3 Steps to Stop the Downward Spiral of Negativity

All it takes is just one negative comment, literally just one, and it can ruin your entire day. Even if everything else has been good in your day and other positive things have been said to you, just one bad thing and, more often than not, it wipes all of that out.

When I was working full time in marketing and advertising this happened to me all the time. And it wouldn’t even have to be a comment. It could just be something that I felt I hadn’t done as well as I should have or a mistake I had made that would then make anything else positive that had happened that day disappear.

I could have done an amazing job on a thousand other things that day, but that one thing that I didn’t do quite as well as I would have liked would over shadow everything else and send me into a spiral of thinking I wasn’t good enough and shouldn’t be doing the job in the first place.

And it’s not just me.

The amount of times I’ve had friends call me up in the evening to talk about their day because one thing didn’t go quite as they hoped and has left them doubting their abilities in everything is incredible.

It may be due to imposter syndrome, where you never really believe you’re good or competent enough to be doing the job you are, that we do this to ourselves. If we never really believe we’re good enough in the first place it’s no wonder that if something negative happens, or if someone criticizes us, we’ll grab onto. It’s almost as if our subconscious is screaming, “See I was right”.

Or it could be because our brains are programmed to hold onto negatives and that we have to work harder to see the positives once something negative has occurred (this is a theory that Alison Ledgerwood, from the department of Psychology at UC Davis, explains in a great TEDx talk on the subject https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=7XFLTDQ4JMk).

But whatever the reason is for our disproportionate acceptance of negativity; whether it’s imposter syndrome, that our brains are just wired that way or something else entirely that causes it, it needs to stop.

Having suffered from this problem for years, I dedicated a lot of time and effort to working out how to stop this from happening. Here are my top 3 tips on how to do it.

3 Steps to Stop the Downward Spiral of Negativity

  1. Accept the comment, or self-criticism you have imposed on yourself, and consider it. Really think about it.

Is it justified?

If so learn from it and change your behaviour, think about what you could do better or differently next time. That way you haven’t failed or made a mistake, you have learnt something. And you’ll probably remember that lesson a lot longer having learnt it the hard way than the easy way.

Something is only a failure if you take it as such. It took Thomas Edison 10,000 tries to create the electric light bulb and what he said of those not so successful attempts was; 

“I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

He didn’t fail or do something wrong in those 10,000 tries that didn’t work. He learnt.

If the criticism is justified, learn from it.

And if it isn’t, just let it go. If it was someone else who gave you the unjustified criticism the comment probably says more about them than it does you.

  1. Remember the things you have done well that day. This will help in particular with letting go of the criticism if it’s unjustified but is also still equally important when the criticism is justified. Even if we made a mistake that we need to learn from we should still recognize and congratulate ourselves for the things we did well that day.

You’ll often find that when you really think about it the number of things you did well in a day, or the successes you had, far out weigh the one negative thing that happened.

It can be hard to hold onto these thoughts when we’re in a moment of self-doubt, so write them down. Better still write down your successes and achievements on the days when something doesn’t go wrong. The praise that others give you. The moments when you achieve something great against all the odds. That way when you’re doubting yourself or letting one comment send you into a downward spiral of negativity you’ll have all the proof you need to show yourself that you’re not a failure but actually a competent, capable person who can achieve great things.

  1. Talk to someone else about it. Tell a friend completely honestly about how you’re feeling in that moment and why. A little outside perspective can work wonders.

And most importantly remember that, more often than not, when we experience criticism or get sucked into self-doubt for something that didn’t go as we’d hoped, it’s when we’re pushing ourselves to do great things.

We very rarely experience great failure or criticism when staying in our comfort zone and only doing mediocre things.

I for one would much rather push myself and fail than never attempt to do great things.

As Robert Kennedy said

“ Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” 

So carry on pushing yourselves; do better things, get out of your comfort zone, achieve things you never thought possible. And if, and when, failure or negativity occurs as a result of that go back to the list above and learn or decide not to accept the negativity, and focus on what you have done well. I promise you that when you really think about it, the great things you have done will far out weigh the bad.

Chantell Glenville

24 thoughts on “3 Steps to Stop the Downward Spiral of Negativity

  1. Heya are using WordPress for your site platform? I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying to get started and create my own. Do
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    1. Hi Violet, firstly thank you for reading.

