lifestyle / Real talk

The negative gets stuck

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This post actually wasn’t supposed to be about the topic that it is about. A few minutes ago, I started typing something completely different, however I found myself surrounded by self doubt, constantly checking my spelling and grammar and I wasn’t able to focus on the message I wanted to bring across. Let me tell you why:

When I published last week’s post, I got lots of incredible and positive message, for which I am truly grateful, however I also received one rather critical response. A girl wrote to me that my grammar and English was rather weak and needed improvement. I am generally very open for constructive criticism and I am sure she did not mean to be hurtful. Ironically though, this girl used to go to my school, attended the same English class as I did and even got lower grades than me.

Positive words are forgotten. It’s the negative ones that get stuck

Despite that fact that I got nearly 100 positive messages, it was this one that I couldn’t stop thinking about. Was my English really that bad? Should I feel ashamed of the poorly edited texts I was publishing? I re-read my own post multiple times, trying to improve any grammar and spelling errors. Even sitting down to type this today felt challenging, because I was scared that this post would not be well edited enough and could be full of errors.

Then I paused for a second and asked myself: “Seriously Janine- what are you doing? When you read a nice message from one of your followers you feel happy for a few second, but you forget it right after. A critical message on the other hand you allow to get to you, to occupy your thoughts and to kick you right into a spiral of self doubt. Is this really how you want to deal with life?”

“She was unstoppable. Not because she did not have failures or doubts, but because she continued despite them.”

We only see the problems (and this is not our fault)

If I would have been logical about this, I would have realized that I got multiple nice messages and only one negative one. However, us humans are not beings of logic. My rather irrational emotional feedback is a small scale example of a big problem that our society generally struggles with: focusing more on the negative than on the positive.  A professor at the University of Stanford confirmed this: “almost everyone remembers negative things more strongly and in more detail”, which is due to the fact that “negative emotions generally involve more thinking than positive ones, thus, we tend to ruminate more about unpleasant events”1. There are probably also a lot of other evolutionary reasons for this, however this is not what this post is going to be about.

Most of us tend to focus on the amount of work that we have to do, about that one person that recently got on our nerves or on the red traffic light that we just had to stop at. We tend to forget about the stranger that smiled to us on the street, the hug our friend gave us or about the kind “thank you” we got from the cashier at the supermarket. We focus more on the problems that lie ahead of us in the future instead of feeling proud of what we have achieved so far. Read more about this in the “Where’s your focus on?” blogpost here

“You think it is cool to hate things. And it’s not. it’s boring. Talk about what you love and keep quiet about what you don’t.”

Train yourself to remember the positive

But how do we turn this negativity dilemma around? Much like muscles, we must train our minds. Meditation is great, because it helps us to take a step back and observe our thoughts. It is as easy as spending 10 minutes a day by yourself without any distraction, observing the thoughts that come up and practicing quietness.

For the last few months I have also introduced a “compliment notebook” into my life. This is a notebook, where I write down anything positive people say to me. It is incredible, but doing this has made a huge difference. Not only are you way more alert of the positive things people say to you because you are going to have to write them down later, you also appreciate them a lot more, because whenever you write down something new you re-read old compliments. After only doing this for a few weeks I attracted more and more compliments: suddenly a makeup artist told me I had beautiful skin (my skin is something I have been struggling with a lot in my late teens) and the other day a random woman at the airport told me I had beautiful eyes (which was after not sleeping for 12 hours on the plane).

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentimihalyi states that “unless we are occupied with other thoughts, worrying is the brain’s default position” and that we must learn “to control our consciousness and direct our attention to activities which give positive feedback2” to go against this this pattern.

“The trick is in what one emphasises. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy. the amount of work is the same.”

