Were you ever excited about something until someone popped your balloon with a giant pin? Rained on your parade? Killed the vibe? Messed with your qi? Sank your battleship? Took all the green M&Ms out of the jar and replaced them with green Skittles?
Pooped the party? (Ew.)
Listen, we all know a Negative Nancy or a Debbie Downer. By this, of course, I don’t mean someone going through a hard time who needs our love and support.
I mean someone who often tells you why your outfit looks terrible, why your business idea is stupid, why you’re raising your baby wrong, why your dream wedding would be a shit show, and why your new romance is destined for disaster.
It’s draining, deflating, and defeating.
But you don’t have to let Negative Nancy and Debbie Downer rain on your parade. Here’s how to protect your energy and keep shining bright.
WHO ARE THE NEGATIVE NANCYS AND DEBBIE DOWNERS IN YOUR LIFE?
Negative Nancys and Debbie Downers surface in all sorts of ways:
As naysayers, with a negative opinion about everything you try to do or every opinion you dare to voice.
As drama queens, always embroiled in drama (even if it shouldn’t involve them), which they try to rope you into as well.
In the virtual space, as Internet haters, trolls and “Karens” (sorry to any actual Karens out there).
Negative Nancys and Debbie Downers siphon your energy, joy, and motivation with all the extreme sucking power of a Dyson.
To reiterate: this does NOT involve our dear friends who are going through a genuinely hard time. This post is about chronically critical or negative people who seem to thrive on misery.
“Misery loves company” is a saying for a reason!
Unfortunately, many people are unsatisfied with their lives but are unwilling to do something about it. So when they see you rising, instead of cheering for you, they try to bring you back down to their level.
In Australia, we have an actual term for it: Tall Poppy Syndrome. If a poppy gets “taller” than the other poppies, it’s part of our cultural discourse to take them down a peg.
A wise friend once said (I'm paraphrasing), “They say in times of trouble you find out who your real friends are. But I actually think it’s the opposite.
“Misery loves company,” she said. “People can be significant when you’re miserable. They like to be the hero who saves the day. And when life isn’t going well for them, they feel better when they look around and see that others are miserable too.”
Then she said something I’ve never forgotten. “If you want to know who your real friends are, look around when everything’s going well and see who’s truly happy for you."
Who’s celebrating you? Who’s cheering for your rise? Conversely, who starts creating conflict when everything is going well for you? Who just ghosts you altogether?
Our rise, our daring to step outside the box, feels threatening for a lot of people. It forces them to consider that there is a different reality than the one they chose.
And that is not an altogether easy thing to confront.
Alternatively, many Debbie Downers and Negative Nancys genuinely feel they are "helping" by saying that you are wrong and they are right.
Opinions are like butts. Everyone’s got one.
Unlike butts, however, everyone seems delighted to get out their opinion and wave it around in our faces the first chance they get.
You can’t do anything about it except rise above.
You are not obligated to take someone’s opinions as the truth. In fact, unless the person voicing them is a key stakeholder in your life, the subject doesn't need to be up for discussion at all.
At EVERY level in your life, no matter what you do, there will ALWAYS be people who rain on your parade. I would argue that the more you go against the grain, the more Negative Nancys, Debbie Downers, and trolls seem to emerge.
If you’re pleasing everyone and everyone agrees with you 100% of the time, you’re not living life to the fullest! (But hey, that’s just my opinion. See what I did there?)
Take it as a sign that you’re moving in the right direction. You’re ruffling feathers, causing a stir, and expanding minds. That will always be uncomfortable for some people.
Keep rising, rock star. Keep rising.
PROTECT YOUR ENERGY
Your energy is your responsibility: both protecting it and projecting it.
This means carefully choosing your tribe, saying no to negativity, putting your needs over others’ wants, and steering clear of energy suckers wherever you can.
Of course, this isn’t always easy, or possible. Sometimes Negative Nancys and Debbie Downers are people we can’t easily avoid, like colleagues or family members.
Make sure to protect your energy around these people. If you feel they won’t be supportive of your latest idea or life move, don’t share it with them.
It’s wonderful to share things with people in your life. However, some people will never understand.
You are under no obligation to share things with people who aren't supportive. You also needn't explain or defend yourself to someone determined to misunderstand.
Just because someone has a less than encouraging opinion doesn’t mean you have to defend it or fight for it.
