Adoption of negative demeanor can hinder relationships with others, self-esteem

In a world where freedom of speech opens doors for communication, there comes the possibility of absentminded conversational choices. Insults and negative interactions have become normalized among individuals in their everyday activities. 

Personal Skills and Exceptional Learners teacher Branden Lorek feels as though this approach to relationships is only acceptable if both parties understand its context. 

“I think if people are okay with it, then a joke is a joke. But I think we have to decide if we want to accept that. We have the choice to say, ‘I don’t really wanna hear that,’ or ‘Don’t say that to me.’ If you condone it or if you don’t say anything, then you’re just as guilty,” Lorek said. “It happens to everyone. Sometimes you just get tired. It grows so much and it happens so often. It happens to teachers all the time and I’m sure it happens to students. People are so used to it being maybe the way they talk with their friends.”

Lorek believes that individuals should be more conscious of the way they interact with others, especially in crucial settings. 

“We’ve gotten more comfortable with not really thinking about what we’re saying,” Lorek said. “Now, people think they can just say what they want when it’s convenient. That goes back to the professional attitude that Mr. Marcinek and our administration focuses on. You treat this like a job, you know? You go to the job and if you talk like that (negatively), there are going to be consequences. I think there’s a place and a time for that talk.”

When it comes to the way that people communicate with one another, they have the option of expressing themselves in any light. According to Lorek, positivity can sometimes be a more difficult choice. 

“I think people use negative talk to deflect how they feel about themselves or how they feel about a situation. If I say I’m going to fail a test, you kind of set up that expectation. I think when you have a negative mindset and you haven’t prepared for things, it’s easy to take a negative approach,” Lorek said. “I tell my class all the time that it’s hard to be positive. It takes work. It does take work to smile. It does take work to be happy. It’s easy to be negative, but have you looked for anything positive? It’s really easy to be negative and when other people are negative, that takes energy away from you. You either have to work to put energy back in or you gotta remove that negative energy.” 

The words that people choose each hold a different weight in terms of circumstance and execution. Some individuals may find themselves continuously expressing harmful notions without thinking twice. 

“If you have to use negative language or cuss words to get your point across, your point probably isn’t very good. Those are emotional words and in the end, they’re just words,” Lorek said. “Some people get too comfortable and too familiar with using them all the time. I am a big proponent of saying what you mean.” 

In addition to potential negativity within interpersonal relationships, there may be some incorporated among self-reflection. 

“(When it comes to things) that you’re not comfortable with or you don’t like, there are other ways to talk about it. I do believe that negativity is the easiest thing that comes,” Lorek said. “There is also that negative self-talk. Eventually what happens is some kids or even adults too, give into that. You gotta stop yourself when you hear yourself. When you start believing that, that’s a problem. You gotta start telling yourself that it’s not true.” 

Lorek recognizes the fact that avoiding this normalized negativity can be challenging. However, he feels that it starts with the way that people treat themselves. 

“It’s hard work to be positive and it’s hard work to be positive for other people,” Lorek said. “If you can’t be positive for yourself, you can’t expect other people to be positive. If you accept negative talk from yourself, you’re going to accept it from other people and I think that’s what happens.”  

Senior Luca Serrano shares a similar mindset regarding the concept of normalized insults. 

“I feel like if both groups are in on the joke then it’s not as detrimental as if you’re using a joke on someone who has no idea what’s going on,” Serrano said. “Overall, I don’t think this is a good thing at all. This is detrimental to both parties and I don’t think this should be normalized or glorified even, especially some of the jokes people are saying today.”

There has been an increase in self-expression as the world changes and evolves. While this can pose a variety of effects, Serrano feels that it should be regarded with caution.

“People are becoming more sensitive because there’s more freedom in the world and I think that is completely valid,” Serrano said. “Me as a person and like everyone else needs to basically calm down with these jokes and if you do feel this way, you shouldn’t call them names especially in public when more people are around. (They) can experience this type of hatred even if it is just a joke.”

The concept of dismissed negativity does not have a clear beginning. It has been around for quite some time; however, Serrano links its presence to a lack of conscience and deficiency of humor. 

“I don’t know exactly but I feel like kids these days are running out of funny things to say, so I feel like they use these detrimental or deprecating jokes to try to be funny,” Serrano said. “I guess it’s the norm, especially with social media now and people fighting on there and not having anything to come back with. They just throw out those insults and call it a day and think nothing of it.”

