How to get rid of that Debbie Downer…

How often do you encounter Debbie Downer in your life?

When I was a teenager, my mom would say, “Why are you running outside? It’s 38 degrees – it is way too cold!”   Then, in the summer, she would say, “Why are you running outside? It is 80 degrees – it is way too hot!” Therefore, according to this, I could only run 5 months of the year in the Spring and Fall.   It was well-meaning, but clearly not aligned with the runner I wanted to become. For those of you who are runners, you know that running in 80 degrees weather can be challenging but it totally doable.

Had I listened to my mother and engaged in all of her worry thoughts throughout my life, I probably would not have continued on a path of fitness and wellness, which is my passion.
Today, I know how important it is to be surrounded by people who will support you, but it can be tough, because we can’t always get rid of our families and other people who are in our lives.

So what do you do with a Debbie Downer?

There is a boundary between well-meaning and people who tear you down.  At a previous accounting job, I had a terrible boss. One time, I was creating a financial statement for a new division and my team was sitting around a cubicle triple-checking that we had done everything right.  We went line by line making sure we used the right information and spent probably 2 hours doing it together. As I was walking away, quite satisfied that the team was producing correct financial results, my boss called me into her office.  She yelled at me for 15 minutes that I had wasted everyone’s time – She asserted that each of us could have been working independently on other things rather than together, so we had ‘lost’ 6 hours of time. Needless to say, the rest of the day I was distracted and only thought of that rather than my work.   

The truth is that negative people and Debbie Downers will always be around you. The most important thing is to be grounded in your resolve, aware of your accomplishments and be focused on what you want to achieve.

Debbie Downers are a simple reflection of your inner doubts.  That is all – they are here to make us stronger.

In hindsight, though this boss was extremely abusive, I would have responded with a simple..”This was the best course of action I knew to take, and I understand your concern.” and ended it there.  

When i kept thinking about her words and the scenario, I was actively engaging in this negative conversation with my mind and undermining myself  – therefore breaking my SELF-TRUST.

While we should all aim to surround ourselves with positive, supportive people, I now understand how Debbie Downers are important too.

Their role is kind of critical for my self growth.

Today, I know to approach a situation with more neutrality of the mind, rather than emotional charge.

In essence, a Debbie Downer comes along to reflect something you need to work through.

(I mean, that boss really hurt my feelings).

Think of who has your back.  Who are the positive people around your life?  How have these people influenced you in a positive manner?  

By writing this, I just want to express how we all need to take our power back.  There is no single person or situation who can influence us to a point where we have no control of the outcome.  Nobody or anything has that much power over us – all we need a simple shift in mindset and awareness about how to change our circumstance.

And also, Tell me about the Debbie Downers you have encountered in your life.  It is easy to immediately and by default label them as negative, but if you think for a moment, how have you changed because of your engagement with them?

Nickolas Joannidis
Nickolas Joannidis
I have been running for over 35 years, having done practically every possible racing event or distance from the 100 meters through the marathon. I competed in varsity high school cross country and track at Saddle Brook High School in the mid-1980's, varsity cross country and track at Division II Pace University and finished well over 200 road races since then, including 20 marathons with a lifetime best of 3:14:50. I was the president of the Hoffmann LaRoche corporate running team for 7 years, growing the team from 25 to over 90 during his tenure. I coached many of these runners to achieve their goals, whether they were beginners or advanced. In 2011 I was an assistant coach for the Fair Lawn Recreation track team, helping the 10 to 14 year old group. I am currently personally coaching dozens of runners, from beginner levels to advanced levels and getting them to be prepared to meet their goals.

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