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“Do not allow any negativity or ugliness in your surroundings, or anybody at all, [to] destroy your confidence or affect your growth as a blooming flower. It is very normal for one ugly weed to not want to stand alone.”
― Suzy Kassem
~The Simple Sophisticate podcast, episode #67
The beauty of self-reflection is that it allows us to see what we weren’t able to understand at the time. For example, it wasn’t until I moved to Bend, exposed myself to an entirely new social network that I realized how defensive and protective I had become towards people I had the potential of establishing relationships with.
Due to a handful of deep, painful emotional experiences during the past nine years whether with friends, family, colleagues or significant others, I had slowly, but steadily built an instinct to assume a more negative attitude as a means of protecting myself from hurt. I wouldn’t say I had become cynical, but I was aware of something I wanted to change.
In truth, it is hard to share this realization because it means I wasn’t at the time as secure in myself as I thought I was in certain areas of my life; however, on the flip side, it has reassured me that my instincts were correct — I needed a significant shift. I had tried a multitude of angles, approaches and ideas and nothing was working. For me, for my path, I needed to completely uproot myself and move to a new town a couple of hundred of miles away to see and begin to trust life again. And as Robert Frost reminds, that has made all the difference.
I am now able to see that indeed I was not where I needed to be to grow more fully into the person I wanted to become. And please be assured, this is not a reflection on the town I once lived, but rather a reflection on choices I made (or didn’t make). I needed room to grow and space to stretch into the person I am excited to evolve into. Do I, do any of us, know who this “other” version is or could be? No, but I am, as always, enjoying the journey.
Back to the idea of being defensive and extending into the idea of cynicism. Why does one gravitate toward being a cynic or immediately defaulting to a defensive stance rather than assuming a positive response or outcome? As psychologists point out, it often results from prior experiences that were negative in similar situations. Therefore, we wish to protect ourselves and not leave room for the possibility of pain.
After all, when we refrain from cynicism and instead select hope or put our faith in the process, people or anything that is out of our control, we make ourselves vulnerable. And it takes an extremely secure person to do this. To stand in what we can offer and know that whether the outcome is (positive or negative) has nothing to do with us but rather where the other person/situation is in their stage of life or evolution. But the insecure person often assumes it has something to do with them, and then as a protection, labels all “men/women”, “Democrats/Republican”, [place the category or label here of your choice] as something to be wary of.
Over the past three short months, this aha that I had become too defensive, albeit with good reason, proved that the change I had made was giving me the opportunity to take down my walls. It has been a refreshing realization. In many ways, I feel I can breathe again, truly be myself, and know that if I am disappointed in someone or something that I will be fine because at least I am not stand behind a false version of who I am.
Today, I’d like to examine the benefits of letting go of cynicism or if you are like I was, letting go of the default of defensiveness when the unknowns make us uncomfortable.
1. Improve Health
A study by the American Heart Association in 2009 which studied 97,000 women revealed that those who defaulted to optimism or a hopeful outlook on life and unknown outcomes decreased heart disease and cancer-related deaths and increased the length of their lives. Contrarily, cynical women had higher rates of disease-related deaths and a shortened life span.
Understandably it is hard not to worry and even assume the worst when we just don’t know how things will work out, but in the end, doing so doesn’t help us arrive at the outcome earlier and in fact it decreases the quality of our lives. Click here to discover 20 ways to banish worry.
2. Decrease Anxiety
Similarly, when we let go of worrying, which is assuming the worst or something bad will happen, we decrease the adrenaline that courses through our bodies as a defense mechanism. Even though an actual threat isn’t present, we are telling our bodies that it is going to happen and it responds accordingly to protect us. Choosing an optimistic or hopeful attitude rather than assuming the worst will happen, reduces our anxiety and the unnecessary wear and tear on our internal organs and blood vessels.
3. New Possibilities Present Themselves
Stepping away from the health benefits directly for a moment, when we choose to let go of cynicism, we are opening ourselves up to possibility. Maybe that person we think we could become friends with will say yes to our invitation to attend the concert or maybe they won’t, but we won’t know until we ask. Maybe we’ll run into one our colleagues at a local event and get to know them on a more personal level, but maybe we won’t and we’ll have to go it alone. Either way, we gain experience and possibilities have a chance of presenting themselves.
We must continually strive to become more secure within ourselves to go out and try new things. As someone who enjoys her own company, it has become very easy to go out alone, and in doing so I have met some wonderful people from a wide array of life paths. I return home each time with a smile on my face, thankful for getting out there and giving life a chance to reveal all of its possibilities to me.
4. Increase the Joy
In putting ourselves out there, we increase the opportunities for joy. You might remember from a post written more than two years ago that joy is something that comes from within. It is nothing that we can find outside of ourselves. Therefore if we are assuming the negative in each situation or person we run up against, it is no wonder our lives aren’t filled with more joy. But if we choose to see life through the lens of possibility, through the lens of hope, we are fertilizing (so to speak) the joy that is there to multiply and choke out any cynicism that may even think about growing.
The benefits of choosing to let go of cynicism are dependent on us. So much of our overall contentment in life has everything to do with how we approach each day – our attitude, our expectation, our response to those events and people we will never have control over. But what must we do to eliminate the cynicism?
- Establish a secure sense of self. Get to know yourself. Stand in your truth. When you do these things, you will set yourself free. Read this post inspired by the Four Agreements.
- Stop assuming the worst
- Put forth more goodwill out into the world. With your words, your actions, what you support, what you spend your time doing. Do so without expectation of anything in return and you will be amazed at the environment of opportunities you are cultivating.
- Practice meditation
- Try something new. Refrain from returning to the source of your pain and expecting a different outcome. Whether it is an individual, a job, a town, or an activity, if you’ve tried to present the new you and still the outcome is hurtful, negative and destructive, move on.
- Be Creative. Follow Yoko Ono’s advice: “Experiencing sadness and anger can make you feel more creative, and by being creative, you can get beyond your pain or negativity.”
One of the hardest parts of letting go of cynicism is helping those around you to see either why you are moving on or why you are choosing to change. Often those that we find ourselves in the web of negativity with aren’t ready or able to see what life could be if they chose to let go of the defense of cynicism. Sometimes we won’t know either, but at least we know we want something better. And if the people, experiences and places I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy first-hand are any indication, it is indeed worth it and far beyond anything I could have imagined. My job now is to keep cultivating, keep growing and squash any negative tendencies. I can honestly say, fewer and fewer are arising and that, in itself, is an amazing victory.
~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~Why Not . . . Get to Know Yourself? (3 part series)
~10 Differences Between Women & Girls (podcast)
~This episode of The Simple Sophisticate was brought to you by Audible.com. Visit get a FREE audiobook download and 30 day free trial at www.audibletrial.com/thesimplyluxuriouslife. Over 180,000 titles to choose from for your iPhone, Android, Kindle or mp3 player.
~View Jennifer’s previous two books here:
- At Home with Madame Chic (an interview with Jennifer L. Scott on The Simple Sophisticate)
- Lessons from Madame Chic