“Some people like to live with a bit of negativity. I don’t rain on YOUR bubble!”
I’d never really thought my “Pollyanna” outlook could drive some people as crazy as a negative outlook drives me. Until those words were directed to me. As much as I have a visceral reaction to people’s negativity, it just never occurred to me that my sunshine & rainbows outlook could be sending some people into a fit of fury.
My Grandmother always called me her Eternal Optimist. Part of it is my inherent nature. Part of it has been cultivated purposely. I believe that if my bad experiences in life make me a bit more cautious, then I’ve learned from them. But if they make me negative, then I’ve let them get the best of me. I’ve let them win.
I’m not sure why I struggle with negativity so much, but it makes me physically uncomfortable. I squirm in my seat. It’s like nails on a chalkboard. Maybe I’m scared that if I delve in to that pattern of thought, I’ll never dig my way out of it. Or maybe I’m afraid of what thoughts might rear their ugly head.
Several years ago, I had the carpet pulled out from under me by someone I thought I knew. Thought I could trust. I was hellbent on making sure the experience didn’t make me jaded…make me lose my positive outlook on life. In doing so, I just pushed it all under the proverbial carpet. So much so that I couldn’t even bring myself to say the person’s name – for years. It wasn’t until after I confronted that fear…finally acknowledged the hurt and anger laying there under that beautifully laid carpet…and allowed myself to simmer in some of that negativity, that I was able to move forward. And really let it go. For real. So perhaps there’s a lesson there. That perhaps I should acknowledge the negativity, examine it, then turn it around. Rather than just refusing to give it a voice. Perhaps in refusing to give it a voice I’m letting it linger in a different way.
I still maintain that there’s something to be said for being careful what we’re projecting in to our world. A friend of mine, who rarely complains about things, once spoke to me about some of his work troubles. When I asked him later about it to see how he was doing, he didn’t remember. When I reminded him what he’d said, his response was “geez…I can’t believe I actually projected that out there!” And that’s exactly what I try not to do. I try not to project it – to give it life.
That doesn’t mean I don’t have negative thoughts. Any of my close friends will definitely tell you otherwise – and I think it’s healthy to bring those things to life a bit, rather than not talking about them. But there’s a difference between having negative thoughts and talking them through…and looking at life through a negative lens. Just focusing on the negative bits.
Maybe it makes me naive or have the appearance of naivety. I may not be innocent, but I have an innocent heart. I don’t believe I’m naive, but I do choose to see the good in people – and situations. There are always going to be things we don’t like – people we don’t like – people who don’t like us. There are always going to be situations where we get hurt or someone lies to us or lets us down. Isn’t it better though to choose to see the positive, even if it’s miniscule, than to focus on the negative?
I went to hear Dan Millman speak once, and he told everyone to not take notes because what you needed to take away, you would remember. One of the things that I took away from his talk, that has stayed with me over the years, is that you cannot control your thoughts. You can only control what you do with those thoughts.
So when we have negative thoughts, we can either give them life – or we can acknowledge them but just let them be. Which is what I consciously try to do.
I’d like to think I’m a bit more aware now of my Pollyanna tendencies – and over the years they’ve become tempered a bit in the sense that I’m still an optimist but I have some realism thrown in there for good measure. Now when I’m faced with someone coming at life through the negativity lane, I try to stop and think about what is it that’s causing them to focus on that side of things. Perhaps they’re not happy with themselves, perhaps they’re jealous of someone or something, or perhaps they just don’t see the whole picture. It’s still like nails on a chalkboard for me, but I try to shut them down a bit more gently and try to understand what’s behind the words or attitude.
It doesn’t always make it easier, but it does let me just let them be them and not try to rain on their bubble.