How To Deal With Negativity
This summer, I asked some lovely ladies about their thoughts on finding motivation for creativity. It was a really wonderful, and I feel like it’s an amazing way to get a lot of perspective on important topics. The next big topic I wanted to cover is dealing with negativity. I’m aware that my thoughts all tend to come from a place of optimism, but that doesn’t mean that bad stuff doesn’t happen! It does. It does all the time, and I want to make sure we’re all equipped with the tools to handle those situations with conflict, adversity, and general negativity.
Below you’re going to find responses to two specific questions. The answers come from women native to places all over the US, Norway, Canada, and Argentina. Their words are honest, thoughtful, and specific. You’re going to find personal anecdotes and advice. Sit back and get comfy for some serious wisdom. (Also feel free to click through if you fall in love with these women and desire more of them in your life! They’d love to have you.)
Q1: What do you do when you’re presented with negativity from an external source? (i.e. a stranger, a loved one, the internet)
“When I encounter negativity from others, I often do feel upset and discouraged. Sometimes I can look at the situation from a greater perspective and move on from it quickly, sometimes it takes more time to get over, and sometimes it sticks with me, which can either motivate me or stall me from doing something good. When someone has been negative towards me, I often find myself talking it out with the person, or even arguing with them (which doesn’t help), venting about it with someone else, or doing something productive/healthy like going for a run. If I’m not careful though, their negative energy can be transmitted to me, so I always try to stay aware that I am in control of my own reactions and feelings. Sometimes it is easy to ignore negativity when you believe in what you’re doing, but if people close to you don’t support you in the ways you need, you do need to try to let them know that their support is important and that their negativity hurts you. If they don’t support you on what matters most to you, it may be time to find others who will and spend less time with the haters.” – Erika M.
“To be honest, usually I get upset. Call my husband and my girl friends. But lately, I’ve learned that it’s better to work it out by working out and talking about it. Not internalizing anything is so important to me!” – Helene
“When presented with negativity from an external source, my reaction depends on is how I perceive the person who is saying or doing something negative. Some people just have a bad moment, or day, and need to vent. I’m fine with that; we all need to vent and discuss the things and/or people we have problems with from time to time. Getting input from other people on these subjects is what makes us able to deal with things in a different, and hopefully better, way. But when it comes to negativity just being put out there for no other reason than to be negative (no matter if the person doing it is aware that they are behaving that way or not), I must admit it just fuels my positivity, and makes me counter their negativity with being even more positive than I usually am. I guess there is a part of me that resists it somehow, because I don’t want to take it in. And finally, when it comes to slander, I deal with it two ways, depending on what I perceive the person’s motivation to be:
1. Slander from a person who is just out to cause trouble and who isn’t really interested in a discussion (aka. «trolling»); ignore, ignore, ignore!!
2. Slander from a person who is actually hateful, and out to hurt, whilst believing they are in the right when they behave badly; I always say what I mean, in a calm fashion, and I choose my words carefully. I feel like, even though they are being disrespectful, it doesn’t grant me the right to act like an ass too. And if I was to act like an ass, it would not resolve anything at all. Even though it is hard to keep a level head at times, I always strive to. I’m not saying I succeed at all times, only that I TRY to.” – Trine at The Skull Bank
“When I’m presented with negativity, sometimes I can let it really get to me and other times I just walk away and do my own thing. I usually prefer to turn that negativity into creativity. (i.e. Painting, crafting, etc.) I find it to be an excellent outlet for all sorts of emotions, especially negativity.” – Erika O.
“When I encounter negativity from an external source, I remind myself how really wonderful life is and how valuable I am, too. I’m a teacher and I tell my students all the time that when they’re faced with a bully or some equally negative force, it’s not because there’s something wrong with them–there’s something causing the bully/negative force pain or (unsurprisingly) some other type of negativity that manifests in their behavior. I tell my students, basically, to eff the haters, to not worry about the negativity of others, but rather to concern themselves with making life better for themselves and others, no matter what the struggle or how numerous the obstacles.” – Jaclyn, The Confetti Monster
“I had a boss once who constantly talked about losing weight, commented on what I ate, and told me that women ‘depreciate’ like cars. I’ll never forget a powerful piece of advice from my mom about this: People don’t actually talk about you, they talk about themselves. Everything that woman said to me was something that she was afraid of, and projected onto me. As much as I can, I try not to take overt negativity personally, and realize that other people’s fears have nothing to do with me.” – Chantilly
“I usually try to ignore it and not let negative thoughts or feelings affect my life. Sometimes, I take some time to reflect on the criticism and think about all the things that I could fix or improve upon. The important thing is valuing ourselves and not letting the negative thoughts get in the way of your goals. Feeling bad, sad or overwhelmed isn’t worth it, it’s better to think of the positive, pretty and colorful things in our lives.” – Elba at Live Colorful
“I consider myself a very optimistic and cheerful person and as such, I tend to always look at life’s peachy side. However, that doesn’t mean that I’m made of stone and don’t get affected by negativity. During my teenage years, I was really bad at coping with people’s negativity aimed at myself; comments about my family’s origin, my weight, how boring they thought I was brought me down extremely. I think as I grew up, I learned to discern which of those comments were genuine (an honest opinion) and which were just gratuitous meanness directed at me. I’ve always tried to stay away from those who like to inject others with their poison and this, I guess, has had its consequences; I only have a handful of true friends and I am now overly careful when it comes to giving an opinion on someone else’s work, for instance, because I don’t want to be the one sending negative vibes. I’m sure part of not having a big social circle is due to the fact that I’m a big introvert, but I also believe it has to do with having being burnt in the past and learning my lesson.
