Have you ever walked away from a conversation with a friend or colleague where you shared your excitement about a new joy in your life and for some reason you felt a bit like they stole the helium right out of your giant party balloon? If your answer was yes then you just experienced one of the unpleasant side effects of being deflated. Author and life coach Martha Beck defines deflators as “…a person who sees virtue in pessimism. With one well-placed jab, she can let the air out of any good time, and make a bad time feel even worse.”
Most of us have both deflated and been deflated upon. It’s no fun to be on either side of the fence. On one side, you are acting out an inability to relish in someone else’s good news because you have a chronic case of the negatives. On the other side, you feel disappointment when your friend/family-member/colleague pees all over your parade every time you get excited about a new float.
As I have grown older, I have realized one thing for certain; I deserve to surround myself with people who encourage me to shine. This is not akin to “derriere” kissing. Everyone needs family and friends who are honest when we need a little dose of reality. But being honest with someone you love, because they may be heading into a train wreck, is far different from being a deflator. You know the difference. You can feel it.
Deflators are somehow uncomfortable or threatened by the good things in your life, and so they begin to deflate your joy, and you, in turn, begin to dim your light. Dimming yourself down is akin to dumbing yourself down. Think about being in the presence of someone who is playing dumb to appear more likeable or charming. It’s mind numbing (for both of you I suspect). Equally problematic, dimming yourself down often happens when you feel guilt that something good in your life made someone else uncomfortable. And so, to assuage your less than enthusiastic friend, you back peddle. “Yes I am thrilled about landing my dream job, but I am sure it will be a ton of work and it’s really not that big of a deal.”
The bottom line is this; you shouldn’t feel like you have to hold back on the joys of your life because you have cultivated a relationship with someone who is struggling to see the joy in their own life.
Playing the dim down game simply brings both of you into a space that is smaller. It prevents you from owning your life and taking full responsibility for honoring all that you have to offer to the world. I challenge you to take on the deflating epidemic. When you feel yourself ready to strap on your deflator cape and dim down someone else’s enthusiasm, stop yourself. Even if you have to fake it, move through the actions of encouragement and support, and see if your emotions follow your lead. Later, use your desire to deflate as a wake up call to explore the parts of your life that you need to reexamine. Perhaps you wanted to deflate your friend’s new job because it’s time for you to consider a career change of your own. Our reactions to others say more about us than they do about them. On the other hand, if you find yourself being deflated by someone the minute you try to share a joy in your own life, don’t dim down your light to protect the deflator. My strategy has been to deflect, reject or PEACE OUT.
Deflect the deflator by staying focused on your positive feelings and ignoring their parade peeing. Or simply reject whatever their negative assumption may be with a polite “no, it won’t be impossible to see my family in my new job” and move on. But perhaps even more effective; give yourself permission to be surrounded by bright people who lift you up. Positive relationships are easy to spot. They make you feel like you are becoming a greater version of who you were meant to be. When a deflator becomes a constant presence in your life, it may be time to clean out the toxic relationships and make room for genuine cheerleaders.