When insults directed toward a certain individual are said in public, there is a possibility that they may have also have an effect on bystanders. 

“Say that there is someone who is in the closet, who’s gay and hasn’t come out yet, and someone uses a homophobic term in a bad way, like in a deprecating way. That could prevent them from maybe coming out because they’re seeing all these kids use it in a negative way and a negative light,” Serrano. “I feel like it affects self-esteem in that way and especially now being upset by things kids don’t want to show they’re upset, so they’ll hide it. With these jokes growing more and more negative and mean and hurtful, I feel like that can stay bottled up in someone. Since now basically voicing your emotions around a group of guys or a group of friends is looked down upon, I feel like it could stay with that person for a long period of time. It can hurt someone continuously.”

To be an advocate against this common occurrence, Serrano feels it is necessary for both teachers and students to step in. 

“I think (we need to) just stop using these jokes completely as a whole. Even in the hallways, I know that there are teachers who say stuff, but some kind of let it go,” Serrano said. “I guess common jokes are fine, but especially if there is something that yet again is homophobic, racist or something really offensive I think teachers need to step in and say something. Other people too, you can’t be scared to knock your friend for saying something that is inappropriate or unfair or discriminatory. Kids need to step in and although it’s not completely in teachers hands, if they hear it anyone should step in and tell them to stop. This needs to be stopped at the root.” 

Freshman Hannah Gerner has noticed that the influence of entertainment plays a role in the introduction of this kind of interaction. 

“We see in many TV shows and movies that the teenage characters use this form of insults when speaking to a friend, so us teenagers adapt to that way of communicating because it wasn’t perceived wrong in the show,” Gerner said.

The way that people openly speak about a topic or trait has an impact on the way these concepts are perceived. Gerner associates these normalized insults with a decrease in self-confidence. 

“This way of behavior affects many people’s self-esteem, by having their weaknesses pointed out in a way that is seen as being a laughable comment,” Gerner said. “This can seriously hurt someone’s feelings.” 

Kindness is a choice that one can make or decide to ignore. Math teacher and CASS sponsor Susan Mender believes that the way to bring about friendlier communication is to approach it as such. 

“You cannot beat it out of anyone, you can’t yell it out of them it just doesn’t work like that. You learn to love by loving people,” Mender said. “Maybe if you just believe that, I read this once, the most generous way of being is giving someone the benefit of the doubt and believing that they’re doing the best they can. Maybe we don’t know what these kids are dealing with. You guys (students) probably have friends whose parents talk terribly to them who are put down at home.”

While poor decisions can be recognized, it does not necessarily mean that people will not continue to make them. Mender refers to this as a part of humanity.

“We live in a great community but I’ve said things to my kids that I wish I could take back,” Mender said. “We’re all just human, but that’s what people are holding onto and that’s what they’re dealing with. When they’re giving it back, it’s that most people who are abusers have been abused.” 

Each person has a background that shapes the way they connect with others. This can determine their decision to be harmful or respectful. 

“Kids can be mean too and sometimes when they’re going to say something rude back I’m just going to assume that they’re going through their own stuff,” Mender said. “They just need someone to love them, hold onto them, be there for them and be that bigger person for them. I think that is for sure my job as the teacher, but it’s easier said than done sometimes.” 

Even in the midst of this normalized negativity, Mender finds that there is hope beneath it all. 

“I don’t believe that this generation is falling apart, I love teaching because I believe that you guys are the ones that will change the world,” Mender said. “Your generation is so consumed with helping other people. Yes there are plenty of kids and opportunities when people aren’t being nice, but if something is wrong there are people stepping in.” 

The acknowledgment of this current mindset could assist in its reduction in the future.

“In general people are interested in organizations that give back and are starting to pay attention to things like that and I think you guys will be the generation that brings about change,” Mender said. “Everyone just needs to be loved.”

Olivia Budzevski
Olivia Budzevski is a sophomore at Crown Point High School. She completed Beginning Journalism as a freshman and is now a part of the Inklings staff. She is interested in writing opinion pieces and learning the ropes of photography. Her goal is to capture the interests of her readers and provide accurate information each month. She is a member of several extracurricular activities including Code Red, Latin Club, Stray Dogs Improv, and will soon be a part of Student Council. She plans to be a veterinarian in the future but may change her mind along the way.

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