Staying Positive in the Face of Negativity
I have been very lucky in terms of the amount of support I have received since announcing my plans to thru-hike this year. Nearly everyone who has learned about my intents has been impressed and supportive. But pay close attention to the word “nearly.” I’m sure all of us have been at the receiving end of some interesting (and possibly quite stupid) questions, but most of those are easy to brush off and attribute to lack of knowledge, not intentional malice. However, occasionally you will run into the doubter who is not afraid to mince words and make their opinions known. Hopefully we can brush off these harsh words and not let their negativity impact us, but that can be pretty difficult sometimes.
I have thankfully only had one truly negative experience telling someone about my trip, but man oh man was it a doozie. The first thing this person said after I told them what I was doing?
“You’re not going to make it.”
Well, thank you for your opinion, but why are you being so rude?
“I’m not being rude; I’m being realistic.”
It was at this point that I wanted to either start yelling at them or punching them in the face (preferably both), but instead I replied with some spiel about how no, it is not 100% certain that I’ll make it to the end, but dammit I’m going to try my hardest and THAT is what matters the most (but also screw you, I’m so going to make it).
At this point, they realized that their original attack wasn’t going as planned, so they changed their approach and said “You’re probably right. It’s just walking; how hard can it be?” Um…just walking? JUST WALKING?! Yeah, I’m JUST walking the entire eastern seaboard through the backcountry without a single soul that I know by my side. I started gearing up to yell and/or punch again, but that’s when I realized that these kinds of people are impossible to reason with.
Someone who approaches you in this manner is not going to be swayed by anything you say, and attempting to argue with them is only going to bring you down. This applies to all aspects of life, not just in regards to hiking the AT. The old bully theory still rings true in these situations: this person is just trying to bring you down because they are so unhappy with their own lives. Someone who is secure and happy with where they are in life would have no reason to try and make you feel bad. So instead of getting upset and letting these people bring us down with them, let’s just smile and nod and tell ourselves that our lives are so much more fulfilling than those of a grown-up bully.
Get through those situations with a smile on your face. Try to help them understand your trip as much as possible, because many times malice does stem from ignorance. Talk to the tons and tons of people who are supportive and positive and will always be there for you and encourage you. And if all else fails and we’re still feeling angry at the end of the day, let’s just think about punching the haters in our imaginations.
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I don’t get to say this as much as I’d like to, but… Haters gonna hate. Good luck! You’re doing something great.