As my mum always says to me, “Smile, say ‘thank you, great idea’ and then do whatever you were going to do anyway”.
Don’t waste precious energetic bandwidth justifying your position to your detractors. It’s energy better spent chasing your dreams.
As Winston Churchill said:
“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.” — Winston Churchill
Sometimes it’s easier to do the thing first and tell them afterward. As my bestie once said to me, “It’s easier to apologize than ask for permission.”
(Disclaimer: Unless, of course, the person in question is a key stakeholder, like your spouse, your boss, or your parents if you are under 18 and/or still living under their roof.)
Whenever I feel triggered by someone else, I now recognize that something within me needs healing. Otherwise, I’d be able to laugh it off and keep moving.
My belief in the law of attraction has transformed the way I view my interactions with other people. If something appears in our outer world it’s a reflection of our internal state.
So I spend some time gently reflecting:-
What about this person’s comment triggered me?
Is this a belief or doubt I have too?
What’s really going on here?
What is it more empowering to believe instead?
Is this my stuff, or theirs?
DOES THIS PERSON HAVE THE LIFE YOU WANT?
In her incredible Netflix show, The Call to Courage, my hero Brene Brown famously says:
“If you’re not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.” — Brene Brown
Case in point: if I told Warren Buffet about my investment plans and he told me it was a recipe for disaster, I’d listen to him.
If, on the other hand, such advice came from an acquaintance at a cocktail party whose finances were a clusterfuck, I’d smile, nod, and keep doing my thing.
Unless the opinion comes from someone who is getting the results you want, don’t listen. Think critically about the source of information.
Is it coming from someone who knows their shit, or someone’s half baked opinion?
SHINE ON, YOU CRAZY DIAMOND
Just because someone has an opinion, doesn’t mean you have to listen. Just because someone else lives in fear of everything going wrong, doesn’t mean you have to.
And just because someone thinks they know best, it doesn’t mean they actually do.
We can’t control what other people say to us, what they think, or what they do. But we can always control how we respond.
We can let someone else’s words upset us, discourage us, ruin our day, or keep us up at night. Or we can choose to keep shining bright.
Every time someone tells me “no”, “you can’t” or “that’s impossible”, it’s like waving a red flag at a bull. It gives me a newfound determination to succeed.
It wasn’t always that way. When I was acting, I came home from an audition crying because I didn’t get the part.
Then my mum told me a story about how someone sacked Burt Reynolds and Clint Eastwood on the same day.
A director sacked Clint Eastwood because of his Adam’s apple and sacked Burt Reynolds because he "couldn’t act".
Both went on to have amazing careers (and that director is probably kicking himself). But imagine if they’d taken the director’s opinion to heart and decided to give up acting in that moment.
I gave up my dreams of being a writer for years, all because one English teacher in Grade 12 decided to fail me in English. I’d been a straight A+ English student all my life.
Because of the sudden plummet in my grades, there had to be a meeting with my parents and the head of department.
My English teacher told mum, “Rhiannon is an incredible writer. She’ll be a best selling author someday.”
Mum asked in frustration, “Then why in the hell are you failing her in English?”
My teacher’s response? “Well, I don’t like her style of writing. Too fluffy and descriptive.”
I didn’t write for years after that – in fact, not until I started this blog. By age 16, I’d had my poetry published in books and newspapers, yet one person’s criticism completely erased years of praise.
It took a long time for me to realize that if you want to do something extraordinary, you have to grow a thick skin. There will always be haters, naysayers, or people who don’t like your style.
Every “yes” will come off the back of 1,000 “nos”. You must keep going.
You can let Negative Nancys bring you down, or let them be motivation to keep going. The choice is yours.
Negative Nancys probably won't even remember their comment, let alone consider its impact. Is it worth a lifetime of regret or “what if” because you let it stop you from doing what you loved?
No matter how beloved, famous, or talented you are, there will always be someone who doesn’t like it, doesn’t agree with it, or who tries to cut you down. But remember that for every hater there will be a million people who love, support, and are even inspired by what you’re doing.
Where will you choose to focus?
Negative Nancys are an unfortunate part of life – especially during a period of growth.
We can’t control what other people do – but we can always choose how to respond.
Protect your energy, take their words with a grain of salt, and carefully consider the source before listening to Negative Nancy and Debbie Downer. My advice, as always, is to keep shining your brightest.
Now I would love to hear from you. What is your best advice for handling Negative Nancys and Debbie Downers?
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