I don’t know how I became such a positive person. Seriously. It freaks me out sometimes.
Because I wasn’t always like this. There was a time in my life when I was wounded, bitter. There was a time when I not only easily saw the negative in myself (which is still true by the way, I’m painfully aware of my flaws, and the best I can do most days is pretend they aren’t there and try to focus on other stuff) — I also saw the negative in other people. I could pick other people apart from a mile away. Rattle off their obvious negative qualities — and more subtle ones.
I was a pessimist. I wore hateful goggles. It tainted my worldview.
Part of it, I think, was that I’d been hurt pretty badly. And I was angry about that. I was also pretty resentful that I lacked a solid support system. I had a kind of distributed network I’d cobbled together — of friends and acquaintances who I could rely on for this or that. But nothing and no one solid.
And certainly no safety net if anything big went wrong.
So I became critical. Pessimistic. True, I kept most of it to myself (because I knew that most people didn’t like a downer, and I needed other people for my makeshift support system). Some of it inevitably leaked through though, in spite of my best efforts.
And frankly, I was miserable viewing the world that way. It protected me to a certain extent — but at what cost? I felt stressed and irritated all the time. Had a hard time truly getting close to people.
And worst of all, I was perpetuating bitterness, not kindness — when kindness is what I really wished I’d had. I wasn’t doing bad things at the same magnitude as what was done to me, mind you. Nothing like that. But I had a moment when I realized I was acting in a similar mode as the people who had hurt me in the past.
So at a certain point, I made a conscious choice to start looking for the positive. On purpose. And emphasizing it.
I still noticed the negative — still do for what it’s worth; I think I always will. This is important by the way, being able to accept that negativity exists — truly resilient people aren’t always positive. They acknowledge reality, and sometimes reality just isn’t pretty.
But I didn’t pull that negative into me quite as hard. I didn’t let it infest me. I didn’t let it turn me bitter. And that made a huge difference.
It’s something I try to keep in mind, particularly when I’m dealing with someone who is being very bitter. Someone who is intent on picking me apart and letting me know what they think my flaws are. Someone who is so eager to find fault that they’ll coax it from even an ambiguous place.
It’s easy to get offended at times like that, to get frustrated — and yes, to feel bitter myself. But as I do, I stop and think about that younger woman I once was and how angry and bitter she was. And all I feel then is understanding.