Pet Peeves

Am I in Horseville? ‘Cos I'm Surrounded by Naysayers!

You know the type: that one person who makes it his or her personal mission to tear the people around them down. Whether it’s a comment about your clothes, your hair, a new job or accomplishment; to the naysayer, something will always be either off or outright incredulous about your life. These comments could be overtly critical, but most times they’re just subtle enough of a dig to make you doubt yourself without seeming directly rude on their part. Or, they might use the most popular and transparent cover, “It’s just a joke!”

What’s worse is that most of the time, the naysayers in our lives are usually people we see on a daily basis – colleagues, ‘friends’, sometimes even family members. They have something to say about everything about you, from the way you style your fringe and the relative expense of the things you own to your career accomplishments and bigger life choices. No matter that it’s got nothing to do with them – to the naysayer, absolutely everything has to do with them and their opinion is so important (despite being uncalled for and generally unconstructive) that you just have to hear it.

The normal response of most human beings, when hearing of good things happening to the people around them, is to be pleased – to offer your congratulations or well-wishes and to share in the enthusiasm and happiness that others around you have in a completely genuine way.

However, clearly that’s not how it works for everyone. Naysayers can’t be happy for you because, in that moment, you have something that they do not.  The positive things in your life are viewed as a direct insult to their ego. Sure, they may not even be personally interested in what you have, but by virtue of the fact that you are in possession of something they are not, whether materialistically or figuratively, you have raised their hackles.

If you’re a person that’s generally good-natured and finds pleasure in the small things, chances are you’ll want to share those things with the people around you. Perfectly understandable and also something that makes you friendly and probably well-liked. But that’s another thing – God forbid you are favoured by others. If your boss takes a shining to you or a new colleague or classmate gets chummy with you before anyone else, there’s generally hell to pay and something is obviously off to the naysayer.  Either you’re accused of being a brown noser or the other person is “weird” and you should “be careful” around them. Never mind that if the shoe was on the other foot, the naysayer would be bragging from here to Timbuktu.

What it comes down to can be summarised in a single word: jealousy. It’s disheartening to know that this quality, so clearly a tactic often employed in childhood school yards, does not go away once you grow up. Adults are just as competitive; particularly women, many of whom seem to view life as a competition to find the richest partner, own the flashiest cars and clothes, look the youngest and most plastic. Of course, this is thankfully not true across the board, but it’s prevalent enough that I believe it’s worth mentioning.

Jealousy is the least useful emotion, because there is no way it can be used to accomplish something positive. It only eats away at you until all you can think about is what others have that you don’t and you realise that the things you value are the very things which matter least in life. It skews your true desires for your own life and instead focuses your energies externally – pretty far from where they should be.

Competition is healthy, sure, but only when it’s with yourself. If you want something in life, whether it’s to lose weight or become an actress or save up for a trip abroad or to buy a fancy pair of shoes, challenge yourself to work hard enough to get them. Dare yourself to become smarter, to live your life in ways that encourages good things to come into it. Be honest with yourself and others, be genuine and positive, care for yourself and others and cut things out which don’t fit that criteria. It’s that simple.

Conversely, if you know a naysayer (or three), your instructions are similarly easy: ignore them. Never change who you are and/or what you do to suit someone else’s commentary on what your life should be like. After all, they’re not living it – you are. In a world full of forces that constantly work against you, it’s up to you to grab hold of those who will work with you and to move along the current in the same way.

Ignore the snags of naysayers and those who would try to make you feel as badly about yourself as they do about themselves. Recognise that those who would criticise you do so with the intention of having the power over you that results from you giving in and taking it to heart. You run your life, you make your choices. Your accomplishments and achievements are the direct result of who you are and you’ve earned it. Don’t ever let a naysayer tell you otherwise.

Featured Image via Flickr

  • Beth Herrin Cole

    Wonderful advice… I think everyone has at least one naysayer… (and may I say about your title: word play!)

  • Jason Anthony

    I think a lot of criticism comes from these individuals due to low self-esteem. They feel crappy about themselves and their own abilities, so they make a point (and often) to point out the faults or errors of others… or rain on their parades. The problem is that it only offers them a quick fix, to which they have to keep repeating the same behavior to feel better about themselves. Crazy, but a reality…

  • Elisabeth Miller

    I hate when I feel jealous. I feel guilty about it. But I never take action on it by being a naysayer. I try to find the underlying reason for the jealousy and try to move on. Every feeling is valid, it’s what we choose to do with it that matters.

  • Justine Harpley

    I really appreciate this article. I have been struggling with my mother-in-law to be, who is the biggest naysayer that I’ve ever encountered, and you’ve offered some really great advice, thank you!! :0)

  • Punya Das

    couldn’t come at a better time!

  • Sarah Bjarah

    @Beth – “that was solid!”

  • Lauren Hollaway

    This article is wonderful. It super helped me, as my feelings were hurt at a Christmas function by a naysayer. Although they are super rude, they really help you appreciate the great friends you have in your life.

  • Jennifer Herd

    I was friends with a naysayer for years, until recently I realized what a negative presence she was in my life. We couldn’t have a conversation without her boasting about some recent achievement, or a sentence ending with her condescendingly braying “Oh, honey.” Like she’s not happy unless she’s “beaten” me. So I ended things, and it’s funny how relaxed I am since then!

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