In my ongoing search for Zenitude, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to positive vs. negative influences in our lives lately. How do you successfully ward off the negativity that sometimes seems to creep in until you feel completely enveloped by it? And on the flip side, how do you maintain positivity when faced with hardship? Well, I’m no expert but I’m going to give this a shot based on my own experience. Disclaimer: I am not a psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist or spiritual healer!
When I was younger, and up until about 6-7 years ago, I was definitely of the mindset that the glass was half empty. If in fact, there was anything in the glass at all (LOL). Thinking positively didn’t come very easily to me and as a result, I wasn’t very good at it. I was regularly chastised by my mum for my ‘lousy attitude’ because she couldn’t understand why I was so mopey, and I frequently heard the argument that there were people in this world who were less fortunate then me. I suppose it didn’t come as a surprise to her when I started wearing all black in high-school and The Cure became my favorite band – let’s call this my ‘woe is me’ phase, yes? Despite the fact that I had a great family, a wonderful home – everything I could ask for really, man was I ever a downer! Thinking back, I can only attribute this to some kind of unspoken peer pressure. No one forced me to dress in black and listen to Robert Smith sing about drowning, and no one forced me to walk around with a permanent frown on my face either. Actually, it wasn’t so much a frown as a pained expression – I think I was trying to emulate Smith but without the make-up. Anyway, I adopted this attitude or outlook – whatever you want to call it, mainly because I wasn’t part of the popular crowd, and I wasn’t an athlete . I wasn’t a computer geek or the cool eccentric kid so one day I decided I was going to be ‘alternative,’ along with a few of my friends. Being alternative required the following:
– You must wear ALL black with the occasional white
– You must pin your pants at the ankle so that the leg is narrow
– You must wear Doc Martens – this is not negotiable!
– You must coif your hair in an ‘interesting’ fashion (and dye it black if your parents let you). In my case, I couldn’t dye my hair black but BOY did I have a set of bangs on me. I am fairly certain that mine were the highest in our entire school, and I was frequently approached with inquiries about how I got them to stay up. Lots of hairspray dudes.
– You must listen to The Cure (especially) and various other alternative bands such as Depeche Mode, Ministry, Joy Division and The Sisters of Mercy.
– You must look and feel miserable
So, that was me in high-school. The above combined with the fact that the few people that I hung out with were in that ‘less fortunate’ category lead me to being mopey and negative for no particular reason other than fitting in with that particular crowd.
After high-school, I eventually outgrew the bangs and I lost that pained expression. I also lost the people that I was hanging out with at that time which lead to the glass becoming half empty (as opposed to just empty). In college, I hung out with rockers, which was more my thing anyway (though I am a huge fan of old school alternative), and rockers are generally happy people, especially if they’re musicians. But, there was one girl in the group that was a big fat mope-fest. Why? Who knows – her parents were loaded and she got whatever she wanted – but the reasons for a person’s misery are not always obvious to others. Perhaps she was sad that her father left her mother – a valid reason to be sure. But at some point, you must move past this because life goes on. Anyway, for the most part, my college days were alright, in a glass half-empty kind of way.
Fast forward to university, where, God help me, I found myself hanging out with two depressive individuals. For three years. I am sensing a trend here… How can you not have a negative outlook when you are in the presence of negativity? People who mope for no reason other than to get attention? People with surly dispositions? And then, at the end of my university life, I had what Oprah calls, an A-Ha moment. The company that we keep determines how we view life, therefore, if I allow shitty people into my life, I will inadvertently feel shitty. Important lesson, no? So now, let’s move along to the present day.
Over the years, between finishing school and now, I have undergone several rounds of friend recycling. This is something that I do every year, but it’s not something that I plan – I don’t sit down in January, look at the calendar and say “OK, on June 22nd, I’m going to recycle people out of my life.” It’s just something that happens when I reach the point where I’m fed up. This might sound cold but it’s not. If I don’t look out for me, then no one else will, and that doesn’t make me selfish. Let me explain; I’m sure that I’m not the only person who has been ditched by friends in her lifetime. Shit happens. However, the lesson that I have learned, is that if someone does not bring something positive to your life, then you don’t need them because they will always drag you down. Personally, I am not interested in people who suck the life out of me, take what they can because it benefits them, but never give anything back to the friendship. I am not interested in the invisible friend – the one I never hear from until something happens in his/her life. And then, the only reason I hear from them is because they expect me to support them. I am not interested in the narcissistic friend – the one who only reaches out so that he/she can talk about themselves, never ever asking how I’m doing or what I’m up to. And lastly, I am not interested in the friend who is not supportive of my endeavors. These four ‘friend’ types represent negative energy that I don’t need in my life. This is why I recycle. Out with the old shitty friends and in with the new not-so-shitty friends. I suppose in some circumstances, this could apply to family members as well, though not in my case.
As a result of negative friendships and what-nots, I’ve learned two very important things:
1) That it’s important to let go of people and things who don’t bring positive value to your life. It’s OK to do this people – don’t feel guilty about it because your crappy friends certainly won’t. In addition, if you are still stuck with those negative people, it’s important to realize that their problems are not yours. Do not make their issues about you. We are not responsible for ‘fixing’ other people.
2) I have learned that it IS important to surround yourself with happy, positive people because these are the people who help you see what a fabulous life you have. These are the people who will support you in good and bad times, without ever judging you. These are the people who will be there for you. Sometimes these people come in various forms – parents, friends, yoga instructor, a teacher, a complete stranger even. While some people’s presence in our lives are fleeting, they usually have some kind of message attached.
It’s important to recognize the wealth that you have in your life – and I’m not talking money people. I am talking about very basic things. Here are some of mine: my health, my family, my dog (yes, she counts!), my home, my writing, my job, my photography, fabulous books, my yoga practice, music, fitness, a beautiful day like today, my parents’ place up north. I could go on but my list changes daily, because I now take the time to notice the small things more then I used to, which is a fabulous thing! Smell the flowers people.
Lastly, I suppose I should answer my own question (that question is coming up at the end of this post!) – how do I deal with negativity?
Well, first, I am strong both emotionally and physically, so it’s important to cultivate a strong mind that allows you to process what’s going on, and filter out the crap. Rather then wallow in my negativity, I try to focus on other people and things that are going on around me. It’s easier to process something if you don’t spend all of your time thinking about it. In addition, I have a very deep belief in the practice of yoga. It has amazing physical, mental and health benefits, and it helps center me. It’s an amazing way to channel that positive energy and keep the negative energy at bay. Sometimes if I’m not in the mood for yoga, I’ll hit the gym or go for a walk. Of course, I also try to surround myself with positive people but when that’s not happening, I do any one of the above-mentioned activities.
So I leave you with two questions (and yes, you should think about them and respond!):
1) How do you deal with negativity when it arises?
2) What are some of the things that you are grateful for?