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A bronze sculpture I was commissioned to create was unveiled recently, and reading various reactions on social media opened my eyes to something I need to work on.

The response to this public art piece has been largely very positive—and I’m grateful—but there have been a few negative comments….and I’ve found myself dwelling on these.

I’m puzzled by how I can be derailed by something small when everything else is going well. I meditate regularly, I breathe (when I remember to!) and I try to focus on the important things. Yet, I end up haunted by small, petty comments, even when they’re surrounded by kindness and positivity.

So I want to open up the conversation here, to chat with you about how we can lose our balance because of one negative thing in a sea of wonderful things. Of course, sometimes negative interactions give us contrast in our lives and act as a way to gauge where we’d rather be, or what we’d rather be focusing on—they’re like wake-up calls.

Setting those helpful guideposts aside though, we’re left with these useless, but frustrating, comments that have gotten under our skin for no obvious reason other than it’s human nature, perhaps. So how do we get back to a state of Zen when we’ve been irritated by that one pesky fly among the butterflies?

Revisiting my reaction to the response around the sculpture, I started thinking about the importance of knowing what is clearly us and what is not us. Those knee-jerk responses on news articles that we’ve read countless times are never really about the article, are they? They’re about the commenter’s anxiety, resentment, frustrations; their need to lash out. So why would I internalize that? Sure, they’re making a snide comment, but how can I let these passing words from strangers impact my lived experience? I know that whatever I do, I do with passion, love, and determination, whether it’s as a coach and facilitator or as an artist. I need to hang on to that deep knowledge.

I had some great advice from someone with thousands of followers and a lot of experience with the negative minority. She told me not to read everything, and to be careful of what mood I’m in when I do decide to engage with anonymous comments—because if I’m in a vulnerable state, those comments can really have an impact. The other piece of advice is to evaluate quickly whether a comment is in good faith or not. Certainly there’s nothing wrong with criticism—I value thoughtful criticism and it helps me become better. But if a comment is clearly meant to be destructive rather than constructive, I need to see it for what it is—a statement about the person making it—and move on quickly.

While you may not be subject to anonymous commentary on the internet, you have likely been talked over or had your thoughts dismissed in conversation, experienced random rudeness, or had your work devalued thoughtlessly. The same rules apply—if it’s not helpful and isn’t presented in good faith: that negativity has no place in your life.

What are your experiences with dwelling on the negative—and how you have overcome it? I look forward to hearing from you.