Negativity is simply an aspect of life that we cannot avoid. It rears its roaring head at us in a variety of life situations. Staying “positive” in a world so often fueled by the negativity train can occasionally have even the brightest star loosing its shine.
One way to rise above the smog of negativity is to put it in perspective. Life has taught me that in order to live a full and enjoyable life, one must be willing to step outside the comfort zone. The irony of this is that stepping outside the comfort zone opens us up to both praise and criticism. So, what can we do to put negativity in its place?
As an emerging author, I was well aware that I would be putting my words out into the world for all to see and consequently judge. I have never anticipated that my writing would be a one size fits all, kind of dream. I fully expect my stories to not be every reader’s cup of tea. Yet, even though the rational side of my brain understands this, I can’t help but be thrown off balance a little by a negative review.
A recent review had me wavering on that balance beam. After several weeks of contemplation though, I came to understand that not all reviews are created equal. This is true in both the publishing world and in life in general. We are each shaped by our own unique life experiences. Thus we bring a multitude of perspectives to the table any time we deliver a judgement. It is true, unless you’ve walked a mile in someone else’s shoes, you are unable to truly understand their experience.
To put it in simpler terms, if we are in a bad mood due to lack of sleep, illness, or something else beyond our immediate control, our interactions with others may be shrouded in negativity instead of delightful banter. Our human instinct is to avoid that person in “the mood”. This, by the way, is an excellent approach to negativity.
Rule number one in putting negativity in perspective is, Do Not Feed The Lion! You’ve probably heard the phrase, “that which you pay attention to, you create more of.” In a nutshell, that tells us that if we give our thoughts, our words, or our actions to the negativity, we will only find ourselves surrounded by even more negative situations.
This, however, does not mean that we dismiss the negativity as acceptable behavior. Instead, for our own sanity, it is simply more effective to acknowledge the negativity, note it as interesting, and move on. Another important aspect of this approach is to reaffirm our own boundaries and when necessary make clear what we will and won’t put up with. I like to remind myself that I can be right or I can be happy. Most times, I choose to be happy as right is more often than not a mere difference in perspective.
Accepting the things you cannot change is rule number two in putting negativity in perspective. I have little control over the person experiencing a bad day ahead of me in the grocery store line. But I have complete control over how I choose to acknowledge the behavior. I can smile politely and keep my comments to myself. I can ignore the behavior completely and distract myself by scrolling through my phone. Or, I can offer a token of kindness, perhaps assisting them in moving beyond their unfortunate mood. The choice is up to me, whichever way I decide to move forward in the situation.
Rule number three in putting negativity in perspective is to remember that we are all learning. Life is a great big school of lessons. The best and most memorable lessons are the ones that cause us discomfort. Think back to the last time you felt discomfort and ask yourself if you behaved your best in that moment. Chances are, it wasn’t your finest moment. So try your best to put a smile on your face and allow others the grace they need to learn their own life lessons. Life is a journey, let’s enjoy the ride together.