Something I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older is that I have less and less patience for cynicism. 5-10 years ago, when things weren’t going as well as I’d like them to, when I was out of shape, more insecure, and frustrated with my own life, it was easy to fall into the trap of negativity and cattiness. We’re all guilty now and again of tearing someone else down – whether it be just in our own head or otherwise – to build ourselves up. It can be easier to look down our nose at things or criticize someone else to deflect attention away from our own fears or shortcomings.
However, the older I get, the more violently turned off by cattiness and cynicism I become. I’m tired of hearing friends, acquaintances, internet trolls, and my own brain sometimes, being, for lack of a better term, just a big jerk. Every single one of us has been the victim at least once in our life of hateful words. Someone has made us feel bad about ourselves or invalidated our thoughts or feelings. It’s an empty, crushing feeling and it’s one that can be very hard to bounce back from. Why, when we know how awful that feels, do we unleash that feeling on someone else? The boost you get from it is just as hollow – sugar for the soul that leaves you lazy and out of shape morally.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion. If you think someone’s wedding invitation is stupid, a stranger on the internet is crazy for flaunting her heavier frame, or people using cutesy terms like babymoon or calling their significant other some pet name is maddening there’s no one who is going to stop you. None of that is illegal or really even wrong so to speak. But why? Why do we find ourselves wasting so much energy on these little things that have nothing to do with me or you. Someone is living their life and enjoying themselves, they’re not attacking anyone, and yet we often feel the need to lash out passive aggressively or behind their back. We are a society of eye rollers.
I feel so much better when I’m around people who don’t engage in negativity – people whose currency is encouragement and positivity. I am far from perfect. I am just as guilty as the next person of engaging in gossip, general cattiness, and just big, fat, jerk-itude. But I want it excised from my life completely, like a dark mass feeding on me, like a leech, I want it gone. I really, truly feel in my gut that outward negativity is a reflection of personal insecurity or unhappiness. I know it has been for me and so I’ll speak for myself only on that front. And so, instead of turning my energy out when I have a negative, catty, or cynical thought, I’ve been trying lately to turn that energy back in. Why did I just think that nasty thing about that person? Why did I roll my eyes at that post? Why is this little insignificant thing bothering me SO MUCH.
I’ve noticed lately, maybe over the last year especially, that my best friend Meg and I often ask each other why someone would be so critical of someone else – we text the phrase “live and let live” way more often than you’d think. And again, this is not holding myself or anyone else up as some bastion of moral strength. It’s just something we both wonder about. Something we both notice a lot these days and something we’re both trying to be better at and avoid. For me, personally, cutting Facebook out of my day would go a long way to helping me live a more positive, productive life. Social media and the internet in general, while immensely positive in many ways, also seem like a breeding ground for general nastiness – a place where you can forget that other people are human beings and revel in negativity.
I definitely don’t have all the answers but it’s something that I’m going to keep thinking on and I imagine I’ll only develop an even lower tolerance for it as time goes on. It’s not so much that turning 30 has made me a grumpy naysayer who doesn’t understand what’s wrong with kids these days, it’s just that as I figure out my own life more and more, I wonder why I was ever so critical of anyone else for trying to figure themselves out. As we share more of ourselves than ever via social media I wonder why it seems to have led to such an increase in criticism instead of high fives. I wonder why, when we all struggle to “have it all” can’t we just be nicer to ourselves and our fellow wanderers?