However strong and focused we believe we are, all of us are vulnerable to the influences of others.
When those people are positive and encouraging, this is obviously very good for us, and can inspire us to be more creative, and achieve and enjoy more than maybe we could do all alone.
But when those influences around us are draining, destructive and negative, it’s a completely different story.
For this to happen, those people don’t specifically need to to be negative about you personally even.
If you work with a colleague, whose first words each day are something like: “Rain again, it’s just miserable outside isn’t it? Brings your whole mood down” then you’re not exactly going to be uplifted when you see them.
At least when it’s sunny they’re happy though. Oh no, hang on, then they say: “It’s so hot isn’t it, I hate. It’s just so draining, I don’t have any energy for anything.”
Do you know anyone like this? I thought so. Me too.
We can avoid these kind of draining influences as much as possible, and instead seek out people that will make us feel better, stronger, more capable, and like we can conquer the world.
Fortunately, these days, it’s easier than ever to find like minded people online, to find the tribe you could never find in your offline day to day life.
But there’s another kind of company you keep that can be even more destructive.
The company you keep with yourself.
“I sit at my table / and wage war on myself…” sings REM’s Michael Stipe in World Leader Pretend.
I always found this such a violent, almost shocking lyric, and yet it’s something I’ve done myself, something we all do.
How often do you wage war on yourself? How often does your inner critic berate you, torment you and generally put you down?
“I’ve a rich understanding of my finest defences” Stipe continues.
No-one knows you better than you know yourself, which means no-one knows how to pick on your biggest fears and worries and perceived inadequacies and blow them up beyond all proportion.
The key here, as with the negative external influences, is to recognise when they occur, and then take action to remove yourself from them as best you can.
With other people, this can be literally walking away and removing yourself from their company in the short term. In the longer term it means avoiding them competely, to disconnect them them from your sphere of influence.
Within yourself, a better understanding of the motivations of these negative voices can be very helpful. Your inner critic is not the terrifying ogre you might think it is at first. In fact it’s a part of you you can embrace and even fall in love with.
Take a moment to think about your own life and the company you keep.
Which external influences constantly drain you and bring you down? I’m sure a few familiar faces immediately spring to mind. How can you can see them less, how can you reduce, then eliminate their destructive influence?
And within yourself, what are your most destructive weapons? Get them out in the open, shine a bright spotlight on them and they won’t be so intimidating.
Confidently tell yourself you’ve got important creative work to do, and you’re going to get on with it, whatever anyone says.
Then go and create your most important work, the art that makes you come alive.
After all, that’s the ultimate antidote to all negativity.
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