Do you have a “Debbie Downer” or a “Negative Nancy” in your life? A person who seems to have the uncanny ability to cast a dark cloud of negativity onto any occasion or gathering they may be at? I’m sure you do, it seems like we all know someone like that. We all seem to know someone that you could share the happiest news of your life with and somehow by the end of the conversation, they have you feeling sad, nervous, and depressed about the very thing that made you happy not more than twenty minutes ago. Their life’s goal appears to be to get everyone around them as sad and depressed as they are.
I lived with a “Debbie Downer” for my entire childhood and it was extremely difficult to not get sucked into her never-ending whirlpool of depression. On a daily basis, my mother would groan and moan about how awful her life was, how much harder she had it than everyone else, and how she was “God’s toilet” because nothing in her life went the way that she wanted. If I dared show happiness during one of her depressive episodes, I was beaten until I felt as bad as she did at the moment. If there was a special family dinner and someone shared some good news, Mom would make sure to point out every single negative thing she could think of about it and gleefully rub it into the family member’s face. Mom enjoyed bringing people down to her level of unhappiness; and in a weird irony, I think it was the only thing that made her happy.
And what was Mom depressed about? Well for starters, she was depressed about her life. She never went to college, never worked, and had grown up in an environment where she didn’t have to worry about money. She was depressed she wasn’t married to a rich man, upset that she had me bringing her down and stalling her big life dreams and furious that she was “stuck”. Mom wanted a life of lobster and caviar and couldn’t understand why she was living a life of Hamburger Helper and biscuits. She would become insanely jealous of anyone she knew that appeared to have more “stuff” than she did and it would become Mom’s mission to try and ruin whatever happiness she thought this person had.
It was insane living with a woman like that and it was nearly impossible for me to keep a positive attitude and a smile on my face throughout my childhood. Because not only was I dealing with Mom’s physical and mental abuse, I had to deal with never getting any positive feedback or encouragement as a child. I never got credit for anything I ever did because Mom didn’t want to give me credit. She didn’t want me to be happy or be successful because in her eyes, she wasn’t happy or successful. I would tell Mom I wanted to be an astronaut and she would laugh, call me dumb, and tell me that all I was cut out for was street-walking. No one was allowed to have dreams and goals because Mom’s dreams and goals for herself never came true.
How does one stay positive when you live with a person like this? How can you keep a smile on your face and hope in your heart when you are constantly around someone who rains on everyone’s parade every chance they get? It’s hard, I’m not going to lie. It’s hard to hear negative comments about yourself and everyone else over and over and eventually not believe some of it. I truly believed for years that our family was “God’s toilet” and nothing good would ever happen to us. I truly believed for a long time that I was garbage and that I was meant for nothing but a lifetime of chaos and pain. I believed that there were no good people in the world and that everyone was out to get me.
But deep down, I knew better. Deep, deep down I knew that the things Mom was saying weren’t true. I knew how unhappy she was and why she was unhappy (she liked to make that crystal clear daily) and I swore to myself I would never turn out the way she did. I would lie in bed at night, sore and battered, and promise myself that I would never turn into my mother. I promised myself nightly that I would make something of myself, go to college and try to be the best I could be. I gave myself hope because deep down, I believed in myself and my abilities. No matter what Mom said, how negative she was about herself and others, and no matter how much she hurt me, she could never break my spirit. Because what Mom didn’t realize was that I was going to work harder than she ever did just because I didn’t want to turn into her.
What I’ve learned is that the “Debbie Downers” and “Negative Nancy’s” of the world act the way that they do because of how they feel about themselves. They feel so badly about themselves that they have a need to bring everyone else around them down. Seeing other people happy or hearing about their success is just a reminder to a negative person about what they don’t have (or what they don’t think they have). My mother may not have had lobster and caviar, but she had a family who just wanted her to be happy and love them as much as they loved her. My mother had everything in front of her to make her happy, and she chose to ignore it.
Do not allow others to dim the light inside of you. Love yourself and the rest will follow.