I should also point out that some people tend to mistake me for a pessimist! Especially when they’re trying to encourage me to put forward an idea or embark on a business venture or apply for a job. I always find this outrageous and explain that that’s self-criticism, which is healthy unless you overdo it and it prevents you from living a normal life or taking chances. There’s nothing negative about being careful and thinking things through, right?
Lastly, I recently discovered that I actually take some people’s negativity as a compliment! Isn’t that interesting? This happens when someone criticizes my clothes, my taste in music, the way I decorate my house, the fact that I don’t have kids when I’m over 30 (Oh, what a disgrace!). At first, I may get a bit mad and say to myself ‘Who the hell does this person believe he/she is?!’, and right after, I smile (sometimes even chuckle) and think I am so glad not to be like them! I am happy to have my own style, to like color, to enjoy well-written lyrics, to be open-minded, to live life the way I want to and to not be bound to old-fashioned social conventions.” – Miki
“It really depends on the day, since some days I’m rock solid and others I’m so fragile, I crumble to pieces. It also depends on how that negativity is presented. In art school, we had so many critiques that after a while the negative feedback got easier to take with a grain of salt. But what I also learned was how negative feedback can sometimes be helpful in making changes to my work. That would be negativity presented constructively, and it’s an art in itself to be able to give that kind of feedback. Then there’s just the nasty jerk who wants to cut you down. It’s confusing, hurtful and often serves no purpose except to make the jerk feel better. I try and remember that this kind of thing has nothing to do with me, as hard as it is to not take it personally. The person who dished that negativity has their own issues and I feel sorry for them.” – Olivia
“Everybody’s so grumpy all the time. Look at the sky. That’s what I like to tell people to do: look at the sky, or like, a bird or something–something that makes you think about how incredible the universe is. I have such a huge issue with letting other people’s bad moods throw off my own emotions, but my first and only line of defense is to point out the wonderfulness of the world and get them to focus on the greater picture, because the greater picture is so provocative of beautiful thoughts. On the other hand, if it’s simply a matter of not letting negativity affect me and only me, I like to do something positive to prove the negativity wrong. For example, if I read an article online about how the current generation is ungrateful, I’ll take Silkworm out on a bike ride and we’ll go around town stapling signs of things we’re grateful for on telephone poles.” – Zauberbear
Q2: What advice do you have to someone who feels paralyzed and overwhelmed by negativity coming from their own internal monologue?
“I have two answers for this one: half of the time I take a step back and do some self-reflecting on what changes I can make in my life and I might even take a break just to compose myself before starting anything new. The other half of the time, however, I indulge in a good cry, like Natalie Portman’s character mentions in Garden State, and I let the sadness/negativity take over until I’m ready to emerge a happier and fuller being, ready for my next challenges and adventures in life.” – Jaclyn, The Confetti Monster
“To try to think of all the positives things before judging or feeling overwhelmed. I usually make a list of all those things and hang it on the refrigerator or the cork board in my office. I also love having pictures or quotes around me that remind me of all those beautiful things on my life.” – Elba at Live Colorful
“Well, this is a very interesting question for me, as I have often found myself paralyzed by positivity coming from my own internal dialogue – whilst blocking out all the negativity. When you read this, you might be thinking «what? How on earth can you be paralyzed by that?» – so let me explain. It’s basically the same as being paralyzed by negativity, because whereas I have blocked out all the negatives in order to survive, other people may block out all the positives in order to survive. It goes without saying that in both cases, there is an imbalance – and neither are good. We need to have a good balance between the positive and negative integrated in our emotional lives, in order to have a good mental health. I find that there is no easy answer to this, but I think that awareness of how you feel, and also trying to figure out why you feel that way, is a good place to start. Also, are there certain situations that makes your internal monologue more negative? Was it something someone said, or did? Did it remind you of something bad? All our behaviour, emotions and thoughts have a purpose, even if that purpose may be outdated at the present time in your life, and causing you trouble where it used to help you cope with something difficult.
