Am I negative?
I wondered this a while ago when a friend observed that I had a penchant for interpreting situations adversely. He pointed out that when I would talk about my current dating relationships I would automatically conclude that the guy just wasn’t into me.
“That’s because he isn’t.” I said wryly.
“Maybe,” he replied, “but maybe it’s not that simple and you should stop looking at things as negative towards you all the time.”
I waved him off, but later I began to think about what he said. Was I looking at things from a negative point of view? Me who earned the nickname “Sunshine” for always having a smile on my face was I really a not-so-closeted Negative Nancy? Yes.
Up until that point, I’d always thought of myself as a realist. Quick to be carried away, I kept myself grounded by thinking of the worst-case scenario. I despised disappointment and I thought the best way to avoid being disappointed was by getting rid of expectations.
Particularly when it came to dating, I refused to expect the best if there was even the slightest chance of the worst coming to past. If a guy didn’t text me back in a timely fashion, I was convinced he was ignoring me. If his phone rang twice then went to voicemail, I knew my call was declined. If he wanted to try a new theater in a different part of the city, I’d wonder if he’s hiding me. If he said he was going out of town, I’d think that he was just blowing me off. If he said he didn’t want a girlfriend, I’d imagine running into him in two weeks practically engaged to some random girl he just met. It’s not that I wanted all of these things to be true, but I felt that believing them to be so, mentally shielded me from becoming emotionally invested.
When I ended up being right about a guy (or at least assuming I was right about him), I felt justified in my thoughts and behavior.
Of course this was no way to live. Thinking that no guys are ever serious about me also led me to think that none would ever be serious about me and that led me to believe I’d be alone for the rest of my life. As someone who wanted to eventually get married, I realized that I could probably stand to think more positively regarding matters of the heart.
I also realized that there was a certain amount of selfishness in my negativity that I didn’t even recognize. To make an assumption about a man’s feelings, I first had to presume that everything was all about me 100 percent of the time. For instance, if a guy abruptly ended our telephone conversation, I assumed I was talking too much and he hated being on the phone with me. Never mind the fact that he could have a million different reasons for needing to hang up the phone that have nothing at all to do with me. I would get down in the dumps, reciting our conversation over and over in my head trying to decide where I went wrong when the fact was I never went wrong anywhere. Sometimes people need to hang up the phone and sometimes that reason has nothing to do with whomever they’re talking to. I’m not the center of the universe; therefore, things happen that don’t concern me.
After thinking about my tendencies, I decided that if I was going to assume something – because an over-thinker like me is always assuming something – then I needed to assume the best. That didn’t mean I was going to be caught up in wishful thinking about a guy, completely convinced I could change his mind about me. I’d been there before and it did not end well. Still, I wondered if I could be an optimistic realist when it came to relationships. I wasn’t going to convince myself that a guy liked me just because he poked me on Facebook but I also wasn’t going to assume he wasn’t interested because he responded to my two-sentence text with “Lol”.
There’s a lot of talk about the power of positive thinking and I am a firm believer that, as John Milton said, “the mind can make a heaven out of hell or a hell out of heaven.” I’m not saying you can “positively think” a good man into your life or “positively think” someone into falling in love with you. I think being realistic is important, but I don’t think realism can only exist apart from optimism. I think they can work together to help facilitate an ideal situation.
Automatically assuming that a guy doesn’t like me wasn’t really keeping me from disappointment anyway. If it was, I wouldn’t have been talking about it incessantly thus bringing my friend to the conclusion that I needed to stop being so negative. In addition, a little disappointment isn’t fatal. The only way one heartbreak could ruin the rest of my life was if I allowed it to by refusing to put my heart out there again.
When I began to maintain a positive attitude about my chances of meeting a guy and being realistic about the guys I did meet (while erring on the side of positive), I noticed that I started experiencing more positive outcomes. I believe that my realistic optimism was rewarded — not just with a great relationship, but with a great state of mind.
What do you think? Have you ever noticed yourself being caught up in negative thinking? Has being positive about a situation ever resulted in a positive outcome?
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