How to maintain your own energy in the face of others’ negativity

A fat woman with long brown hair and a yellow sweater blowing bubbles in a field. Her back is to the camera.

There was an interesting discussion today in a Facebook group I’m in about how to keep from being sucked into and swallowed by other people’s energy when it’s negative or doesn’t align with your own.

Here is my answer:

There are two things that help me: continually recentering myself in my own sensory awareness, and checking in to make sure I’m operating in line with my own ethical framework.

On a sensory level, that means taking quick breaks to destimulate (I’m autistic, but could work for neurotypical folks too): putting a piece or two in my latest puzzle, watering plants, snuggling under a blanket for a few minutes. Returning to myself over and over helps me maintain my own energy and shed other people’s.

For the ethical framework, I check in occasionally on whether I’m acting in line with my own values. Am I using my words to clearly express my needs and boundaries? Am I reflecting my values, or theirs? Am I being pulled into behavior I’ll later be ashamed of or regret?

Am I treating others with the consideration with which I’d want to be treated? Am I being both firm and kind? Is this a relationship I want to maintain, or divest myself of?

And finally, as someone who was taught that I could control the way others behave or feel/think about me by rigidly controlling my own behavior, I have to constantly remind myself that that doesn’t work, because other people have autonomy, too.

If I’m continually returning to myself and my own energy, and continually checking in with my own ethical underpinnings, that’s the best I can do. Other people may dislike me, or disagree with me, or treat me poorly, but none of those things are my responsibility to fix or manage.

Let’s dig deep.

Every Monday, I send out my Body Liberation Guide, a thoughtful email jam-packed with resources on body liberation, weight stigma, body image and more. And it’s free. Let’s change the world together.

Hi there! I'm Lindley. I create artwork that celebrates the unique beauty of bodies that fall outside conventional "beauty" standards at Body Liberation Photography. I'm also the creator of Body Liberation Stock and the Body Love Shop, a curated central resource for body-friendly artwork and products. Find all my work here at bodyliberationphotos.com.