      I am using WordPress for this site, it’s one of the free themes that I’ve used called Gateway. Coding experience is definitely not required in order to be able to use WordPress as there are pre-set themes you can chose from and you just populate the content. WordPress is very much designed to enable those who don’t know how to code to still be able to set up their own websites.

      It can still however take a little while to get used to how everything works. My recommendation would therefore be to set up a profile and have a play around. Each of the themes are designed for different purposes. If you click on the theme details for each one you think looks good you can then find information on type of site the theme is designed for and it’s functionality. You can also preview how each of the themes will make your site look before applying that theme.

      Hopefully this will help get you started.

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  6. First off I want to say awesome blog! I had a quick question in which I’d like to ask if you
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    1. Hi Russell, thank you for your kind words and for taking the time to comment. I’ve actually been thinking about doing a post on the creative process and writing so I may well bump this up the list now.

      Until then, here are a couple of things that I find the most useful in getting myself into the optimum state of mind for writing:

      1. Read and listen to things by people who are smarter than you. I read books and listen to podcasts about anything and everything. They expand my thinking about the world and get my brain going. If you’re feeling at a loss for creative inspiration, read or listen to something by someone else on a topic that interests you. They will get your thoughts going.

      Have a look at my list of books worth checking out at the bottom of the page for some books that I’ve used to inspire me in the past. If you’re looking for an inspirational podcast I’d throughly recommend starting with the one by Tim Ferriss.

      2. Listen to your internal thoughts. When going about our daily lives we all have an internal dialogue, listen to what’s going on in it. And as the thoughts come and go, expand on the ones that you think are interesting. You don’t have to be sitting down focusing on writing to get the inspiration for your content. If you do this consistently, you’ll get to the stage where when you sit down to write the words just come flooding out of you since you’ve already written the content in your head.

      3. Find some music that inspries but doesn’t distract you. My favourite music to listen to when writing is from the band Nightmares on Wax since there aren’t too many words in the music to distract me but the melodoy keeps me going. As I listen to this every time I write just putting it on now almost acts like a triggger in my brain to get my thoughts going and start me writing.

      4. Finally, but most importantly, just start writing. The hardest part of writing is starting, so get it over with. Start writing whatever’s in your head. You may think it’s rubbish but as you carry on writing your thoughts will clarify. You can always go back to the start and amend what you wrote at the beginning but if you don’t start you’ll never get anywhere.

      I really hope this helps Russell and if you have any other questions just let me know. I’ll endeavour to get that post on the creative process and writing out there as soon as posssile to expand on this for you.

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    1. Hi Lucille, I’m glad you enjoyed the post and thank you so much for your words of encouragement. The theme I’ve used is one of the free ones, it’s called Gateway. I had to experiment with quite a few to get the right one for what I needed. If you’re looking for a theme for yourself I’d recommend clicking on theme details before selecting any of the themes as this will tell you the key functionality of that theme and what type of site it’s designed for therefore allowing you to assess whether it’s right for your needs before applying it.

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  9. Wow, all of these comments just came flooding through and I have to say I’m feeling a little overwhelmed by the incredible show of support. Thank you all so much for your kind words. They mean so much to be and I really appreciate you having taken the time to let me know you enjoyed the post.

    I hope you continue to follow the blog and that it continues to be of use to you. If there are any topics you’d like me to discuss just let me know in the comments or drop me an email on chantell@chantellglenville.com If it’s within my area of expertise I’ll be more than happy to write about it.

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  11. Hey Chantell, I enjoyed reading your article in Surfer! I surf, too. Thank you for that article. Every now and then I will go out and get bombed, go over the falls or not even get a wave if the waves are steep and towering or really choppy (East coast USA surfer). And, I leave the beach discouraged after those days. But you have encouraged me to find the positive in it: I got off my backside and I went.

    Thank you, I needed that Chantell. Paul.

    1. Hi Paul,
      I’m so glad the post helped you get back out there.
      The more I surf the more I realise 80% of it is a mental game. I frequently find myself in the line up with towering waves coming through but now instead of freaking out I sit there for 5 minutes and watch them all the time repeating in my head “I can do this, I can surf this wave and it is going to feel amazing when I do’. It sounds ridiculous but I swear it makes a big difference.
      Hope you manage to conquer those waves. It will feel so incredible when you do, it will be worth all of those sessions where you’ve been pummelled.

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