It’s been a week since my undergraduate commencement. One week since myself and 763 other members of my class walked across that stage to receive our diploma holders. It’s strange.
I was fortunate enough to have so many of my loved ones there, from my high school English teacher to friends from back home to my wonderful, wonderful family. There were far too many leis, embarrassing sandal tans, and lots and lots of photos. It was an amazing and terribly exhausting day.
I’ve been reflecting (surprise, surprise) on the whole experience. In doing this, I’ve found that I tend to fixate on the negatives over the positives. I’ve got to stop doing that. I mean, I gave the valedictory address to the largest graduating class in school history, for crying out loud. Life is pretty good, right?
It is, but – and that but is key.
I think it’s important to acknowledge negative thoughts. We grow from them. When we make concerted efforts to be good allies, the lessons that stick with us the best are the ones that come as a result of our gaffes and blunders. The biggest danger that comes with reflecting on the negatives, then, is the tendency to dwell on those thoughts – and more often than not, I end up dwelling.
My close friends are well acquainted with my tendency to dwell on negativity. It was especially bad during these past few months when I learned that a couple of my fellow classmates harbored some ill feelings towards me because of all of this commencement hullabaloo. I tried my best to say I was over it; to appear numb in the face of it all (because for some reason I believed that showing emotion meant making myself look “weak”). However, after speaking with staff members multiple times, I eventually realized that yes, I was hurt by those comments and interactions. And no, there’s nothing wrong in admitting that. If anything, it’s a sign of maturity to be able to own up to your emotions. Resolution, then, comes not from other people, but from yourself.
One of my mentors offered me this quote: “What other people think of me is none of my business.”
I’m beginning to realize how true it is. Whether it’s praise or insult, it honestly doesn’t matter. Once someone has made up their mind, there’s no use trying to change it.
And why would I want to change their opinion of me in the first place? Does my well-being depend on whether or not someone else sees me in a positive light?
Of course, positive thoughts from others are always helpful. They are, after all, what brought me to post a response to our commencement speaker’s address. But it was not their words alone that moved me to write. The truth of the matter is, I had that in me all along. The same goes for negative comments, which can build on your already existing insecurities.
So the question, then, is not “How do I push negativity away?” but instead “How do I use negativity to grow?”
My advice? Reflect (shocker, I know). Figure out why that thing is bothering you. Trust yourself. Express and feel your emotions completely and honestly. Talk to your loved ones. Then go out there and move forward. Commence. It’s the only way to go.