A Delaware Wave reader sent me this note: “While preparing to have my first child, I did some research and resolved that I was going to breast feed. I couldn’t wait to share this momentous decision with my aunt, with whom I feel very close. Her negative reaction stopped me in my tracks! After she lectured me on how it did not work for her, how I would not like it, blah, blah, blah, I was left disappointed, and, well, just sad. I eventually realized that this reaction had been about HER, not me. Why do some people have to play out their bad attitudes by stepping on the hopes of others — especially those who (still) love them?”
Well, Dear Reader, your aunt is probably not even conscious of what she did to you, simply because she has no idea what she does to herself. People like her lack self-awareness. They have no idea of the impact their negative thinking on other people. Chances are, your aunt was exposed to a lot of negativity early in her life. She never challenged it, so she became that way herself.
Inquisitive people like you are usually positive thinkers. Your research on the subject assumes that, (1) knowledge is worthwhile, and (2) life is worth exploring and learning about. You want the best life possible for you and your child. This is what your aunt didn’t understand, and this is why she hurt you.
Yes, her reaction was all about HER. She had a bad experience, therefore you must, too. Maybe she just meant to be honest. Maybe she was trying to shield you from what she believed was a mistake. But she handled it in a hurtful way. A more positive person might have said, “My own experience with breast-feeding was disappointing. But I didn’t do research like you did, and I’d love to hear about it.”
One of the characteristics of leadership is being positive when others around you are negative. We all must be leaders of our OWN lives. If you decide that a certain course of action is correct, then you owe it to yourself to not let anyone bring you down. All that matters is that you keep your eye on your goal. Of course, be open to the possibility you could be wrong, too. If someone points something out that you hadn’t considered, and it makes sense, then thank him or her for the help! But someone else’s negativity alone is never a reason to become paralyzed.
You might say to her, “You know, I carefully researched this. I know your experience was negative, and I appreciate your honesty. But it seems to me you might ask for more information before you decide what I should or shouldn’t do.” This way, you stand up for yourself without starting a fight. You’re telling her, “You’re negative, and I don’t appreciate it.”
We tend to look at depression, anxiety and stress from a strictly medical perspective. But many people suffer psychologically from the negative attitudes of a sour spouse, pessimistic co-workers, or the carefully orchestrated toxicity of TV news. But the emotional climate can only affect our attitude if we allow it to.
I once knew a person who saw disaster around every corner. It never struck — but he always “saw it coming.” Finally, one time it did. He was on a vacation and there was a terrible tragedy in which a number of people died. His immediate comment was, “I KNEW something bad would happen!” To which I replied, “But, honestly, you say that every time. Think of all the times it didn’t happen.” He didn’t appreciate my free advice, but I’m glad I said it anyway.
It’s bad enough that bad things happen, but we still have to stand up to the negative emotional climate that surrounds us. Of course breast-feeding doesn’t work out for every new mother. Does that entitle a negative person to rant and rave about it? I say no. And so should you.
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