Congratulations! You've been working hard to get a fresh perspective on your circumstances. You've been learning how to dwell on the promises of God instead of the problems of your life. Life is not perfect, but you've noticed that a positive mindset, inner self-awareness, and a rich connection with God give you some peace and clarity in this chaotic world.
You may feel like you're not where you want to be yet, but doing the tough work of showing up with a transparent and vulnerable heart before God is always a step in the right direction. However, if you've been working on a positive mindset that focuses on God's promises for inner healing, there may be one question that's driving you crazy: How in the world can I maintain a positive mindset when I'm surrounded by negative people who drag me down?
You may not just be annoyed by others' negative attitudes. You may have noticed how their negative comments, pessimistic thinking, and toxic behaviors affect your attempts to stay positive and Christ-centered despite your circumstances. Often these are the well-intending relatives, co-workers, or friends who attempt to present their off-handed remarks or passive-aggressive behavior as one who is "only trying to help," which only adds to the confusion.
Alternatively, you may have people in your life who aren't necessarily toxic or negative, but being around them drains your energy. You may love them dearly and want a relationship with them, but you've recognized that extended periods with them can sometimes leave you feeling like you've been hit by a bus. It's hard to have a positive mindset in these situations too.
How do we manage others' behaviors when we feel their behavior tempts us to fall into old cycles of negativity and frustration? We may think our only option for peace and sanity is to take a one-way trip to a deserted tropical island ("ticket for one, please"). And while I'm all for getting you some much-needed R + R (we'll talk about that in a sec), let's talk about some real-world solutions for maintaining a positive mindset when negative people surround us.
3 Ways to Keep a Positive Mindset When Surrounded by Negative People
1) Allow yourself to feel the frustration and express what you're feeling.
If you're frustrated that others aren't on the same positivity train that you are, express that in a safe way in a healthy space. Expressing your frustration may seem counterintuitive, especially at first ("you want me to step into these not-so-pleasant feelings, Alicia?"). Yet if we can view our emotions as God-given "indicator lights" of what's going on inside of us, then we can recognize that if we don't find healthy ways to release what we're feeling, it will quickly turn into inner toxicity (which is what we're trying to avoid, right?).
We are called to love others sacrificially and give them space to be imperfect (Ephesians 4:2), but that doesn't mean that we give up our right to be frustrated by their behavior or the situation itself. The Bible is full of passages (including an entire book) of people lamenting and sharing their pain before God. Read the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46), and you'll see our amazing savior venting his frustrations and fears before His loving Father.
What can this look like from a practical sense? You can vent your emotions to God through prayer or in a journal. In some cases, it may be helpful to share your frustration with a spouse or trusted friend. However, I'd encourage you to seek time in prayer and inner contemplation first, as sharing our frustrations about other people (with other people) can sometimes complicate the situation.
However, a critical aspect of sharing emotion and releasing frustration is that it's done with a desire to find resolution, healing, and reconciliation. This isn't a gossip-fest or a chance to slander someone else for their imperfections. We're not here to cut others down. This increases our negativity and can build resentment and bitterness.
Should you share your frustrations with the person who is frustrating you? That's a call I'd encourage you to make after counsel with the Holy Spirit and possibly a wise, godly friend. Sometimes the best medicine is to speak directly to that other person, but that must be done at the right timing with great discernment. Sometimes it's in everyone's best interest that you internally manage the situation, as addressing it directly will only cause more drama. We must gain insight from God on how to best manage each of these individual situations.
But, no matter what, there is one thing you definitely have control over.
2) Choose where you want to dwell emotionally.
You have the right to be frustrated by others, yes. But you are also in charge of what you focus on. No one can choose what you will think or feel about a given person or situation. God has given you complete dominion over your own thoughts. While it may be overwhelming or even convicting to think that we're responsible for all our own thoughts, I want to encourage you that, as the only creatures in creation who have been given the gift of the ability to "think about what we're thinking about," we can see this responsibility as a superpower.
Both neuroscience and the Bible confirm that what we focus on determines the course of our actions. Brain science proves that our thoughts create our emotions, our emotions and thoughts combine to create beliefs, and beliefs drive our decisions, actions, and resulting behavior. Proverbs 4:23 confirms that we are to "guard our hearts" because "everything you do flows from it." Because we have this power over our thoughts, God has given us the chance to remake our brains every moment by what we choose to dwell on. Neuroplasticity is the scientific term for the ability of our brain to continually be shaped by our own thoughts and experiences. Our brains are ever-changing based on what we think about.
