I am amazed how much energy I have committed to negative people and their experiences. I used to think that I toxic people were drawn to me for some reason. I would find myself completely worn out and thinking “Why is everyone around me so unhappy?” And after a while, my frustration would get to the point of pure exhaustion. And I would wonder how I could stay positive with so much negativity around me and even worse, I would think things like, “Maybe I just need to be more negative too.”
Finally one day, I heard someone make the simplest of statements. They were talking about how to navigate unhappy co-workers and all the drama that can suck the life out of your work day. The statement was something like this, “You have to become disinterested in the negativity. Begin to consciously decide that you have no interest in it and it will cease to impact you.”
My initial reaction was to sit down. Those words were so simple, yet profound. It made so much sense. The reality was that I had to acknowledge my own interest in the negativity, the drama, the tragedy of it all. I mean, we have have an entire culture that thrives on reality television and pop culture that perpetuates heartache, grievances, and chaos. And I DID find that interesting. I like to think it appealed to my character that believes someone can persevere through hardships but the reality was that by paying attention to the gossip or negative stuff, I didn’t have to pay attention to myself and acknowledge painful feelings or experiences of fear or insecurity.
So I began to digest this idea of disinterest. I sat with it for a day or so and then I became excited. I wanted to try this out the next day. I began my day as I usually do and sure enough, within an hour I had my first opportunity to practice disinterest. Someone was complaining about another coworker and their ‘tone’ and remarking on a recent interaction that was, according to this person, totally unbelievable. I recognized how easy it would be to comment and not only become interested but engaged in the conversation. But instead, I smiled and simply choose to think about a positive quality about the very same person who was being talked about and quietly walked out of the room.
The opportunities kept coming. It happened when someone cut me off in traffic, when my bank made an error on a deposit slip, when someone criticized me for a mistake, and when I spilled coffee down my shirt. It’s not about ignoring these things or pretending they don’t happen. Its about recognizing what I can learn and figuring out how I want to move forward.
As I become more in tune with opportunities that present for my disinterest, this amazing thing happens…I simultaneously become more open to the possibility of hopefulness and gratitude. My environment has not changed, the landscape is the same, yet my capacity for love, tolerance, and understanding has only increased.
It is not like I am suddenly immune to negativity but now I am better at allowing myself to truly assess my own feelings of stress, insecurity, or fear. Accepting the reality of the situation enables a healthier and happier way to appease my heart than getting consumed by the chaos. Some times are easier than others, but I am committed to the practice of becoming less interested in the negativity and much more interested in love, understanding, compassion, and kindness.
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