When There’s No Lesson to be Learned

I think one of the worst experiences is to go through something awful without learning a valuable lesson. One of those experiences where you ask yourself, “What could I have done differently in order to avoid that situation from occurring?“ or “What was I supposed to come away with/ how was I supposed to change after that event?” and nothing comes to mind. Of course, it could be said there is always a lesson to be learned and that’s it’s only a matter of being honest enough with yourself and unbiased enough to accept what the situation is trying to teach you. Granted, there are many lessons I have learned via negative experiences. However, there are many I feel I must have missed. Learning a lesson makes me feel empowered and as though I didn’t go through a tough situation for nothing, that there’s a “silver lining”. Not knowing what to glean from a situation makes me feel like I have zero control over my own life. If I learn a lesson, I can put that lesson into practice to avoid or ameliorate future issues. If not, all I can do is dread the next time it might come up again. Not having learned a lesson makes it very hard to let go of my emotions surrounding it. It feels more like an assault than an opportunity, more like scorched earth than a rebuild. It feels like a bandaid that keeps getting ripped off or a trauma relived. I think in this type of situation the only thing you can do is to position yourself so that it’s less likely to happen again (whether that means moving, changing jobs, etc) and learn to accept what you can’t change or control. Am I the only one who has things happen that are super unpleasant and yet seemingly unavoidable and without any merit or redeeming value? How do you weather that experience in a dignified manner while not coming out on the other side jaded and fearful?

The Negative Side of Always Being Positive

Is it always right to be positive? Always wrong to be negative? Is it possible for negativity to be positive and positivity to be negative? Can positivity ever be counterproductive and negativity productive? Here are my thoughts.

Positivity doesn’t always acknowledge your feelings. You are everything and all you feel, and it all has value to you, even your grief, heartache, confusion, and anger. You must honor your feelings and their underlying motivations before you can move past them to other more pleasurable emotions.

Positivity implies there’s nothing redeemable about the existence of the supposed negative in life. However, there are almost always important lessons learned going through tough situations and coming out the other side alive. Trauma, death, loss, and destruction are not thought of as inherently positive, but can act as teachers revealing the direction of one’s life.

Positivity denies the opportunity for growth. You learn about yourself moreso through the bad times than the good. In the good times, facades are impenetrable and masks don’t slip. In bad times, your mettle is tested and character is revealed. Your triggers, your natural responses, your learned coping strategies, your natural tendencies all come to the forefront, and it’s a time of self-exploration and digging deep.

Positivity is often unrealistic. Things sometimes suck, and it’s okay to call a spade, a spade when they do. Denying reality seldom fixes anything.

Positivity, or “putting on a brave face”, is often used as a charitable act towards others. People seen as “positive” are generally more well-liked and enjoyable than those seen as “negative”. Negative people can even be seen as a burden to others.

So what’s the take-away? It’s natural for your mood and outlook to be aligned with your current emotions and circumstances. If they’re not, you risk being untrue to yourself, sacrificing self-care and the hard work of self-discovery on the altar of social acceptance.

Strength vs. Weakness

Something I’ve learned is that strength can appear weak and weakness can appear strong. It shows strength to hold your tongue and not react emotionally to another person who is pushing your buttons, even though it might feel like weakness at the time or be taken as weakness by others. On the other hand, it shows weakness to give in to an unnecessary squabble and allow yourself to become emotionally overwrought, even though it might feel like strength at the time or be taken as strength by others. This is something I struggle with a lot and constantly have to remind myself. Most situations aren’t worth getting involved in a dispute with someone and letting your inner peace be jeopardized. Although there are times when it’s necessary to speak up and it would even be immoral or dangerous not to do so, speaking up and giving one’s opinion usually comes from ego. And ironically, not letting other people outwardly ruffle you can show them you are strong enough to ignore the drama and encourage respect for you.

Intellectually, I know the more things I “let go”, the wiser and stronger I am. However, getting to the point where things “don’t bother you” (or at least bother you much less), takes a lot of practice, self-restraint, and taking the “high road”. Emotionally, it is not easy. Like a muscle, it must be used often to become strong and remain that way.

Here are some tips I’ve used to help me in this regard. First, realize that your own viewpoint differs from those of other people and colors the way you interpret something. You are probably looking at a situation with different experience, understanding, and knowledge than another person.

Second, understand that people don’t necessarily see you in the way you see yourself or the way you believe others see you. It is human nature to believe that other people think about you more than they really do or that they are more critical of you than they actually are. This often comes from low self-esteem and insecurity.

Third, decide not to take things personally. Because you cannot be sure of where someone else’s opinions, feelings, or attitudes come from, there’s no reason to assume they have ill intent or motives towards you. Even deciding to not take something personally that was in fact personal can help alleviate a lot of the anger, stress, and energy expenditure you’d experience by pursuing the issue.

