Being pessimistic, critical, skeptical, scornful and all the other negative attitudes that the name caller has can’t thrive in happiness. I’ve found most people who “tease” or criticize my positive attitude as making me a Pollyanna aren’t happy. They thrive on making others unhappy too. When you’re not happy, it can be hard to see happiness, especially big and bold happiness, in others!

I think like being nice has taken on a negative meaning—being a pushover, a DoorMat, people pleaser, etc.—Pollyanna evokes a the image of someone who sees the world through rose colored glasses in an unrealistic way. But being optimistic—looking for the good in situations—is a positive quality in my opinion. I believe that most people wish to be happy and are frustrated when they can’t reach that place. Then they see someone who goes through life with a smile, feeling content with life even when things don’t go well, and they get jealous, though it comes across as criticism.

I remember years ago I was friendly with Sue, who used to make fun of me for my optimistic outlook. She’d sometimes mimic me or make snide comments, calling me things like “Little goodie two shoes” for being cheerful a lot. She saw me as a Pollyanna and scorned me for it. Sue assuredly was not one. She complained a lot and was moody, magnified problems and had a bah humbug attitude often. She basically was an unhappy person. Yet she was always picking on me for having an upbeat, positive demeanor.

When her boyfriend dumped her, Sue turned to me for support. I gave it to her. One day, she was in a very grateful mood. She thanked me for helping her get through the rough time. Then for a minute she let her guard down and said, “I’d give a lot to be as happy as you are. “ I was stunned that she admitted that. I think it just slipped out in a moment of weakness as she picked herself up and left right away. She never brought it up again.

I will continue to be a Pollyanna type of person. Over the years I’ve learned to respond to teasing or sarcastic comments by saying four words: “I’m happy. Are you?” Usually I get a dumbfounded look. But that’s the bottom line when people criticize you. Are you happy the way you are? I am and that happiness is priceless.

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