Why So Catty?

Let’s face it: human beings gossip. At least most of us do. Whether it’s snide comments about a co-worker whose choice in wardrobe is questionable at best, pointed critiques of your sister’s romantic shortcomings, or indulging in tabloid talk on the latest celebrity meltdown, we’re all guilty of some form it. It may just be little jabs most of the time (often aimed at people who will never be the wiser), but cattiness can quickly turn into straight-up backstabbing — and sometimes even ends up directed at the people who matter most to us. So what is it that makes us do it — knowing how much damage it can cause? And more importantly, how can we curb this behavior and avoid the hurt feelings that result?

Tracing the Trouble
Even in the most secure among us, the urge to talk smack rears its head. In some of us, it’s practically an involuntary reflex! But why? No matter who you are or how you feel about yourself most of the time, the need to talk trash stems from deep-rooted (sometimes even subconscious) insecurities, lasting or fleeting. By separating ourselves from someone else’s shortcomings, standing in judgment of them, we somehow illustrate our own superiority. Translation? We all want to feel better about ourselves, and sometimes putting someone else down provides a short-term fix.

‘I may not have my dream job or ideal relationship or body, but I’d never wear that! I’d never behave that way!’ I’d just as soon die before I’d be made a fool of …’

Putting it in Context
Granted, it’s not like our tabloid/gossip-blog/24-7 news culture urges us to steer clear of our cattier inclinations. The world around us rips people up and spits them out for bad haircuts, bad outfits or a little bit of cellulite, so why shouldn’t we? It’s easy to fall into the ‘so and so said it first’ excuse. But make no mistake, by putting negative energy out into the ether — in any form — it will come back to haunt you. It’s physics (and metaphysics) at work. Just because our culture is playing to our baser instincts, doesn’t mean you have to, too.

Change Your Thinking
So how do you temper these base urges? Focus on the positive. Rather than seeing the bad in people, find something you like about them. If there’s nothing (and that should rarely be the case), set a positive intention for them — and be grateful that their problems are not yours. Who knows what you’d really do in their shoes.

Meanwhile, the next time you feel inclined to talk smack, ask yourself what is it about this person that irks me? Odds are it isn’t their outfit, their hair or the size of their butt (fat or flat), but rather something you feel you are lacking that they may have in spades (or represent). Looks, money, fame, a better job, a steady relationship. Whatever it is, utilize your energy to work on fulfilling that need in yourself, instead of dissing them.

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