How to Find Insight in Your Negativity

Published on 11/11/2020

Some things bother us every day. Things that get under our skin, that irritate us, that disappoint us, any negative emotion that you could imagine. I used to get bothered by people I know shamelessly promoting their art - the irony is certainly not lost on me! I was bothered by people posting selfies or photos of their outfit, the confidence they had to do so.

For this article, I asked two friends about the things that bother them on a daily basis. They took no hesitation in providing the following extensive list:

  • When sales assistants jump on you the minute you enter a store, asking if you need help and following you around.
  • When the queue for the women’s bathroom is double the length of the men’s.
  • People who don’t wear their mask over their nose.
  • When you hold a door open for someone and they don’t thank you.
  • People walking slowly in front of you and not giving you the space to overtake them.
  • Individuals in a public space who speak super loudly, especially on the phone.

These are such small occurrences, some you can relate to and some you would never even consider. But even these tiny daily irritants can provide a wealth of knowledge about who we are, what we fear and what we want.

When negativity arises within yourself, you have two options. You either block it or confront the individual causing it. Both are the wrong choice. Because the magical third option is the only one that leads to progress. Instead of making someone else or yourself feel bad, you uproot the cause of it. You dig out the truth for that negativity from deep within your conscious, and you deal with it.

Let’s start with an example. I have a friend who will often get too drunk to the point where everyone is concerned with how they’ll get home, trying to limit their access to the remaining alcohol, and displeased with the large display. I think we all have a friend like that. My other friends would also be bothered by her behaviour, but for some reason, it would irk me the most. I would go home, and the next day, still be irritated by it. It would taint how I see them, the characteristics with which I’d associate to them. I considered them irresponsible, forcing everyone to take care of them and being obnoxious, not even apologising the next day or realising that they had done something wrong.

Why did it get to me so much? In the name of finding insight in my negativity, I sat down and thought about it a lot, then bringing it up with someone. Through reflection and conversation, I realised that the part that bothered me most was how dependent she became, how I felt I had to look after her in those moments. Because maybe I was tired of looking after others, I had been extremely independent and a maternal figure to my friends for a long time, and I was recently dealing with that. But also because I never felt like I could be that dependent on others. I didn’t have the feeling that I could get shamelessly drunk and know people would look after me. In a way, I was envious of her ability to do that. She didn’t feel the need to say sorry whilst I do that for every little thing.

My resentment wasn’t really about her; it was about what she signified to me, the freedoms she took that I felt afraid to take. And when you start practising this, you’ll be shocked at what you find. Often our unhappiness is linked to a core value that we consider to be undermined at that moment, and so we reflect this onto the other.

Another example is what I mentioned earlier, that I would be dismissive of people promoting their music or blog. I would wonder why they think they’re so talented, consider them to be full of themselves and showing off. I’m certainly not proud of this, but it caused a lot of resentment within myself. It didn’t take much digging to find the cause; I was jealous. I was jealous as I didn’t feel confident enough about my writing to share it, jealous because I had always wanted to start a blog and it took me until now to do so finally. It won’t always be jealousy at the root, but there will be an ulterior emotion driving you. Once I confronted myself and my envy, I managed to work on it. I aimed to be supportive of these people and further share their work. I taught myself that it isn’t a competition and that their success doesn’t leave less room for my own. I also like to think of it as good karma. Leaving comments and forwarding people’s hard work so that people will hopefully do the same to my own one day.

How to find insight in your negativity:

1. Find the behaviour

2. Focus on the emotion

3. Explain it

4. Change yourself, not them

You start by staying alert, being aware of this for when negativity will arise. Maybe it is a friend arriving late yet again. You’re bothered by it, you’re grumpy and making passive-aggressive comments. Consider why you’re bothered that they’re late. Is it because you’ll have less time to spend with them? Or is it because you find it disrespectful, you consider it to be indicative of what they think about you and the plans you set? Are you perhaps annoyed because you stressed yourself out to be on time, you pushed yourself and rushed around and then didn’t need to? Maybe you’re the one who struggles with being able to be late, and you drive yourself too hard to be on time and ‘perfect’ in that respect. Maybe you’re upset about them being late because you always feel like they don’t give you enough time and attention. Even in such a small everyday occurrence, there is more to be found when you take the time to explore it.

Once you have the behaviour, and you work past the initial emotion of being irritated, you can explain it to yourself. You can dive into the insecurity or value at the centre of it. By knowing this, you can work on your reaction to things. You can talk to the individual about the real issue, or work on it within yourself. Being angry or upset is not a productive use of your energy or mental space, so if you can avoid it, then do. This doesn’t mean that things shouldn’t bother you or be addressed, merely that you should also address it within yourself first, to see if you’re actually annoyed or simply believe you should be.

This will cover not everything. People do awful things, and there are many moments when you should be upset by someone’s actions or words. You have the right to be, don’t allow this to undermine that. But by performing a short internal scan at all moments of heightened emotion, you will enable yourself to also chip away at the stones you carry within, the ones that are not helping you in any way. You begin to move forward and perform small acts of spring cleaning within your emotional baggage.



Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.

Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.

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