Fourth, ignore everything that is possible to ignore (and that is most everything). By filling your life with positive people, activities, and work, it is easier to tune out negativity without feeling like you must react or “do something” about it. Also, I have personally experienced that being slighted stings less when I have other, better, more important things going on in my life. I also have less time to stew about them and for my anger to build. It’s when I am idle, perhaps unemployed, don’t really have any direction, have too much free time, that I am more likely to pursue every small perceived slight.

Fifth, feelings fluctuate constantly. You might be steaming mad over something you just found out about, especially if you were already in a down mood, even though the issue doesn’t justify extreme anger. Spend time on things you enjoy or that make you feel productive (like chores), and you might just realize your anger has reduced significantly or even disappeared.

I hope this post helped someone out there who struggles, as I do, with self-restraint and not letting emotions take control. I know I admire those who are always able to be “above it” all, and I view them as some of the strongest, most noble, and independent people I know. On the other hand, people I know who constantly require others to “walk on eggshells” around them seem small, fragile, and scared. I will continue to try to be a strong, noble, independent person instead of a small, fragile, scared person.

Ditching the Drama

Engaging in drama and gossip can feel highly satisfying in the moment, and the juicier the gossip, the more satisfying the feeling. However, it can be a liability in the long-run. For one, gossip is often not true. In fact, you can hear multiple pieces of gossip that contradict each other. It’s possible those you’re hearing it from are lying to you.

However, it’s also possible (much like the game ‘telephone’), they believe they are telling the truth, perhaps something they, also, have heard secondhand. Relying on a piece of misinformation can result in forming unrealistic expectations. For example, when you’re new to a job, a coworker might warn you about a certain supervisor being really strict or let you know that another supervisor is really lax and you can get away with a lot. Or you might be told a rumor that So-and-So from Accounting and So-and-So from Sales are sleeping together.

Before even having dealings with these individuals yourself, you begin to form beliefs about their character and how they will treat you. These expectations cause you to feel resentment towards them immediately. It is less stressful not to know some information, especially in the workplace, if it doesn’t facilitate you doing your job or make your day any easier.

It’s easier to do your job and view your coworkers and superiors as fellow professionals if you aren’t aware of all their supposed dirty laundry. In the case of a supervisor with the reputation of being lax, it is dangerous to base your work off of that bit of gossip for fear it isn’t true, has been exaggerated, or causes the quality of your work to slip, possibly endangering your job security.

And I have personally experienced mentally taking the job home with me, as it’s hard to stop thinking about the negative things I’ve heard about people at work and how they will possibly affect me. Additionally, not partaking in the gossip mill puts you in the position to honestly claim ignorance on a sensitive topic if you are asked about your knowledge of it. In doing so, you won’t be forced to “choose sides”, which could make you a target. In general, keeping your work life professional by not participating in gossip and drama can help keep you sane, as well as help you make and retain the work relationships you need to succeed in your position.

Likewise, it is wise to be careful what information you offer about yourself to those at work. You must realize you are potentially in competition with your coworkers for promotions, incentives, and other perks, so it is important you maintain a rather sterile and professional image of yourself. For example, telling coworkers or your manager about drama going on with your relatives could cause them to see you in a different light or to make negative assumptions about you.

I recently started a new job and this topic has been on my mind. Already I have heard gossip and have been tempted to participate in the negativity. I figured I would write about it as a way to deal with it head-on while I’m thinking clearly, as well as to possibly relate with my readers. Have any of you been tempted to engage in workplace drama? Has workplace drama ever resulted in consequences for you or others?

Accents and Attitudes

Recently I’ve been noticing how accents and attitudes are similar in that, the more you’re around them, the more likely you are to adopt them, yourself. If I am around people at work who speak a certain way, use a certain kind of slang or colloquialisms, I find myself using them when I’m away from work, unintentionally. I also find the same concept applies to attitudes. When I’m surrounded by people with positive, optimistic attitudes, I tend to take on those same feelings. Likewise, when I am around negative, pessimistic people, I feel discontent and dread the unknown and new, myself. It’s easier to surround yourself with positive people when not at work, but you can’t control who your coworkers are. Spending eight hours a day around people who bring you down can be the recipe for a miserable time. I have just started a new job where the training period is very long and the work takes a while to learn and master. I’ve made it through the first week but the next several weeks is when we really get into the meat of the job duties and put them into practice. I’ve made the commitment to be as positive an influence as possible. This will not only hopefully put those around me in a positive state of mind, but will put me in the frame of mind to learn and absorb rapidly and to expect success, not failure! The difference is palpable when I interact with fellow trainees and other coworkers who are positive, helpful, pleasant people. I feel calm, optimistic, and self-assured. On the contrary, interacting with negative, sour, unpleasant coworkers makes me feel negative and unsure of myself. I don’t want to set myself up for a self-fulfilling prophecy, where I tell myself I can’t, so I can’t. I want to use the law of attraction to manifest greatness so that I can be great!