A story of the emotional spiral and a quick lesson on people.

Dear children,

I heard someone say something about me at work today. A colleague sent me a text message this morning, telling me that someone at the office had a thing or two to say about my work. It was nothing major, just a snide comment from someone who didn’t even have the authority over my employment. I brushed it off with a simple, “Oh, that’s good to know. But you know how she is, she always has something to say about someone else’s work.” The brief chat over Whatsapp ended on that note.

I didn’t think it mattered. But later in the day, I found myself wondering why that “someone” didn’t care to tell me straight. She had my number. She could have just told me directly. Then I found myself thinking, “What a coward!” before grabbing my phone and almost typing out, “If you have the balls to have an opinion about something you know nothing about, have the balls to say it to me in person!” before realizing that I was, in fact, very bothered by this little comment.

I’m not proud to say it, but that meaningless comment had ruined my day. I spent at least half a day thinking about how I could have “shown” her about making comments about my work and how to get her back for talking about me behind my back. It even spiraled into a thought that maybe I wasn’t doing a very good job at my work, that maybe she was right, that maybe my work wasn’t good. I went from being nonchalant to being angry, to feeling inadequate in a matter of hours. And by this afternoon, I was in a pit of darkness, feeling sorry for myself, almost to the point of tears.

How sad.

How could a few meaningless words make me undervalue myself? How could a snide little comment deprive me of my joy? How could a brief conversation send me into a pit of self-doubt?

I took a moment to pause. I inhaled and I exhaled. I tried to convince myself that I was PMS-ing and that I was letting my crazy hormones get the best of me. I let go of my emotions and tried to regain my logic.

“Nothing can take away my joy unless I let it,” I told myself repeatedly.

Just like that, as if in a snap of a finger, the thoughts of how much I loved my job came running back to me. I went back to the feeling of gratitude for a really good week before I received that text message. Then I rested there.

Those few hours often playback like a favorite song on repeat, not in a good way, unfortunately. That spiral of feeling good to nonchalantly brushing off unpleasantries, to being angry, to feeling inadequate, to finding myself in a pit of darkness, to regaining my joy, and to resting in gratitude gets repeated almost every day. Sometimes even several times within a day.

I don’t think we can ever escape the spiral. We just get better at dealing with it. The intensity of the spiral differs every time too – sometimes it’s short, and sometimes consumes. But one thing is certain, we must always look for ways to get out of it.

Nothing can take away your joy unless you let it. If you ever find yourself in a spiral, pause, and take the time to center your thoughts on this. Nothing can take away your joy unless you let it.

Now kids, a quick lesson on people.

For the sake of discussion on this particular topic, let’s divide people into two groups: those who talk about you, and those who talk about you because they care.

I have learned that people who talk about you because they care wouldn’t hesitate to tell you straight to your face. Whether it’s about work or about anything in life, if they found fault in you and meant to build you, they will intentionally give feedback to you – not through other people, to you – directly. That’s called constructive criticism. Praises should be done publicly, but the right kind of criticism should be delivered in private. People who talk about you, to you, because they care, (and I mean, genuinely care) should be appreciated and valued, for their words can actually improve you and bring you to the next level in life.

Then there’s the other group of people who just like to talk about you. Usually behind your back. Their motives are unclear. You don’t know why they do it or what they mean by it. While they don’t necessarily mean to harm you because we have to admit, to give people good feedback takes a quite a bit of courage, these are the people with the greatest potential to send you off in a spiral and steal your joy faster than you can say, “Huh?” Don’t let them get the best of you. Instead, simply say, “Thank you.”, walk away and think nothing of it.

Nothing can ever take away your joy unless you let it, kids. And even when it’s been stolen from you, I pray that you will always find a way to bring it back.

With all my love,

Mama

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