what is the negativity bias

An Interview With Your Negativity Bias

Published On: March 10, 2022

Categories: Meditation, Mindfulness

What is our negativity bias? And why do we need to talk about it?

Fun fact, we alllll have a negativity bias. Yup, even your favourite optimist. 🙋🏻‍♀️ And once upon a time, this bias is what kept us alive because its #1 job was to keep tabs on the poisonous berries and where the predators lived.

Only these days we’re less likely to be eaten by a predator and yet our negativity bias continues to show up.

Why? Because it serves a role and a function in our lives. Just like our negative self-talk, it’s here for a reason. Our job now is to keep tabs on it by paying attention to it when it shows up.

If you were to sit down with your negativity bias and ask it a few questions what do you think it would tell you?

Interviewing Your Negativity Bias

Pull up a chair, tune inwards, and take a moment to check in with your negativity bias.

  1. What are you trying to tell me right now?
  2. Is this true?
  3. Can I 100% know that this is true?
  4. What emotion is here with this thought?
  5. What do I need to do, right now, to help ease my thoughts & emotions?

When we slow down & tune in, we can learn what it is about this moment that is bringing up these thoughts & feelings.

Mistakes, judgements and the 2 arrows

These days, our negativity bias shows up most when our ego feels like its in danger. Which is usually when our mind perceives that we’re going to be either embarrased or judged by someone else.

Think back to a time when you were embarrassed in front of others. Ugh, that was the worst. I bet in that moment you thought that you would die of embarrassment. And from that moment on you’ve vowed to do whatever you could to prevent another moment like that happening.

Amirite or amirite?

How much of our time is controlled by our fear of being humiliated? I FOR SURE spent a lot of time and energy attempting to control this as a result of our survival-oriented reptilian brain.

Even as I write this post, thinking back to a time when I was worried about being made fun of can bring up some pretty strong emotions.

When our ego feels like it’s in danger it will do ANYTHING it can to avoid it – it will literally run away if it can.

Which is why many entrepreneurs find it SOOO hard to promote themselves and their business.

Because they have to put themselves out there. Where the people are. Where they can be seen…

…and judged.

Which is scary and is something that we try to avoid as much as possible.

Hiding and avoiding what’s causing this feeling feels safer.

So we avoid and we procrastinate and we put off for a million tomorrows the things that test us.

Like making a mistake.

Mistakes happen…

The 2 arrows teaches us that some things in life are inevitable – like possibly making a mistake.

Especially as a new entrepreneur when we’re constantly testing and making adjustments to the programs that we offer and the ways that we show up in our business.

In my first year running The Mindfulness Journey I launched a monthly membership program, where I overcommitted to the amount of content that I would create (by MYSELF) each month for only a handful of members.

Needless to say, this program wasn’t sustainable and I ended up shutting it down after a few months.

Remember a time in your business journey when something didn’t work out the way you thought/hoped it would. How did that feel? Did your negative self-talk show up? I know mine sure did. Especially when I was in the midst of the situation and needed to figure out what to do next.

Now, I have the choice to look at this program as a mistake, or as a learning opportunity. Whichever one I choose will decide whether the second arrow shows up.

There will always be moments in life that we face that will test us. Its HOW we show up in these moments AND what we do afterwards that matter.

If I looked at this membership as a mistake (the first arrow) and then started judgeing myself for this “mistake” (the second arrow) I would end up feeling SO much worse about the situation.

Because the program and the burnout that developed as a result of it was my first arrow. While burnout isn’t inevitable, stress to some extent is.

Mentally beating myself up afterwards? That’s the second arrow, and this one my friends is optional.

Instead of beating ourselves up for making mistakes, we can instead notice when judgements arise and forgive ourselves and let go of the past.

We stops us from choosing forgiveness is that we hold ourselves responsible for things that are outside of our control. Which is when anger and resentment arise.

Compassion helps us in these moments by allowing us to address what’s needed in the moment without slinging additional arrows.

I’m a ☕☕☕ drinker, and there is nothing I love more than my Starbucks mocha latte with almond milk.

And if I’m out running errands there will most likely be a Starbucks stop along the way.

Which is the setting for a little story involving the 2 arrows and our negativity bias takes place…

A Starbucks Story

Picture it, Toronto, 2019. I needed to get some papers notarized for my passport application, so I had an appointment in an office building downtown. Now, I had never been to the building before so I headed over early to make sure I wouldn’t be late. (anxiety y’all)

Which meant that I ended up being early. So early that I had time to stop at the Starbucks in the lobby where our story takes place…

I ordered my drink, and then went to the station where the napkins and lids are to add some cinnamon 😋😋😋 and to grab a napkin. And then it happened. The woman who was there ahead of me sighed in frustration and exclaimed, “You could have said excuse me” and then stormed off.

Reader, when I tell you I felt shame in that moment…

Hear me when I say that in that instant I felt like I was a small child being shamed by an adult for my lack of manners. It cut deep in that moment.

I was so upset that I started ruminating about the situation and what I did “wrong” (nothing, she had plenty of space and I wasn’t in her bubble).

Headed to the elevator, still mentally beating myself up, pressed the button for my floor, got off and headed to the office – only I couldn’t find it. Because I was on the wrong floor.

I was so in my head about the situation that I pressed the wrong button. All of those 2nd arrows kept me distracted – and when we’re distracted mistakes happen.

And at that moment I had a choice. I could continue to give this woman – who I will never see again – my attention of I could make like Elsa and move on with my day.

Which is where mindfulness helps us when it comes to our negative self-talk & that 2nd arrow.

The moment that we notice we’re caught up in that mental chatter is the moment that we can do something about it.

I go into this more inside my FREE training “How to be more decisive in your business decision making” which you can sign up for here.

pain vs suffering

Inside this training, I share with you how mindfulness can help you to notice when your negativity bias is telling you that you’re in danger as you step outside of your comfort zone. You’ll leave this training with actionable steps that you can take right NOW to be more decisive and to move past that fear-based thinking.

When we bring mindfulness into everything that we do, we learn how to get out of our heads and into our lives.

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Charlene Gethons

Hey there, I'm Charlene!

I help creative entrepreneurs with chronic illness create a sustainable business that fits their lifestyle without letting imposter syndrome take over.

Charlene is an entrepreneur, psychotherapist and mindfulness coach living with chronic illness after she was hit by a bus.