One of the things I learned the hard way was that it doesn’t pay to get discouraged. Keeping busy and making optimism a way of life can restore your faith in yourself. — Lucille Ball
Lucille Ball is right, but what causes us to get discouraged and lose faith in ourselves in the first place.
It usually comes down to our reaction to negativity in others.
Everything from snide comments to deliberately unkind gestures can cause us to take things personally, question what it is about us that attracts such treatment, feel like we don’t rate, and stand still in our tracks.
Making decisions, taking on new projects, and moving forward becomes depressing instead of exciting. Following Lucille Ball’s advice seems almost impossible when your morale plummets and you feel dejected.
The thing is, when people treat us badly it’s important to remember that it’s all about something internal to them; it’s not really about us at all. Some people have such massive problems with their own insecurities, power needs, and esteem issues that they routinely take it out on others. As Steve Maraboli has said:
People who lack the clarity, courage, or determination to follow their own dreams will often find ways to discourage yours. Live your truth and don’t EVER stop!
Unfortunately, some people are just messed up. But we don’t have to ‘catch’ the same ‘bug’ and we don’t have to examine ourselves through their eyes. When we do, we see a grossly distorted view of ourselves that can’t help but drag us down.
It’s crucial that we never base our assessment of ourselves on what we presume to be the opinions of others.
Look at it this way, suppose you’re out playing volleyball on a balmy, cloudy day and you’re having so much fun you don’t even hear thunder in the distance. All of a sudden you feel yourself knocked to the ground and your whole left arm is tingling and partially numb; as you regain your equilibrium you realize, “Hey, I just got hit by lightening!” You wouldn’t take that quick jolt of electricity personally, set out to assess what it is about you that made it happen, and conclude yourself unworthy in some regard. You would simply conclude you were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
So my proposal is that we rethink how we process the messages we think we’re getting about ourselves from others and view the negativity of others as a phenomenon of the natural world, not unlike getting struck by lightening.
We can’t always avoid bad treatment from others, but we can limit the damage it causes us by realizing that:
- Negativity exists as a part of the natural world
- Negativity has to do with something internal to that person (or group of persons)
- We can take a brief period of time to ask ourselves, “How does this make me feel and why?”
- Once we acknowledge our feelings we can choose to let them go because ultimately, considering the source, what we think they think of us is useless and potentially destructive information
- Mentally clear, we can consciously choose to surround ourselves with happy, positive people who are supportive of our interests and goals
As Craig Ballantyne says:
I know, as the old saying goes, that you become the average of the people you spend the most time with…Long ago I resolved to never spend another minute with people that speak poorly about others behind their backs, or who are selfish, bitter, or negative in any way.
Even if we have to work somewhere where there are negative people or there are negative people in our own family with whom we have to interact, viewing their behavior as a natural phenomenon takes anything ‘personal’ out of the equation and provides us with the emotional distance we need in order to avoid emotional detours.
When we take this approach, it becomes obvious that it is completely unnecessary to let other people rob us of our energy, excitement about our lives, or our faith in ourselves.
It also becomes a lot easier to take Lucille Ball’s advice to keep busy and make optimism a way of life.
So the next time someone crosses your path reeking of negativity, just think about that lightening bolt, and you’ll ‘weather’ the situation nicely.
Please leave your thoughts on avoiding discouragement and a loss of faith in oneself in the Comments section below.
In the meantime,
Bestest to all,