I’m very lucky, because my family have been very supportive of my spiritual path, although they have questioned me a little on the way.
They were certainly surprised when I decided to pack up and go to India by myself, aged 24. When I became a vegetarian, my Italian grandmother was surprised for sure, but supported me nonetheless.
How to Deal with Negative People
But I’ve had my fair share of negative comments too:
‘Oh a yoga teacher, that’s a nice fallback career to have as a mom
’‘Why did you bother going to college if you were just going to be a yoga
You name it, I’ve heard it.
It’s as if people say these things because they think my career is illegitimate – so I really do know how you feel.
I know what it’s like when you’re in your groove, you’ve changed your life for the better, you’re on a more supportive spiritual journey, you’re feeling great and confident about how you look, and then, boom: one negative comment knocks you right off-center.
Know your audience
You wouldn’t take real estate advice from your friend who lives with his parents, and I hope you wouldn’t take investment advice from your constantly broke friend. You need to know your target audience well when you go into a conversation.
Don’t waste your time and energy preaching about how alive you feel now that you’re doing yoga and how this person should be doing it, if they’re someone who eats McDonald’s three times a day.
We all have friends and family that we would love to see grow and change for the better, but this may not resonate with what you’re doing.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, but you need to know that this is a private journey you’re taking within you.
You don’t have to shout from the rooftops; you don’t owe anyone an explanation.
Of course, when you’re feeling so alive and excited, it’s natural to want to try and make this positive change on everyone’s lives, but it may not be in your best interest.
Although you want everyone to lead a better life, sometimes it’s better to just keep your mouth shut, especially if you’re at a holiday gathering or party.
Keep your journey for yourself.
This is important because it can feel very vulnerable, especially at the beginning. Your emotions can feel very raw as you’re growing and changing so rapidly.
There’s a lot of processing which has to go on and there’s no point in putting yourself in an extra vulnerable place with unsupportive people.
Yeah, if you’re with your cousin who practices yoga, eats a clean diet and you want to strike up a conversation, go for it. Otherwise, zip the lip.
Be choosy with your friends
I’m not saying you should go and trash all your friends just because they don’t practice yoga like you, but if that person is a Debbie Downer, you don’t have to have a long phone conversation with them every day.
You don’t have to have coffee with them every single time they want to meet up with you.
Do it instead when you’re in the mood, and feel like it’s going to bring something into your life.
And if they’re a negative person, they’re looking for company in their misery – that’s not your responsibility.
Going into a situation like that with someone who’s only trying to pull you down is only going to validate them.
Your own journey may or may not be subject to their misery, so you have to decide whether you want to take that chance.
Sometimes we have to declutter relationships: it’s a sad truth.
Well, it can feel sad, but it can also be looked at as opening the door to new relationships which are more supportive of you and your lifestyle.
When you do declutter, it must be done with love and peace, not anger, otherwise it suggests you’re not really done, and you need to process some more.
You’ll know you’re ready when you can let go and love and wish someone well from a distance.
Having said that, we can’t always choose our family.
This means we have to be more prepared, especially during holiday time when everything’s in our faces.
Again, you don’t owe anyone an explanation and you need to remember that you’re choosing the boundaries you want to have.
If you don’t want to go in and talk about your yogic and spiritual journey, you can choose not to. Often, when people say ‘Oh, Sara, how’s it going?’ I reply with ‘Good.’
Before you go into these family gatherings, have a list of topics that you can use.
It sounds simplistic and funny but you’ll feel confident knowing what to do if the conversation goes south.
If someone says something like ‘Why are you doing a vegan cleanse for 10 days? Those vegans are crazy!’ you can just reply with ‘Oh, it’s just something I’m trying out.
Hey – what’s your favorite charity this season?
I’m thinking of giving donations instead of material gifts this year.’
People love talking about their interests, so don’t be afraid to turn back to them.
I said to my students on the return home from my Peru retreat that it might just be easier to tell people simply ‘It was good.’
It was such a profound experience, and how are you supposed to explain this intense change to someone who hasn’t experienced it?
It’s like if you went to Mars and trying to explain it to someone after you returned what it was like.
So don’t feel like you have to explain, say something simple and then change the subject.
Ground yourself before you go into any family setting
I’ll give you the link to a free grounding meditation, which is tremendously centering for the holiday time and at under 10 minutes is one of my favorites to do.
If you’re grounded, you’re confident and if you’re confident in your path you won’t be knocked down when someone says something insensitive.
Think of how if you’re given a gift, you can choose whether to accept it or not. When someone gives you a verbal gift, you can decide if you want to take that in or deflect that back to them.
There are negative people in every walk of life, including the yogic path, which is unfortunate.
They are everywhere though:
the park – just smile and use your role to bring some joy into their day.
Then move on. It’s not your job to fix everyone and it’s not your job to receive their negativity.
I hope this helps you navigate those sometimes murky waters of a spiritual path, especially if you’re new to this.