There are two sides and a default to every story

The past fortnight has been fascinating – I had front row seats to an interesting display of humanity. None of it quite expected, each piece received straight in the heart and processed for days. Only one checking the default box.

Last week I was offered what I believe to be the chance of a life time, in the form of a job I wanted for a very long time. Once my excitement about the positive response to my interview wore off, I quickly understood that there was a significant barrier in actually saying yes to the job: as my partner and I cannot be married in our country of residence, we were once again regarded as separate individuals, not an actual family and she would not be able to receive a visa to accompany our son and me. She would not be able to stay.

Out of the woodwork came people who wanted to help in any way they could: with a kind word, with encouragement, with legal support, with researched advice. I was humbled by how much I received in such a short while from so many and vouched to remember this as a definite win, regardless of the outcome of my professional endeavor.

This week I was faced with the other side of the coin as I was at the receiving end of hate and rage. As I was trying to stand up for my son in his interaction with someone he is related to on his late father’s side, I received such an outpouring of judgment, accusations, fabulations and rage that I could not even find a reply. To be honest, I found it hard to breathe. As I understood the human who was texting such meanness could never be dissuaded from thinking I was the witch from hell come to ruin her life, I said goodbye and hit block. I would lie to say it didn’t affect me, even though this person and I had no relationship.

I was surprised however by how the inner balance tipped so quickly. How it almost made no difference that just a few days before people were telling me they value me, how much I default to the negative, that anything that sounds remotely the same sticks to my brain and heart like velcro. Science shows that for one negative piece of feedback at least three positive ones are needed to tip the scale. Some studies say five.

It takes intentional action to recognize the positive and keep it front of mind. Writing down notes, creating a marble jar, a brag book or folder on a device are ways to help ourselves go back and remember that one person’s poor opinion doesn’t a villain make.

Photo by Diogo Nunes on Unsplash

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