There are a lot of things wrong with this world. Huge problems and some things we simply have lost control of. And while I know not everything can be fixed with one solution, I bet some simple things could make a huge impact if enough people followed them. People would argue that “I’m just one person, I can’t make a difference” – but they would be wrong - because leadership by example does work, and good things start with just one person who makes an impact.
One of the major things which I think is causing a lot more problems than people realize is negativity. We’re constantly inundated with it from all sides. And the problem is that it grows and festers and gets worse if not kept in check.
In modern advertising for products, we get our faults pointed out to us. ‘Your hair is grey – colour it” or “Loose those extra pounds” or “Cover up that blotchy skin with this product”. It may seem innocent enough, and a way to market a product which promises the world, but the truth it, it makes us negative people.
I have noticed a lot of people who point out the faults in others lately. I see it in social media such as facebook or youtube, and I hear it in conversations at work or in public. People have learned to “nit-pick” and to find fault in others. They have learned that to feel better about themselves and allay their insecurities, they must put others down.
When I was a kid, my Mother would often say “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”, and we could learn a lot from doing exactly that. There was a study which said that every insult would take 1000 compliments to eradicate – I don’t doubt that based upon my own experiences. I have been hugely insecure over the years, and sometimes still am, because of things said to me.
Bullies are experts at putting others down, and hurtful words can have far reaching, long term negative effects on people. Kids who are teased or bullied will report that they remember some of those harsh words even late into their adult lives. Like a disease, those words stay under the surface, popping out on occasion when insecurities are rampant. And I should know – this happens to me too.
I don’t remember many specifics from my childhood, but I can recall verbatim almost every insult thrown at me, especially when I am feeling low or insecure, even if just for a moment. Things some bully on a playground said to me when I was 6, some in high-school and beyond. Those negative jibes have stayed with me all these years, even the ones as recent as 2 years ago.
The trend of negativity isn’t just related to bullying and bringing people down. Often it is seen as “being funny” or “just making a joke” – but the alarming truth is that it is consuming our society – and it’s not ever funny. All you have to do is watch any political advertisement for a candidate, and you will notice how they often pick apart their opponent on a personal level. Frankly, if you don’t have anything to say about your platform and have to resort to putting your opponent down, obviously your platform is not very strong to begin with.
You cannot totally avoid negativity, sadly. But each of us has a choice. We can choose to brush it off and focus on those things which are positive and good in us, or we can choose to allow that negativity to make us negative people, and perpetuate the cycle by using insults and negative comments to bring others down and make ourselves feel better about who and what we are.
I encourage readers of this to try the former option. Think for a moment before you say something to someone else: Is what I am about to say good, kind, or helpful? And if the answer is no, then don’t say it. Say nothing, instead of finding a weakness in another person; build them up, instead of tearing them down. Everyone has had difficulties in their lives, and the person you are about to insult, even in jest, may be vulnerable and deserves and needs your encouragement, not your criticism.
And just perhaps, if we all actively tried to be positive in our thoughts, words and deeds, we could turn around the trend of negativity and the problems in this world which we have created by falling victim to what we are fed repeatedly. Your kind words could have a huge, positive impact on someone who needs that little bit of encouragement.