Positive Feedback vs. Negativity

What gets you going? Positive feedback or the nay sayers? Are you the type that gets serious motivation to do something just because someone says you can’t? Or do you get going when you get some positive recognition?

I am the type that gets a real charge out of any positive feedback. It gets me going. Makes me work even harder at whatever it is that I’m doing. Gives me a sense of power – that I can do whatever it is that I’m working on.


Negativity works in just the opposite way for me. It sucks any motivation that might be there right out of me. Makes me just want to escape the situation. It makes me just want to throw it all to the wind and give up on it.

One of the clearest memories for me of the difference between these two approaches to motivating people is the differences between my basketball coaches in high school. I didn’t play much at all, I rode the pine for most of both seasons. I gave it all up in my junior year when the varsity coach wanted me to pay for my uniform – which I never wore because I was the guy stuck with camera duty up in the stands during each game. So I gave it up and started working. Since then I’ve been addicted to a paycheck and haven’t ever looked back.

The difference between my freshman and sophomore coaches became very apparent when the team was in trouble during a game. Our freshman coach would pull us into a tight huddle, either during a time out or maybe at halftime. He would let us know what was going wrong, then he would tell us that he knew we could do it – no matter what the obstacles, we could find a way to come back and win. He had such inspiring confidence in us. It got the team just absolutely juiced up. The guys would go out and battle back. We didn’t always win, but the efforts put forth were just simply impressive. And the coach was always proud of us. No matter win or lose. He would pull the positive out and focus on the good that happened.

The sophomore coach was just the opposite. In those same type of games, where the team was really having trouble, this coach would pull us together and tell us how utterly disappointed he was in us. Telling us that that he was just going to give up, and that he guessed that we don’t have what it would take to get out of that tough spot. The effects of these talks were absolutely devastating. The team just fell apart, totally. It was a very tough transition for all of us. And maybe that was the thing – that it was totally opposite of what we had been exposed to with our freshman coach.

To watch the differences that the two approaches had on the team was very clear to me, even as a young high school kid.

I find that these approaches have similar effects on me in different aspects of my life. Be it at work, or in my diabetes management, or whatever.

I was diagnosed at the age of 5. After some changes in the early years, I ended up seeing the same endo for many, many years. We’re talking at least 15 years. He was a Pediatric Endocrinologist. I can remember being 20 years old, walking into the waiting room and having to look for the “big” chairs. Maneuvering around those tables with the painted metal rods, bending every which way, lined with wooden beads of all sorts of colors that you would push up and along the rods. Flipping through the Highlights magazines and other kids reading materials. Feeling strange about driving myself to the appointment and coming into the “kids section”.

But this doctor and I had a TON of history. He knew me, and I knew him. He knew that I did not respond well to the scare tactics that are so often used with diabetic patients. Rather, he encouraged me, with friendly conversation and positive feedback about good changes that were being made. Challenging me to rise up to that next level of control, and feeding me information on things I might try using to get to that level. With him I was able to achieve my lowest A1C result ever.

I finally had to leave his office due to insurance changes – otherwise I swear I’d still be going to see him. They would have had to literally throw me out of the office. I am still trying to recover from the devastation that I felt having to start all over with a new endo. I have yet to find one that really does the trick for me.

But where does that positive feedback or negativity come from when you don’t have that special connection with someone in your care team? I’m not sure about you, but I have tons of negativity rolling around my brain – much of it coming from myself (worries about not doing good enough, etc.), more of it coming from all the bad stories that people have about “that guy they know who lost his leg, went blind and is on dialysis”, and plenty of it coming from the docs that tell me my numbers are not where they need to be.

I do get a lot of positive feedback from my friends and family, which is great – and I rely on it heavily. Can there ever be too much positive feedback though? I don’t think so.

The d-blogging community is, for the most part, very empowering for me. Many of the posts I read and comments to those posts and my posts are very positive. I personally find that very helpful. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. Diabetes is a very isolating thing to deal with, and the way we all pull together is very touching for me.

I appreciate each and every one of you – and thank you all for everything you do. Whether that is sharing your own stories on your blogs, or taking the time to drop a comment here or on other blogs, or even just simply reading. It makes a difference.

