Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Poison of Negativity

I have always been an incredibly upbeat and energetic person, at least outwardly. Friends jokingly nicknamed me the energizer bunny.  I often call it hypomania, but energizer bunny perhaps has a nicer ring to it, especially in professional industry circles. Lately, though, I have been experiencing something completely foreign - unexplained negativity.

Let me clarify. I've always suffered from low confidence and self esteem, as I've mentioned many times, so negativity about myself is nothing new at all. It's quite common for me to not believe I'm capable of something, to feel inferior, to stress out so much about messing something up that I lose that positive self and therefore create a self-fulfilling prophecy. These are practically par for the course at times, unfortunately. But I've never been negative towards others. I've never negatively talked about others, openly criticized people, said mean things in general. In fact, I can't watch most reality TV because it makes me uncomfortable to watch people get torn apart by judges and gossiped about by other contestants. I've always been praised for my huge heart and very caring nature. I'm a fixer and a nurturer who always wants everyone to be happy and everything to be perfect (hence the stress of messing up and self-fulfilling prophecy). And yet suddenly, out of nowhere, I'm finding this negativity has crept in.

I first became aware of it because someone outright pointed it out. It wasn't terrible things. I wasn't starting nasty rumors that would appear on tabloid covers. It was little things - "wow did you see that guy's shirt; Ugh so-and-so is annoying me today; that girl's skirt looks kind of slutty."  At first, I was defensive. I'm not negative! I only want everyone to be happy! Everyone says how positive I am (this last one actually being true). Then, I started to notice that they were right. I was saying these things and there was really no reason to. So my I don't do that! changed to well, everyone does that at times, it's just people watching and observation really. I suppose moving from complete denial to admittance with attempted validation is perhaps a tiny step in the right direction, but not much. I know now that both actions are a self-preservation method. I don't want to be that mean person that talks about others, no matter how trivial. I want to live a life of love and service, and I seem to be moving in the right direction overall .... except for these inexplicable thoughts and comments that seem to come out of nowhere and fly out of my mouth without any ability to stop them.

If I look deep down, I can probably accurately attribute this negativity to three things. The first gets back to the self esteem and confidence (or lack thereof). Previously, I only directed the ill-effects inward. It seems that perhaps my interior has overflowed. It's as if I have filled myself to the brim with self-inflicted negativity - and that of others directed at me - and it now has nowhere to go but out.  The second is my complete and utter inability to disentangle thoughts and spoken word. I honestly think out loud almost without realizing it. I want to be able to process things before I say them, to filter out those that are socially unacceptable or might upset someone, and yet it seems virtually an impossible task, despite the fact that I know it must somehow be possible. Sometimes, it's not even that I mean to be mean, but the way something comes out sounds completely different than the thought process that created it.  The third is the effect of other negative people on me. There are several people in my life who are generally quite negative. I love them dearly, and I'll be honest that we do get a good laugh at times form being snarky. But it seems I'm letting this influence the rest of my interactions. Perhaps these people don't mind the negativity (assuming it's not directed at them) but it's a slippery slope. It's very tough for a bad habit to sometimes be ok.

Let me assure you, I'm not justifying my actions.  I'm simply trying to assess where they come from so that I can fix them.  After some thought, I have determined that I can't have negative conversations just because the person I'm talking to doesn't mind. First of all, some day they might mind. Second of all, I'm not good at the gray areas. I know this. I have an addictive personality, and when I form a habit, it's very tough to break. Instead, I have the choice to redirect the conversation, not reply, or simply not talk to these people (that last seems very unlikely).  I've also had to admit to myself, as much as it saddens me and makes me angry at myself, that while this is not part of my natural personality, it's a habit that I've formed. Finally, I've decided that for the time being at least, I need to follow the old adage "if you can't say anything nice don't say anything at all." I say for the time being because hopefully I'll be able to find a balance here. When someone asks me how I'm feeling, I'd like to be able to say "eh not so great" when fighting a cold, without slipping back into this bad habit of unnecessary negativity and judgmental comments. For now, though, I know I must try to eliminate negativity from as many angles as possible. I also realize it's not something I can fix overnight. While my instinct is to feel the need to do so, I know that expecting this will only result in failure, making me all the more stressed out about it. I will try, though, and I would love the positive support from my friends and loved ones, just as they'd give someone trying to kick any other bad habit. I'd also love their understanding, and allowance that while I'm trying very hard, nobody's perfect. 

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