Cynicism can affect even the happiest and most optimistic person. It will sink its claws into you and drain your motivation and happiness in equal measure. It will leave you living in a grey fog of apathy that is characterized by a unique sort of arrogance where you believe that there is nothing new anyone can teach you. Not that it matters since everything is pointless anyway.This is not a way of thinking that most people want to embrace. Unfortunately, getting that cynical voice in the back of your head to be quiet is not as easy as it sounds. Here are seven ways to help you defeat your inner cynic and take back your happiness.
CuriosityIt is very hard to be cynical and curious at the same time. Cynicism almost requires a subconscious belief that there is nothing out there that is truly worth your time. Curiosity, on the other hand, pushes people to dig deep into events or stories and absorb everything they can. Cynicism is often described as making people hard hearted. Curiosity is compared to a sponge soaking up everything in its vicinity. Aim to be a sponge instead of a slab of steel. Learn not just facts about the world around you but how to be hungry for further knowledge. If you trust that you do not know absolutely everything, in which case there would be no need for curiosity, you will have taken the first steps to defeating your inner cynic.
Know NothingAiming to know nothing at all is an exaggeration, but if you want to defeat your inner cynic, you need to accept that you do not know everything. Learn how to swallow your pride and admit to another person that you have no idea what they are talking about or that you are confused. Then, put that newly rediscovered curiosity to use and hunt down information on whatever left you confused. Cynics tend to think that they know everything they need to know, and admitting that there are times when you are about as lost as a fish in a hardware store is a good way to stave off that cynical sense of superiority.
DreamYou probably used to be a lot better at this than you are now. Consider that boring meeting where you did not pay any attention. What did you think about instead of those slides that were completely irrelevant to your situation? Most adults would probably say they thought about the work that they could be getting done if the meeting would stop dragging on. They may have fondly recalled something their spouse did that morning or mused about the vacation that is coming up for them. In short, an adult’s imaginings are realistic and rooted in what is possible.
If you envision yourself in that same scenario as a child, you would probably come up with a very different list of daydreams. Pirates, dragons, a way to make vegetables taste like cookies and school being canceled forever probably featured heavily in your imagination. Simply put, as a child you were more imaginative and better at dreaming.
Dreams focus on what you wish could be rather than what is. They require giving up a certain amount of control, something a cynic is loath to do. Break the habit of thinking that there is nothing worth imagining out there and remind yourself how to dream.
QuestionDo you really have a conversation with those people you talk to, or are you just looking for specific information? For many people today and most cynics, the answer is the latter. As such, they tend to ask questions aimed at getting specific answers. This leaves what should be a conversation more closely resembling an interrogation or a lawyer cross examining a witness.
Ask open ended questions of people. When they ask you a question, end your response with a question of your own. It could be as simple as “what about you?” The constant flow of questions will keep a conversation moving and encourage the sort of more intimate human connection that serves to hold back the worst of cynicism.
ListenYou could ask the best questions in the world, and it will not mean a thing unless you actually listen to the answers. This means you need to pay attention to what the other person is saying and digest their words in the moment rather than either storing them away to think about later or simply waiting for a chance to speak again.
Cynics rarely truly listen to other people because the cynic is infected with the sense that the other person has nothing truly worthwhile to say. They believe they have already heard or already know what the other person is going to say. This, however, is rarely true if you actually listen. Everyone has a story to tell, and all of them are different.
New ThingsCynicism thrives on the idea that there is nothing new in the world. Everything is old, tarnished and meaningless. When you do something you have never done before, you have no choice but to see that there are things in the world that are new to you. The human brain is wired to enjoy novelty. That, combined with the fact that everyone likes to succeed, means that learning a new skill can be an easy way to overcome a cynical attitude.
Be ChildlikeChildren are not cynical by nature. The world is too new and too exciting for them to be bored with it. They are too imaginative, creative and energetic to fall prey to apathy, and most children have not yet learned how to simply give up and wallow in defeat and self-pity. They can certainly throw an impressive tantrum or pity party, but they are short. When a child is disappointed, they are usually sad for a couple hours or days. When cynical adults are disappointed, they mope for weeks and hold grudges for years.
Beat back cynicism by embracing your inner child. Find wonder in the world around you, and look at the world through younger eyes. Remember how when you were young, a stick on the ground could be anything you imagined. Bring that creativity back into your life, and use it to break through the grey apathy of cynicism.
When cynicism starts to creep into your life, you can force it back. You can learn to see the world through fresh eyes, and enjoy a happier life as long as you are willing to do what it takes to shake off cynicism’s unique brand of arrogant apathy.