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The Pollyanna Principle

This post comes to you directly from 10 year old me, sitting on a plaid couch in my oversized Looney Tunes nightshirt, snacking on apples and popcorn, completely mesmerized by the vaguely British blonde girl on the TV in front of me, confidently philosophies that confounded and irritated the adults in her life. Pollyanna, the little girl who believed in people, embraced the wonder of her life, and always looked for the good in others. I’ve been working to infuse my life with a bit more of that recently, and I’ve enjoyed the change.

When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will.

I have spent the last few years developing a critical lens through which to view much of the world. It was originally adapted for news articles, heard opinions, magazine photoshoots, and social media. The thing is, the more I consumed articles, opinions, photoshoots and social media, the more I needed this critical lens. If you remember from our previous discussion about lenses, the more you use them the easier they are to use. The more time I spent needing to be critical of the things I was consuming, the easier it was to just be critical.

I’ve talked about judgement before on this site. Judgement is something that we all mentally do as we engage in the world. The things we see are filtered through our minds and naturally our brains come to conclusions about them. We can judge with benevolence and grace, or with a need for power, and poor thoughts of ourselves. Developing a gentle mental judge takes time and practice, and is infinitely worth the effort.

The critical lens I’m talking about is not that instant reaction to see and create a mental statement, as with judgement, but a mental process in which one looks for faults, cracks, spots of weakness in others and draws attention. It’s a crucial process when examining articles and research papers, but ultimately dangerous when applied in the real world.

When our focus and search for negative elements is over exercised it’s easy to let it poke holes in the things in our lives that are important. If we forget that nature is messy, and humans are complex, and emotions are unquantifiable, we risk missing out on beauty, relationships, love and goodness. There will never be a consistently perfect burger. People will often disappoint you. Your favorite movies will be remade and you will always wish they were better. Girl Scout cookies will get less amazing year after year, politicians will get crazier, clothes will get more expensive, pop songs will make less sense. In spite of all of this, there are some freaking amazing burgers to be devoured. People are hilarious and genuine and compassionate and amazing. There are beautiful elements at every turn, but if we set out to find irritants, inconsistencies and imperfections we create a world in which joy, peace, hope and love cease to exist.

Pollyanna was bothersome to the critical thinkers in her life, the realists. They couldn’t tolerate her willingness to see the her every experience as “sunshine and rainbows, hearts and flowers”. Her apparent ignorance of the challenges and darkness of real life was frustrating and abrasive. I’ve had some moments when I’d agree. I’d join in with the crotchety men and hardened women in thinking how foolish it is to live life refusing to acknowledge the flaws in the world. But choosing to see the beauty, the sweetness, the marvel in people, the world, ourselves, in spite of the flaws that is true strength and wisdom.

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