Don’t let the fear of imperfection stop you

Perfectionism arises from this “focusing on the negative”. Even when 99% of our work is pretty much perfect, that flawed 1% will stop us from being happy. I am a perfectionist: I want everything to be as good as it possible can. Contrary to popular belief, perfectionism can sometimes be more of a burden than a benefit. A quote from the book It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be by Paul Arden helped save me from the constant urge to do and be perfect, it goes as follows: “Too many people spend too much time trying to perfect something before they actually do it. Instead of waiting for perfection, run with what you go, and fix it along the way…”.

Realising that you are not and never will be perfect is extremely relieving. Yes, my blogposts are never going to be perfect, but they don’t have to be. I would rather get my idea out there with some flaws, than be too afraid to use my voice.

“We are allowed to be both: a masterpiece and a work in progress, simultaneously”

To sum this up: take constructive criticism seriously, work on the areas of your life that need improvement, but don’t ever let anyone else tell you what you can or can not do. Don’t let the fear of other people’s opinions and reactions stop you from doing what you want to do. The bad and goods news are: you will never be perfect. Nor will you ever be able to please everyone around you. The point is not to achieve perfection or to fit into certain social constructs. The point is to do the best you can do everyday, whilst staying true to yourself.

1: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/24/your-money/why-people-remember-negative-events-more-than-positive-ones.html
2: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201406/are-we-hardwired-be-positive-or-negative

9 comments

Marta 23. October 2017 Reply

Hi Janine,

I’m sorry someone would comment something like that on one of your posts. It’s sad that they would look past your message and ignore all of the great things you are saying, just to comment on your grammar. It is superficial of them, and if they are ignoring your words then perhaps you should do the same!

Also, I’m an English teacher and I think your writing is fine. Even native speakers make mistakes with their language- it’s not a big deal.

Your posts are inspiring, and there’s plenty more people who appreciate them for what they are 🙂

    Janine Jahnke 23. October 2017 Reply

    Hi Marta 🙂 Thank you so so much for your uplifing comment 🙂 It really means the world to me! I know, everybody makes mistakes from time to time and it is totally normal xx

    Janine Jahnke 23. October 2017 Reply

    Also thank you for the great advice: “It is superficial of them, and if they are ignoring your words then perhaps you should do the same!” :)!

celina 23. October 2017 Reply

amazing post and true words! I think you’re such a lovely person even I don’t know you!

Krissi 25. October 2017 Reply

Wow… Das hast du mega schön geschrieben und du hast soo Recht! Wir wollen immer perfekt sein, dabei ist niemand perfekt. Jeder Mensch macht und hat Fehler, das ist was uns menschlich macht.
Mir geht es auch so, dass ich negative Kommentare und Erlebnisse viel mehr an mich heranlasse als positive. Über die freue ich mich zwar total, aber die negativen sind diejenigen, an die ich mich ewig erinnere, über die ich immer und immer wieder nachgrübel. Das liegt scheinbar irgendwie in der Natur des Menschen, ist aber so schade. Wir sollten uns lieber auf das Positive in unserem Leben konzentrieren und uns damit beschäftigen, daran erinnern. Das macht einen im Endeffekt doch viel glücklicher als das ständige Nachgrübeln über Negatives.

Das mit der Kritik an deinem Englisch von einer ehemaligen Klassenkameradin unter deinem letzten Post ist echt crazy. Klingt für mich absolut nach Neid und Missgunst. Meiner Meinung nach ist dein Englisch sehr gut und Rechtschreib- und Grammatikfehler passieren jedem mal, selbst in der eigenen Muttersprache. Mach dir also nichts aus dem bescheuerten Kommentar! <3

Ganz liebe Grüße,
Krissi von the marquise diamond
http://www.themarquisediamond.de/

    Janine Jahnke 31. October 2017 Reply

    Vielen lieben Dank für deinen Kommentar Krissi! Es hat wirklich Spaß gemacht ihn durchzulesen. Alles Liebe, Janine

    Janine Jahnke 31. October 2017 Reply

    Thank you so much Krissy! x

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