It doesn’t matter what you do or how you choose to live your life, there will always be someone judging you for it. Whether or not you choose to have children, work a corporate job or start your own business, stay put in the city you grew up in or move away to a new adventure, people will have opinions, and they may not always be positive.
I’ve been a person who has always cared what people thought of me and have taken things very personally over the years. There’s been things said to me that have absolutely broken me and I’ve dwelled on it for days, weeks, months. Growing up, I would let the negativity eat away at me because I just didn’t really know any better. I let those negative comments and opinions overwhelm me. I was left wondering if I could have done anything differently or if I should change who I was to compensate. I’m not going to lie, to this day, negative comments and negative people still get to me. I don’t think I’d be actually human if I didn’t.
But as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to think of the negativity in a different way: I now put myself in the shoes of the negative person trying to bring me down. Any time I get a negative comment, opinion or reaction, instead of crawling into a ball and crying about it, I question why that person is saying something negative or acting in a certain negative way. I try to understand their perspective. Because more often times than not, it’s likely not me that is the issue – it’s them. Those people who are trying to tear you down or make you feel crummy about yourself are usually projecting their own insecurities, negativity and fears onto you.
When I think about bullies and haters and just overall negative people, I honestly feel sad for them. These are people that maybe aren’t so happy with some part of their life or who they are. This is why I’m learning to stop taking things so personally and respond with maturity and grace. There’s five things I’ve done that you may find helpful the next time you encounter a negative person.
Always, Always Lead with Kindness & Compassion
We never know the type of battles people are facing. As I already mentioned, unhappiness or discontentment with some part of their lives is often what causes those to lash out and project their negativity. It can be easy to get sucked into the negativity and respond accordingly, but I challenge you to take a step back and assess the situation before you respond and stoop to their level. Think about why this person judged you or said something negatively. What is their motive in doing so?
I think back to what my parents always said when I was growing up: “be the bigger person, Kelly.” Let’s be the bigger person in these situations. If you respond, respond with kindness and compassion. It may throw the negative person off guard, honestly, and they may come around then and apologize for their words or actions. If they don’t, learn to just shrug it off.
Try to Ignore the Negativity
I need to practice what I preach here, because as I said, it’s easy to get caught up in the negative words and actions being thrown at you. It can consume you and make you question things. But I am urging you (and myself) to try to ignore the negativity. It’s not worth your time or energy to sit with that and wonder over and over again why they said what they said or did what they did. Find other ways to occupy your time – spend time with a loved one or friends, go for a walk, write in your journal about the positives in your life.
I don’t talk much about my faith at all, but one thing that has always stuck with me through the years of being a Catholic has been the idea of forgiveness. To ensure you don’t harness negativity yourself, you need to allow yourself to forgive. Forgive the person or people that have wronged you. Holding grudges is going to do nothing for your overall wellness in your life and finding forgiveness can allow you to move on from it in a positive way.
I like to say that I forgive, but I don’t forget. I will always remember the negative comments that have been said to me over the years and the individuals who said it.
Use Negativity as Fuel for Motivation
Why do I remember the negative comments? Because I use them as fuel. Those negative comments are turned into positive reinforcement for me to either prove a person wrong or to motivate myself to keep going. I love a comeback story and I try to live that every damn time I run into a negative situation or person. I like to think that I can credit all those moments of negativity for the success I’ve had in my life.
Remember how in my 25 Things You May Not Know About Me, I shared how my dad and boyfriend (at the time) doubted my track and field capabilities in high school? I was so hurt that they had no faith in me to succeed and I did everything in my power to prove them wrong – and I did. My point is, while you can ignore the negativity to an extent, it’s likely going to creep back into your thoughts at some point. Instead of getting upset about how a person demeaned or judged you, see it for what it is: you must be doing something right in your life for that person to be so consumed with you and what you do with your life. So girl, keep climbing and keep kicking ass. Let the haterade fuel you.
Never Compromise Who You Are
Never, ever, ever take words to heart to the point where you change who you are or what you do. You are you for a reason and if someone doesn’t like you or your life choices, screw ‘em! Stay focused on your path and what you’re doing and keep a positive attitude. Allow yourself to grow from the negativity and treat it as a learning experience.
Negativity is always going to be a part of life, but know that those negative words and actions aren’t going to be what matters down the road. What’s going to matter is how you handled the situation and what you gained and learned from it.
Kelly Nash is a Chicago-based writer, career coach, speaker and founder of Lipstick & Ink®. She also works full-time in technology as a Role Strategy and Employee Engagement Manager at Salesforce and has over 12 years of digital marketing experience. Kelly has been featured in Thrive Global, Chicago Tribune, International Association of Women, General Assembly, Salesforce, and SheFactor. She’s fueled by black coffee, sunshine, a good ink pen, and a bold lip.