My generation didn’t invent cynicism.
We just own it as our posture toward the world.
We became fluent in irony, exploring all its nuances. We re-made media into a layer cake of self-referential pop culture jokes. We diluted our rage into detached snarking from the sidelines. We invented the mumblecore film genre, fixating brooding introspective neurotics shuffling through life. (Well maybe Woody Allen invented that genre, but we perfected it).
How’s that working out for us?
I get it. Cynicism is a defense mechanism. When you freely share your dreams, the world rewards you with mockery, rejection, and harassment. Interestingly, certain types of cynical people gravitate toward the dreamers:
- Those who view the world as a Darwinian testing ground wherein ideas compete in a melee. They have no qualms slaying your fledgling dreams in the sand of that arena.
- Those who are consumed in the pursuit of their own agendas They co-opt other people’s dreams into their own, and in the process they dilute or corrupt those dreams radically. Think of House of Cards villainess Claire Underwood’s cynical takeover of a clean water nonprofit, only to steer it away from its original mission.
- Those who make their living puncturing the earnestness of everyone around them. They adopt a jaundiced eye, reading everything in the light of the next expose, the next punchline, or the next news cycle.
- Those poor souls who are tired the day to day shuffle, and have no energy to care about your dream. Perhaps they’d like to help, but their wells are dry. There is nothing left for them to draw upon.
Dealing with these people hurts deeply. It’s all too easy to build a cynical crust around your heart, simply to protect yourself from the pain inflicted by the cynics.
The cynicism of others breeds cynicism within us. And when we give ourselves over to cynicism, then our world shrinks and life becomes gray.
- it is better to risk being hurt than it is to be cynical.
- It is better to attract the eye rolls and clucking tongues than to sit on the sides rolling your eyes and clucking your tongue.
- It is better to spectacularly fail than it is to protect yourself with ironic detachment.
So how do we overcome inner cynicism within ourselves? Not easily. But here are some things that help.
1) Have Goals
A compelling positive is always more attractive than a jaded negative. Don’t just set goals to have goals, though. Make sure you care. Of course, that might be the problem – you don’t know what you care about. Then set small goals that will enable you to try out several things. Consider the small goals as stepping stones to something larger, if you would like to go there.
2) Monitor Your Information Diet
We feed on a diet of information all day long. Does the information you consume inspire you, or feed your cynicism. Consider your social media intake – how does it shape you and affect you. What about the radio shows you listen to – do they just make you mad? Does the news stoke your anxiety and sense of helplessness? Consider taking a media fast for a time. Detox from inputs and see what that does for your cynicism.
3) Consider Your Social Connections
Some people just want to be unhappy, and they will drag you down into their pit of misery too (Related Post: Some People Want To Be Unhappy). I’m not suggesting that we cut them off entirely. But be aware of which of your friends drain you of energy, and which of them add to your energy. Budget your time wisely.
4) Attend To Your Physical Health
It’s amazing what a little exercise, good diet, and proper sleep can do for cynicism. If you take time to attend to caring for yourself, you might just find that you’re in much better shape to act in the world. (Related Post: 30 Minutes A Day)
How about you? What are some things you do to let go of cynicism?
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