Sunshine Stealers: Dealing with negative people in your life

Sunshine Stealers: Dealing with negative people in your life

Our ultimate freedom is the right and power to decide how anybody or anything outside ourselves will affect us. ~Stephen Covey

So, you’re minding your own business and having a bright, bright sunshiny day. Everything seems to be going your way–your kids are getting along, the guy at Starbucks finally gets your order right and the lights are all green.

Then, it happens.

Some yahoo comes along and takes a crap in your Cheerios. Suddenly, your sunny outlook is replaced by the storm clouds of negativity. You start remembering all those little things that bother you, the stresses, the annoyances, and the general malaise sets in. The kids start fighting, the coffee gets cold before you can drink it and the lights turn red. You’re irritated and ready to scream.

“Mean people really do suck. There you are, minding your own business, having a great day, and some snarky cashier, office person, or even a bus driver shreds your happy little bubble of a life into a million pieces,” says Anne Loyd in the Mean People That Suck blog. “All you can remember is that one jerk who ruined your day.”

Loyd is totally on-point. Dealing with negative people in your life totally sucks.

Most everyone has experienced this whole mean people phenomenon at one time or another, and when the negativity is doled out by a random someone in the world, it’s easy to learn to change your mind and change your perspective–after all, you don’t need to deal with these people on a consistent basis. Why should you let them steal your sunshine?

But sometimes, it’s not some random bus driver or grocery store clerk who causes the icky feelings–it’s someone you love–a stressed out spouse, a controlling parent, or a fair-weather friend, for example. Then it becomes a whole different thing–because you can’t just walk away and never see or talk to that person again. He or she is a part of your life, probably a pretty important part.

So what do you do? Are you doomed to walking around with a proverbial rain cloud over your head? What’s the trick to dealing with negative people in your life–especially when you love them–all while keeping the sun shining in your world?

Tips for Dealing With Negative People in Your Life

Understand What’s Happening

As children, we crave the approval of the people we love. We want our parents to be proud of us, we want our teachers to think we’re smart and we want our friends to think we’re cool. As we grow older, we often tend to accept what our loved ones think as fact, and we internalize their thoughts and judgments against us. We begin to think that maybe they’re right, that we’re not good enough or that we really aren’t as cool or smart as we thought.

But here’s the thing that we forget. Our loved ones are human, just like we are, and in some cases, they’re just plain wrong.

“Just because someone is concerned for your welfare does not mean that their advice or input has value,” says writer Peter Murphy. “For example, I know a lot about peak performance. I do not know much about car maintenance. If I ever offer you advice on rebuilding a car engine run as fast as you can! My input would have little or no value.”

Same deal with your loved ones–sometimes they may be negative about you or your choices because they can’t understand or simply don’t know how to think positively about the situation. And their lack of understanding can lead to unreasonable anxiety about your life–which, of course, makes them feel justified in throwing down some negativity on your (otherwise happy) ass. You have to learn to distinguish between valuable advice and unreasonable negativity.

Approve of Yourself

By nature, we seek the approval of the people we love. In many cases, we can feel limited and stifled by the constraints that maintaining such approval can impose on us. Some people in our lives offer conditional love, which means that they can’t (or won’t) treat you with love or respect unless you can be the person they want you to be.

When we don’t fit into the neat little boxes that our loved ones (and our society) have set out for us, we are often ostracized or shunned, sometimes by those closest to us. And, if we require the approval of those we love to be happy, we set ourselves up for conditional self-acceptance–so when we’re doing what “they” think we should, we think we’re allowed to feel good about ourselves (even if that nagging feeling in the pit of our stomachs is telling us that we’re not on the right path.) We become the victims of the limiting beliefs of the people around us.

We must learn to let go of the need to please the people we love, and start focusing on what’s right for ourselves. We must claim our independence from negativity and judgment, following our hearts to find true peace. Be yourself, and proudly claim your place in this world.