Where do you get the motivation to keep going? The drive to keep doing all the things you know you must, but seem like such a pain? The resolve to move on through the obstacles and frustrations you face?

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8 thoughts on “Positive Feedback vs. Negativity

  1. I’m 100% motivated by positive feedback. My Endo is an amazing lady and I always feel empowered after visits with her. I’ve found the same to be true since I’ve found this D-blogging community. I come here and see how “not alone” I am, and am motivated to take better care of myself.

  2. I’m a very sensitive patient(if a doc says anything negative, I’m a total mess) I also do best with a “postive” doc. What keeps me going..I have many things I want to do with my life. My family isn’t particurally helpful in the support department, so its generally a catch-as-catch can affair. My endo isn’t particurally brilliant..but, he’s never once yelled at me for shortcomings(which is excellent, in my book) Would that every doc, would adapt that attitude.

  3. It’s odd, but both positivity and negativity seem to work equally well for me. If someone tells me I can’t do something, I damn well prove them wrong. If I get positive feedback, I like to keep doing what I’m doing to keep the positivity coming.

    I’m not sure that my way is entirely healthy. I’m sure I’m setting up for massive burn-out, because I refuse to give up on anything, and I refuse to fail. I guess that is my motivation… not wanting to fail.

    I’ll also admit though that I might find things easier if I let others in more often, instead of being so fiercely independent, and digging so deep inside myself to find motivation.

  4. I think I like a combination of both. More on the positive side, of course, but constructive criticism (not brow-beating, mind) can be helpful. I’m such a mess of emotions these days, though, that even a well-meant criticism can send me off in vales of tears sometimes.

    I like Olivia’s endo because she says things like “That’s a good idea. Try that and if that doesn’t work, here’s what I would do.” Which doesn’t negate my idea, but does give me more input.

  5. I agree with George about faith. Without my personal relationship with God, I don’t know how I would have gotten through many things in my life, the main thing being how to cope with Riley’s diabetes. My faith is real comfort to me when nothing else is.

  6. Scott–
    I too remember the awkardness of transitioning from the pediatric doctor to an ‘adult’ doctor. The Highlights magazines, good job of bringing back old memories.

    The positive works best for me too. If a doc is negative I either blow it off or try to take it as constructive criticism. On the other hand if I don’t get a little jab, then I’m tempted to become slightly complacent.

    My motivation is I love life. I am very thankful for the life that God has given me, diabetes and all. I have a many more things I’d like to do before it’s time to ‘check-out’ and I want to be as healthy as possible when I get there to do them. I’ve got a great wife and two neat sons and I want to stick around as long as possible to take care of her and to help my boys as they transition into adulthood.

  7. What a great post! It’s so true that a doctor’s tactics can affect your health. I have two kids and went through pregnancy with two different teams of doctors. The first set had me SO stressed out that I left there in tears after EVERY visit. I was SO SURE that I was doing such horrible damage to my baby. During my second pregnancy I had very supportive doctors who patted me on the back for working so hard all the time! That endo shared his stuffing recipe with me just before Thanksgiving! The other endo had yelled at me for eating stuffing on Thanksgiving. I was acutally able to enjoy my second pregnancy whereas the first one terrified me.

    My support mostly comes from my online friends with diabetes. My husband is awesome, but he attacks issues as if diabetes is a glitch to be solved. He doesn’t understand the personal aspect of it like someone who lives with the disease does.

    I had to move away from the stuffing sharing endo :-(. As much as I like my new one, she just doesn’t have the happy-go-lucky/ cheerleader attitude of the last guy. And I had to go through 3 endos at that clinic before I found her. Yes, it’s a good thing for my cyber friends…they know more about diabetes than the doctors.

  8. First off, Great post! I am like you in that positive totally works for me. I crumble when negativity is thrown my way especially because I do it to myself so outside junk only justifies my own negative thinking.

    I find my support from my wife and kids. But most importantly, my faith. Not that I think my way is for everyone but without my faith, I am terrible. My sprituality is my only outlet to truly recharge my soul and clear my head.

    BTW – Highlights rock! I mean, Goofus and Gallant still crack me up! Goofus is a doofus – LoL