Long-standing unhappiness is a cause for perpetual negativity in life. But staying steeped in it doesn’t augur well because not only is negativity emotionally draining but makes you less productive
By Manjulaa Shirodkar
Try typing ‘How to Keep Negativity Out of Your Life’ on the internet and in .57 seconds you get approximately 4,61,00,000 results. Astounded at the mind-boggling number? Me too. Not because there are so many results mentioning this phrase but the fact that clearly a need has been felt by scores of people to help rank strangers! Be it vibes, negative auras or plain unhappiness, the results also indicatejust how many millions are out there seeking help and support.
Quick fix formulas like ‘stay happy’, ‘laugh more’, ‘stay positive’, ‘help others’, ‘turn negative into positive’ abound. While these may be helpful, unless conscious and repeated action is taken to recognise and push away negativity, they remain but words and advice on paper.
Going by the definitions of negativity, it entails ‘the expression of criticism of or pessimism about something’ according to Google. It is ‘an attitude that is not hopeful or enthusiastic’ as per the Cambridge dictionary and ‘a tendency to consider only the bad side of something or someone; a lack of enthusiasm or hope’ says Oxford.
Its important to understand that long-standing unhappiness also becomes a valid cause for perpetual negativity in life. There can be a single or multiple reasons for why one turns negative or pessimistic, which may result in one becomingbitter, cynical or depressed – depending on one’s temperament.
But it doesn’t augur well to continue to nurse the melancholic emotion because not only is it emotionally debilitating but also causes you become less productive over time. Try working wholeheartedly on something when you are mentally upset and see how much effort that takes. That is called working at less than your 100 per cent productivity.
Look around you. It may help to become aware of what or who is causing your unhappiness. Be aware of people or situations which make you unhappy or drain you of your energies,leaving you mentally exhausted. For instance, there may be a day when you are feeling happy and cheerful but meet someone who insists on narrating his/her problems only.
And the solutions that you offer are consistently rejected or countered with arguments or they continue to justify the issues they are facing.While their pain or problem may be genuine, their reluctance to listen, abide by your support and move on, could also mean that he/she is not interested in hearing you out ortaking your helping hand.They are only concerned about venting. Perhaps the person does not wish to be made aware that he/she is going through a phase and only wants to wallow in their suffering.
By getting emotionally involved in their problems and getting frustrated because they are rejecting your advice or suggestions you are only setting yourself up for unhappiness. Such a person will drain you emotionally. If possible, stay away. You may not be able to do it literally but avoid providing your shoulder beyond a certain time. If this is a pattern, avoid giving counsel too.
Then there are people who are envious of your position in life and may express it in myriad ways. It could be repeated mocking without provocation about you being more privileged. It could be that they compliment you on your face but gossip behind your back. It could be that they are forever curious about how much you earn or pay your staff or what’s the latest in your life. The idea is to know more for the sake of it under the garb of concern. Most likely their self-sustenance comes from wishing that you were down in the dumps. Once again, its best to distance yourself. Since this is insidious behaviour, trying to counter it upfront may prove counter-productive. Remove yourself from their space and know that their behaviour is not worth your time. Experience the peace of mind that comes with this.
A lot of times we encounter people who are only self-serving. For this bunch it matters not whether how much or how many times you give of your time, resources or money – it is never enough. Know that they only like to take and not to give back – in any form. It doesn’t matter to them that you may or not be in a position to give but they demand it as a right. And make it appear as they though they have done you a favour by grudgingly accepting your help. ‘Oh, but I didn’t really need this. Since you are helping out, I will accept it,’ is the attitude. Recognise that by creating a situation of want/need, they prevail upon your goodness to offer – and repeatedly and then make a habit of asking without actually asking you! Turn them down softly but firmly. Say No. Your time, money and resources are well earned. Keep them. It will make you a happier person in the long run.
Still, a lot of times our negativity needn’t be because of external factors or people alone. It could be stemming from unhappy memories of our past. They could range from an unhappy childhood; backstabbing by so-called friends, petty politics indulged in at workplace by colleagues, a difficult boss, loss of a loved one, a traumatic incident which we are unable to overcome or forget; an ambition which is getting frustrated repeatedly. There are reasons galore.
Often we don’t even realise that by revisiting these memories, we are keeping them alive in our head. We may be stuck in these moments of unhappiness. Reminiscing them over and again helps no one. It only stops us from moving forward and taking on life as it unfolds. It is not easy to forget these instances, but by keeping them fresh in your head, you lose your chance at being happy in your current situation.
For instance, it is possible that you come from a modest background and had financial difficulties while growing up but today, you are well-settled in a successful job or business and money is no longer an issue. But if you continue to think and voice about the tough times you faced back then, you are not living in the present. Instead you are continuing to live in the lack of finances then and that keeps you from enjoying what you have today.
Or it could be that you were sacked from a job or left it under unhappy circumstances, and it has affected you so much that you are unable to send in another application to a new workplace or if you have taken up a new job, you are constantly working from a position of fear that history may repeat itself. That fear stops you from giving your 100 per cent to your current work/project or going forward. Don’t manifest another sacking or quitting the job. Your thoughts are eventually actions. What you think, you create in reality.
Recognising that your low self-esteem comes from an incident in the past, and getting rid of it will help. Know that the situation is different now. You have likely learned from the mistakes you made and are working differently and smartly – to perform better; the new workplace is a friendlier and less damaging one than the previous one. The people are different. Begin afresh. There are no rules to how many times you can start afresh. Each new try is an opportunity.
Often memories keep us from becoming aware of our present. Letting go and starting afresh always helps. Each time. Work on yourself and remember a happy you is a better you. There are enough people out there beating you up, using and dumping you. Please don’t join their gang and do the same to yourself. Love yourself because there is only one you. God created you and broke the mould – that is reason enough to be happy!
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Manjulaa Shirodkar (nee Negi) is an established film critic and author, having worked in leading national publications. She is also a Film Selection Committee member for various film festivals.