When I Don’t Whine, I Cry: How Negativity Bullies Us

conquest of happiness

Conquest of happiness (Photo credit: the waving cat)

Negativity drags us down like a midnight rendezvous with a dirty martini at an empty bar.  And the worst part? We don’t even realize we’ve been intoxicated by it. This isn’t just blatant negativity, like griping about a co-worker who swears she has Lupus every time she sneezes—this is the culture of negativity that seems to have seeped in under our doors while we we’re sleeping, essentially re-setting our “normal” button to a steady level of self-deprecation.

As with many life lessons I’ve learned in the past two years, I realized just how gripping this new-age pessimism was during an elevator ride at my apartment building. As I came home on a Friday (after a long week of work) I slipped into the elevator with a tall, crop-pant wearing woman, roughly the age of a seasoned mom. We stood in silence for three floors. Then in a sweet voice the woman asked me how I was doing, to which I replied with a groan and an explanation that the week just dragged. And what did she say back to me, with her cheery voice and a smile that rivaled a kid at Disney World? “Well, congratulations—you did it!” At first I thought she was being sarcastic, but as she continued to sincerely smile at me, I realized that she was completely serious. What? What is this verbal pat on the back that threw me back to grade school? It felt like someone had just stuck a Great Work! sticker on my shirt and gave me a round of applause. Here I was reveling in the misery of week, and this woman had the nerve to come along and turn my frown upside down!

And this wasn’t the only elevator ride that jolted me from my clouded mind. Another day, on my way home from work, I was asked the same question—this time from a gentleman. Of course I replied that I was really happy the work day was over, that I was bored from sitting in an office, and glad that the misery was coming to an end.  And what did this guy have the gall to say? “Oh that’s a shame. You really should enjoy what you do.” My equilibrium was completely thrown. Why was he not following the social convention of complaining about the weather or your job when engaged in small-talk? And what was this work-enjoyment thing he was trying to press on me? Keep it to yourself, man.

So when did negativity become the norm? At some point we stopped praising all the great things we do, like getting through a tough work-week, and instead began criticizing our missteps. Our bosses don’t send us emails telling us we’re fantastic and hardworking employees—they walk over to our desks and criticize us for incorrectly filling out the TPS report. And they certainly aren’t going to say You did it! at the end of the week; they’re going to assume you did, or fire you on Monday if you didn’t.

How much more successful and happy would we be if we re-implemented positivity in our lives? What would happen if I brushed off my co-worker’s hypochondriac behavior and make thought-space for something more valuable? What about if we looked in the mirror and congratulated ourselves for our toned triceps, instead of thinking about yesterday’s doughnut that went straight to our thighs? And what if—brace yourself—we told elevator strangers that we are actually doing really well and had a good week at work?

Maybe the key to shifting the paradigm of negativity lies in the policy of “fake it ‘till you make it,” until eventually we push the “normal” button back to a steady stream of happiness. Will this permanently alter the current aura that’s hanging over modern society?

And most importantly, what will become the future of elevator small-talk?

About OneWeekToCrazy

Writer in my real life, Milton in my work life. Damn it feels good to be a gangsta.

Posted on July 5, 2012, in Lifestyle, Seeking Perfection and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. I have noticed this as well!! It’s a little disheartening…especially when I notice MYSELF doing it! One thing that’s really helped change my perspective is writing down at least three things I’m happy for at the end of every day, before I go to bed at night. 🙂

  2. This is so, so true and something that I’m trying to work on myself at the moment, particularly with my view of the city I currently live in and the work that I’m doing.

    P.S. I’m glad I took the time to stop by and read 😀

  3. i share your view. we love to spank ourselves for the silliest faults but never praise ourselves for our good things. now i am not telling people to become narcissist but they can atleast be fair to themselves.

  4. Good on you, Courtney! You’ve found the meaning of it all! It’s so true than we end up being so negative all the time, what with all the negative vibes society sends towards us, and we forget about the simple beauty, the simple act of being positivie, of seeing what’s good about it all. I don’t necessarily say we have to fake it, but seeing the bright side does help not to feel bad and complain all the time.
    Chance encouters in an elevator were the trigger for you; let’s hope everyone meets their trigger and keep on smiling!
    We’ll all feel much better, then.
    Have a good day, now!

  5. fivereflections

    Close your eyes then imagine looking out into the universe at night what do you see…

    Look often it will change your life … I know this

    David in Maine USA

  6. Great thoughts and you’re certainly right. Negativity is the dominant force in our culture. I especially hate to hear when someone speaks negatively about themselves (I’m so stupid, I’m so fat, I’ll never get this right). It’s really sad but look at the impact one small positive can have on a multitude of negatives. My teenage son is the king of compliments – he sounds like Eddie Haskell from “Leave it to Beaver” but he’s sincere when he compliments the waitress, the grocery clerk, the person in the elevator with us or the reception at the doctor’s office. And to see the look on their face turn from “wait, is he for real or is he being sarcastic?” (thanks to our cynical world) to “that just made my day” is a joy to behold. People are in desperate need of more positive in their lives and it can start with us saying just one little thing to make their day. Great job and I hope you have a wonderful weekend 🙂

    • Wow, that’s really fantastic that your son is so comfortable with giving compliments, especially at a young age! These days, many people simply don’t know how to engage with others in a positive way. Cheers to him, and thank you so much for your kind response!

    • Everyday is where its at..acts of love..strengthening each other as a norm.

  7. Normally I waltz into elevators telling people they “made it!” or will make, etc,, and when I receive odd looks I laugh and say, “Yes, I know, my positiveness can be a little much- but really, the world is kind of a *gorgeous place* sometimes…”

    — but tonight I was feeling exhausted, unhappy, and confused-

    and here your wrote this post, unwittingly reminding me to get out of myself, appreciate the fact that “I have eyes to see the sunlight, ears to hear, lungs to breathe, feet to take me anywhere- what gifts!” (( **quote: the Music of Silence) and yet here I was, feeling sorry for myself-

    and then I read your words and I was very thankful to be reminded:
    that yes, life is good; it is confusing at times, and painful, but all worthy things come with a price, don’t they?

    Blessings to your writing and your weekend!

    • Awww, you are exactly the person I would want to see on an elevator…keep being your kind self–even if people don’t say it aloud, they appreciate your enthusiasm (I promise!) 🙂

  8. Where’s the “LOVE” button?

    Positivity is key. Nobody likes a Negative Nelly…maybe that’s why my grandmother always told me “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything.”

    This was a pleasure to read.


  9. Fucking A. You are so on the money…this paradigm needs a shifting. We need to liberate the human condition from this nightmare. Thankyou

  10. You have been ‘TAGGED’ by catnipoflife. Go to her website (http://catnipoflife.wordpress.com/) for insight into why you have been tagged and what happens next! Have FUN! Hope you enjoy. . .

  11. Being happy isn’t always important. Sometimes we need to be down and out so we can more fully experience life.

    The good stuff won’t be good without the baseline of bleakness to compare it to.

  12. scribbleofhappygoluckygal

    brilliant writing:):)

  13. I am a glass half full girl myself but even I found negativity worming its way into some areas of my life this was great to read.

  14. Hey, switch on to positivity.
    Sweet, xx

  15. Yes, this is so very true! It is sad how we are all just so stressed out that majority of the time our subconscious gravitates to the negative and it’s an effort to get to positive. My best friend is reading a book at the moment that gives you a small task of positivity to apply each day and you also have to make a conscious effort to be thankful of something every day- I think it’s a fabulous concept.
    Thank you for writing this post!

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