Thursday, May 22, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday: The Problem With Cutting the Negative Out of Your Life

Recently I've noticed a trend of online urgings to cut the negative out of our lives; whether that means negative experiences, people or influences. And that message isn't just relegated to the web. There are countless commercials on TV and movies that encourage us to follow our bliss at all costs. 

Well, on the surface that sounds great! I mean, who doesn't want more positivity in their life? Who doesn't want to do exactly what they want to do, 24 hours a day? 


But when I really think about that logic, I find some inherent problems. 

It is not realistic to assume or even want everyone in my life to be inspirational or positive. My banker might not change my life. The guy working the register at 7-11 might not inspire me to greatness, right? But maybe that's not what this particular quote is referencing. Maybe it's talking about people that are closer to us. 

Let's take a look at that. We can't always chose the people that are in our lives. We don't often get to choose our co-workers and we can't just quit our jobs if the people that we work with are emotionally draining. 

To that end, sometimes the people that are draining are even closer than that. Can we choose our family? Are we supposed to cut family members out if they're challenging or draining? It's not exactly that easy. And that notion completely negates the fact that maybe YOU are supposed to inspire those draining people. Maybe your positive attitude and energy is just what those Negative Nancys need to begin to think about things differently!  

"Spend time with people who are smart, driven & likeminded". Here's the deal; I am not always that driven. Sometimes I don't exactly bank on my intelligence and the absolute last thing I need to do is surround myself with people who think exactly like me.

Some of the people who have inspired me the most in my life are people who I didn't initially agree with; people who changed my mind about a wrong or mislead idea or viewpoint. And vice versa.

If I would have decided that these inspirational people weren't worth my time simply because I categorized them as negative, different-minded or happiness-suckers,  I would have missed out on some great friendships that I still have today.

"When you free yourself from negative people, you free yourself to be you- and being YOU is the only way to truly live".

At the end of the day, I am not a very good person. If my end goal is to just live to be me; to just live to free myself to be ME, I'm going to be a pretty sorry, narcissistic excuse for a human. I NEED other people in my life, even the negative people.


My day is often filled with "forced interactions" & "unnecessary conversations".  Left to my own devices, I can get pretty self-focused. I can start to believe that the only important conversations are the ones that concern me. The only interactions that are worthy are the ones that are comfortable and worn-in. My agenda is the most important plan and if I don't have energy for all the other people who just slow me down, I can just forget them, right?

Wrong!  On top of which, I am often that person that is forcing the interaction!  I can often be quite awkward in everyday conversation and I am suddenly very thankful for the people that have allowed me & my awkwardness to stay in their lives and haven't asked me to leave because they just don't have the energy for me. 


What all of these handy little sayings succeed in doing is convincing us that we are the center of our own universe. How are the people in your life serving you? How is that co-worker that always comes into work complaining sucking YOUR energy? How is that family member that always needs a favor inconveniencing YOUR schedule?

I worry about the prevalence of this kind of thinking because it's just so darn selfish! Our society is already so individualistic. Do we really need another voice telling us that we are the most important thing in the world? Are we really supposed to always be happy and successful? Is it possible that we are called to engage with, and possibly even love, the negative, draining people in our lives?

This week, I challenge you to not cut people out of your life, but invite them in. Life and relationships are messy and hard and they don't always make you feel good or special. But it's that messiness that ultimately makes them so incredibly beautiful.

I hope you invite  your challenging people into your life. Because at this very moment, someone could be inviting you and your challenges into their life. And I hope they never give up on you.

Or on me, for that matter.

Now, to be clear, I'm not condoning people taking advantage of others. It is extremely important to know your boundaries and be able to communicate that effectively with people who would take advantage. It's not easy and I don't want to simplify it. It's something that I'm certainly still working on, but I believe that it's important work. 

I am also not condoning abusive relationships. If you or someone you know is in a abusive (physically, verbally or emotionally) relationship, please seek help. 

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