Scientists estimate we're given around 1,500 new neurons every day. As a Christian, I love thinking about these baby neurons I'm given each morning in light of verses like Joshua 24:15, which says, "choose this day whom you will serve," and Lamentations 3:22-23, which states that God's mercies are new every morning. How will you use the superpower of being able to manage your thoughts as you determine how you want to show up in this world? Will you use this ability to shape your mind and your perspective for good as a conduit for God's light and hope; or will you use it for evil, quenching the Spirit's good work in your life and even potentially aiding the enemy by basking in life's difficult, negative aspects? Every moment that's the choice we're given with our thoughts.
So what do we do with the frustrations we feel about others? Didn't we just talk about our need to express them in healthy ways?
The key is being able to express what we're feeling while still choosing to dwell in an emotionally healthy space. You have the authority to feel the emotions behind your frustration, but like Christ in the Garden, determine that it will not move you from your desire to say to God, "not my will, but yours be done."
Therefore, when it comes to managing others' negativity, we must choose to see our emotions as plausible but still determine to cling to our core beliefs, which includes a renewed mindset that refuses to wallow in bitterness and rage. It's not easy to always dwell in this space, so we need to be aware of what I call "boundary builders" and "boundary breakers." Let's look at these final tools, which are critical for helping us maintain a positive mindset when others drag us down.
3) Protect yourself by establishing boundaries that you actively reinforce and support.
Boundaries are an essential part of maintaining healthy relationships of all kinds. Childbirth teaches us our first definitions of boundaries, noticing the separation between mother and infant. Although the baby once was indistinguishable from the mother as it grew inside her womb, at the point of birth, two distinct individuals with differing needs and desires are created. New boundaries are also created as we leave our family of origin to enter marriage.
Boundaries—what we will allow and what we won't—are also important elements in managing a positive, Christ-centered mindset, especially in light of negative people.
In ancient times city walls were an essential part of security. Gatekeepers at these walls determined who would be let in or out of the city, and walls had to be maintained despite attacks from outsiders.
In my Christian Mindset Makeover course, we talk about how cultivating a positive, Christ-centered mindset that overcomes toxic thinking involves a two-pronged approach: first, getting to the root of toxic behavior by addressing the toxic thoughts behind the behavior and creating new subconscious patterns that include God's truth using a proven process called brain priming; and second, creating a mental boundary around these new subconscious thought patterns that protects them from outside negative influences. We talk about emphasizing "boundary builders" and minimizing "boundary breakers." As you can imagine, these tools are especially important when trying to cultivate a positive attitude when negative people are present.
Boundary builders are any activities, habits, mindsets, or choices we make to enforce the protective boundary or "fence" around our healthy thoughts. In the Christian Mindset Makeover, we talk about three different ways to support and strengthen our boundaries: a healthy physical body, including good nutrition, regular exercise, and quality sleep; healthy social interactions, and other mental wellness strategies that are different from person-to-person, such as routines and creativity. On the other hand, boundary breakers are any activities, habits, mindsets, or choices we make that compromise the protective boundary ("fence") around our healthy thoughts. This can be the result of our own choices (which we must take responsibility for), or these boundary breakers may be no fault of our own. Either way, we need to recognize that these boundary breakers exist and determine what we have control over.
In the Christian Mindset Makeover, we not only help you get to the root of unwanted behaviors and show you how to use brain science and biblically-based strategies to cultivate positive, Christ-centered thought patterns on a subconscious level, but we also help you support these new positive mindsets by helping you create a plan to emphasize boundary builders and minimize boundary breakers so you can stand strong against negative people. Go here to learn more about the Christian Mindset Makeover.
In conclusion, friend, you have the power to determine how you will manage the hope-filled, positive perspectives that God is renewing in your heart. You may feel bombarded by negative people or situations, but you don't have to let those determine where your perspective will dwell. I encourage you to rise up anew and take a fresh look at how you can actively protect the great work that God is doing to renew your mind.
Written By: Alicia Michelle