Seeking counselling, or someone else to talk to who you trust enough to confide in, is always a good idea too. We humans need each other, and it helps to know we are not alone. The fact is that in today’s society, so many people are lonely in their hearts; so many more than we imagine. And how can we know about it, when so many people keep it to themselves? Many of us carry heavy burdens, that so desperately needs to be shared in order for them not to have such a strong hold on us. Otherwise, what are we here on this earth for, if not to be here for each other? The reason to seek out people you can trust, is that it can empower you. But, for those of you who don’t buy the «Facebook-wisdom»-quotes, I would suggest you find someone who dares to be real, and listen to the difficult emotions you are having. Someone who you can be yourself with, who «meets» you just as you are. What good is it to you if you confide in someone who just tells you to «stay positive, because life is wonderful?». I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that either, I’m just saying that it doesn’t work for everyone – myself included.” – Trine at The Skull Bank
“I think it’s important to remember that we are all human and we all have fears and self doubt. None of us is alone in having insecurities. I recommend talking with someone who is supportive about feeling stuck, telling yourself that you can overcome those feelings and be more positive and encouraging to yourself, reading some affirmations and quotes, or just doing things you love or things you fear so you can empower yourself again.” – Erika M.
“I have recurrent depression, so I really have to keep on top of negative thoughts so that they don’t take over my brain. Here are a couple tools I use:
– Writing in a journal frequently (I’ve been trying for every day.)
– Keeping specific journals for gratitude and goals accomplished.
– CBT. (Free information and worksheets here!)” – Chantilly
“The advice I can give to someone presented with a lot of negative internal monologue (I definitely can relate) is to do something that you really enjoy doing. Baking, crafting, singing, (make sure to really belt it out) etc. Just do something you love and do it with passion. I find another thing that helps is going out for a walk in nature or a park. It really puts things into perspective and can make you see that there is beauty everywhere, especially in yourself. I think that you may not see results right away and that there will always be bad days, but that you can definitely overcome it.” – Erika O.
“Try not to leave yourself alone with yourself. Brains can be such a nuisance, I don’t know who thought it was a good idea to make every single one completely incomparable to another. But nonetheless, find a human you can talk to, or listen to–it doesn’t even have to be a confiding conversation, just make sure you realize your thoughts are not permanent and you don’t have to and won’t be sitting in quicksand forever, as much as your brain would like to have you believe. Things can’t stay bad forever, it’s just not in the nature of our universe (thank goodness).” – Zauberbear
“Oh man, this is probably every artist’s greatest struggle, isn’t it? I haven’t really gotten to a place yet where I feel like I can give advice, because that negative voice still really holds me back. Through working with a therapist and doing my own self-compassion work, something I have been trying to understand is where that negative inner voice comes from. Not surprisingly, a big part of it comes from lack of support or hurt from my past. But another part of it comes from me! It’s twisted, but that part of me is trying to be protective. It says, “don’t put your stuff out there, nobody will like it,” just in case that might come true and I get hurt. Crazy, right? But also, in light of being hurt a lot in the past, this overprotective inner self makes sense now. In the past I’d try to shush that voice, but I’m finding it quiets down more if I acknowledge it but disagree: ‘Sure, maybe this piece isn’t for everyone, but I’m going to take a chance anyway.'” – Olivia
“I think it’s important to have a support system. To have people you can reach out to. Understanding what is necessary criticism and what is self sabotage can be difficult. Talking with someone about how you feel, writing down your feelings and then moving on, that’s the best thing you can do, in my opinion!” – Helene
“Anything that involves changing the way you are takes time, patience, persistence and practice. I say take baby steps, challenge yourself with little dares; this is something I do to keep my introversion healthy. Do something that is doable but seems a bit too ambitious for your negative self, once you accomplish that goal, you’ll feel so good and energized! And hopefully, that will lead you to gradually take more chances and leave your negativity aside. Learn to love yourself, self-criticism is fine, but don’t auto-sabotage your projects, be objective. Also, learn to accept healthy criticism from others and turn it into something positive; if your boss suggests doing things differently, for instance, don’t punish yourself, take it as an opportunity to try something different. Be kind to people and you’ll get kindness back. Look at your surroundings, there are so many people who are less unfortunate than you and still manage to accomplish so much! Appreciate what you have and take it from there. Life is too precious to waste it with negativity, fear and doubt.” – Miki
Did they leave anything out? What are your thoughts on negativity?