When you are happy and at peace with yourself, you’ll attract more happiness and peace into your world.

Change Your Mind, Change Your Life

I’ve said it till I’m blue in the face: you get back what you put out into the world. So, when you focus on the negativity in your life, the bad stuff, you’ll attract more of it to yourself. When you maintain a mostly positive attitude, you draw more of the same into your life.

We must own our confidence and trust in ourselves and our intuition. Keep your eye on the prize, and always expect the best–because the fact is, you get what you expect. Learn to let go of the past and focus on the positive things you’ve got coming toward you today.

If you’ve been hurt by someone you love, you must forgive that person in order to heal and move forward in peace. At all costs, try to avoid internalizing the negativity of others, and focus instead on the wonderful things in your life.

Bottom Line

We can’t control the people around us, no matter how hard we try. Practice accepting yourself and the people you love for who they are, and stay focused on what really matters. Be true to yourself and stay on the path that you know is right for you. Understand negativity for what it and find the approval you seek within yourself, for when you manage to achieve this new level of understanding, the rest will fall into place.

What do you think?  How do you deal with negativity from your loved ones? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section, below.


You Don’t Need No Stinking Approval!

You Don’t Need No Stinking Approval!

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ~Marianne Williamson

Good news: You Can Free Yourself from Needing the Approval of Others

Since we were children, most of us learned that it could be advantageous to make others happy. Most children want the approval of their parents, teachers, and peers. We tend to carry that same tendency into adulthood. While it’s natural to seek the approval of others, sometimes it might not be for the best.

Being a strong and free person includes the ability to move freely through the world without excessive concern about the opinions of others. Think about the people you respect the most. Do they allow the opinions of others to dictate their decisions? You can live the same way.

Live life on your own terms with these tips:

 Learn to say what you think. If you’re concerned about the opinions of others, you’ve probably developed a habit of keeping your opinion to yourself.

  • Start giving your opinion on smaller issues. For example, if you’re asked what movie you’d like to see, give a specific answer.
  • As your comfort level improves, you can speak up about more important issues.

Take the time to appreciate yourself. Keep a few minutes each day to remind yourself of all the things you like about yourself. Think about all the good things you do each day. List your positive characteristics.

  • If you can approve of yourself, you’ll be less likely to need approval from others.

Remind yourself that it’s impossible to make everyone happy. There are a wide variety of people in the world. So no matter what you do, there will always be someone who doesn’t like you. Interestingly, those that try to please everyone tend to be less respected. Others admire confident people, and confident people march to their own drum. 

There’s more gray area than you think. Many people that desperately seek the approval of others believe that perfection is the only thing that pleases others. You’re not going to be condemned (or considered a saint) for everyday words and actions.

  • Even the best people occasionally do or say things that most would consider to be negative. Others understand that no one is perfect all of the time. Do you judge people harshly over minor issues?

 Avoid reacting to disapproval in a way that encourages the criticizer. Many people use disapproval as a way to control others. When you apologize unnecessarily or change your opinion in reaction to disapproval, you might be simply rewarding that other person.

  • If you feel that another person is being unreasonable, consider confronting them in a calm, reasonable manner. You’ll likely find that the criticizer’s tendency to disapprove will stop when it fails to affect your choices. The disapproval you’re showing is fair under the circumstance. For once, disapproval will work for you instead of against you!

 Before taking an action, ask yourself if you’re primarily doing it to receive approval. Try to eliminate activities and choices from your life that are driven by the need to have others think highly of you.

  • Do a few things each week that you enjoy, even if they’re not going to impress anyone. It gets easier with time.

We all seek the approval of others from time to time. But allowing that need to control your thoughts and behavior makes life less enjoyable and more challenging.

The first step to changing approval-seeking thoughts and behavior is recognizing them as they occur. With a little work, you’ll find that the disapproval you’ve been avoiding has much less impact than you thought! It’s simply not a big deal. Free yourself from needing the approval of others. You’ll be glad you did!

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