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A man sitting on a bench surrounded by grey and menacing plants. A friend walks over and brings some sunshine.

Surrounding Yourself with Positive People

I can remember how at the beginning of my multiple sclerosis (MS) journey, everywhere I looked for information about MS and how to treat it, manage it, and live with it, I always came across those who said, “you have to surround yourself with positive people.” I didn’t truly understand what that meant at the time; when I heard that, I always pictured a group of super optimistic, colorful, smiling friends and family cheering me on as they gleefully told me to always look on the bright side. That just seemed like a fairytale to me, something you could only see if you saw the world through rose-colored glasses because, “Come on, people aren’t actually like that.” But since then, I have come to understand what it is to be surrounded by negative people and how that affects me, which has greatly helped me put all this into perspective.

Living in the grey area between optimism and pessimism

Growing up, there were a lot of people who told me that I was such a pessimist, that I could always find a way to make something positive, negative. Looking back, I would have to disagree with that assessment because I would say that I was, and still am, a realist. Some would argue that there is an extremely fine line between being a pessimist and a realist, and I wouldn’t disagree, but I’m getting off track here. My point is, while I was definitely optimistic about certain things, I more often saw things in terms of “what I thought was most likely.” I didn’t see it as being pessimistic, just as being realistic. Living in this grey area between being optimistic and being pessimistic, I rarely felt brought down by people’s negativity.

Spending time online connecting with others

Once MS became such a huge part of my life, I began to spend a lot of time online. The internet is amazing; it can connect people from all over the world, and from so many different walks of life with so much to teach. But of course, there is a flip side to that because the internet is literally for everyone. I have met some of the most awesome, motivational people online, but I have also come across some pretty vile individuals, people who may in real-life be pleasant to be around, but behind the anonymity of the internet, are just… terrible. If only the people who thought I was pessimistic all those years ago could’ve seen me next to this specific group of people! I would have looked like the most optimistic person in the world!

Bumping into more negative people

Anyway, for the most part, their negativity still never really bothered me. Like a large suburban city, I knew where the “bad parts of town” were, so I knew where to stay away from while surfing the World Wide Web. But in time, it seemed like the negativity of people was spreading into every corner of the internet, every community… even the online MS community. In recent years, the odds of bumping into someone like this seems to have skyrocketed! While there are (in the online MS community) still substantially more awesome people offering their support to others, there appears to be a much larger amount of negative people than there was when I was first diagnosed and looking for answers. People who always find a way to make everything negative while trying to snuff out any bit of hope they come across. Or maybe I’ve just grown more sensitive to negativity – who knows?

When negativity brings you down

As a self-proclaimed realist, I can understand certain views and outlooks without agreeing with them. I can even understand why people might have those views. But sometimes it feels like these people simply just want to bring you down. It’s exhausting to talk to someone who, no matter what you say or how you say it, can find a way to put a negative spin on it and tell you how you’re wrong to see it any other way. You’re wrong for trying to be optimistic, and they’re right in explaining why you’re wrong. When I come across these negative Nancy’s, I have learned that it’s typically best to just say, “OK” and move on rather than letting them suck you in, but man… negativity is corrosive, and after a while, it slowly brings you down.

Negativity can completely ruin my day

This is when I finally understood what it means to surround yourself with positive people and why it’s important to do so when living with a chronic illness like MS. On the occasion that I fail to spot negativity and avoid interacting with it, I find myself in such a bad mood. These people can totally ruin my day and kill any motivation I had to accomplish anything. It may sound stupid, but somehow, they can just drain me of what little fuel I had, which is really bad when you don’t exactly have much energy to spare. I imagine it’s due to the stress they promote. One day, I spoke with a terribly pessimistic individual online, and I literally had to shut down my computer and walk away for the day, but even later on that night, while trying to fall asleep, I couldn’t get what they had said to me out of my head. I was in such a bad mood.

Getting a break from the negativity

So, the next day, I stayed off the computer and instead, hung out with a friend. It was at this moment that I realized, the reason I felt like I was getting a break from the negativity was that he wasn’t negative. None of my friends are, none of my family, none of anyone else in my life is, and that’s because of one thing: I have spent the last 10 years of my life (give or take) slowly removing anyone who I felt was a negative influence in my life. Anyone who left me feeling hopelessly exhausted like that person online from the previous day.

The people in my life motivate me

No one is perfect, but ultimately, the people I’ve surrounded myself with motivate me to be better. To not give up, to keep pushing forward, and to succeed. They might not be cheering my name on the sidelines like I once imagined “positive people” would do in the past, but thanks to the negative people I sometimes meet online, I can now see what “positive people” really look like. I can now see how they are, without a doubt, a crucial part of what I need to overcome my MS.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • @masbrautigam
    6 days ago

    Great article:) so true

  • Janus Galante moderator
    6 days ago

    Hi Matt,
    this has happened to me as well. (The online thing where someone has said something that you just can’t get out of your head.) The night time is worse, when sleep won’t come because your thoughts keep replaying
    what you read.

    Our words matter. What we write matters. It can lift us up and keep us sailing through the day. Or they can leave us feeling useless and knock the wind out of our sails.

    I think it’s great that you have people that you surround yourself with that can help to lift you up!

    Thanks Matt!

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