For a year, I had resented something. I’d get up in the morning. I’d get dressed, get my daughter ready, have breakfast together as a family, kiss my husband on his way out the door, and–there it was, this thing that I needed to do, that I resented. I wanted to stop feeling resentful.
I’d go about my day. Even when I wasn’t doing this thing that I needed to do, if I thought of it I’d feel…resentful.
At various points during the year, I’d tell myself things: Give it time. It might not feel this way, always. You’ll get more comfortable with it. Be reasonable. Stop feeling resentful. Be logical. After all, I don’t know how I’d magically turn this thing around, so what’s to be done?
For brief periods, I would feel better. Then, just when I thought that I had settled into some level of comfort, I’d see something else. I’d hear about something else. So-and-so would say something else, and I’d bristle.
Finally, it dawned on me that I wasn’t making changes because I was afraid that things were as good as it could get, and that changing things might make it worse. Better the devil you know, than the one you don’t.
I was staying put for fear of change. With that note, staying put officially became more intolerable than rocking the boat.
Stop Feeling Resentful
This is what can be hard, about adulthood: you are aware that you have choices. You are aware that your choices have consequences. You are aware that you might make a big mistake and need to retrace your steps to restore equilibrium in the wake of that disastrous choice.
What we sometimes do, however, is set ourselves up to feel resentful.
How? By knowing that we have options, yet being afraid to act on available options–and then getting resentful that we don’t like where we are. It becomes a form of ignoring the fact that change, while hard, is possible. Sometimes, when we’re afraid to make changes, we blame it on circumstances. We get resentful, the more we blame.
Your life is worth more than that resentment. You deserve to stop feeling resentful.
Your life is worth more than waking up, feeling tension when you have to do that thing or see that person or deal with that issue. It’s time to stop feeling resentful, and start taking actions that, while scary and difficult, might lead to real change.
Self-examination is important
With all this said, I’m a huge fan of self-responsibility.
Whenever I see another blog post exhorting people to just Quit whatever you don’t like! Just leave! You don’t owe anyone anything! without also adding, “Examine your own patterns” and “Take total responsibility for your part” or “Make sure that you’re not totally projecting your own crap onto the situation and calling it someone else’s fault,” I shake my head.
People love blog posts like that, because they speak to an infantile fantasy land where we get to do whatever we want, without consequences.
Quitting, leaving, or giving the big f-you to whatever you don’t like, without any self-examination, always yields consequences–the consequences that come with reacting hastily, burning bridges, or leaving others in the lurch.
So in other words?
When you’re ready to let go of resentment, don’t make it about giving the big heave-ho to someone else.
Instead, make it about self-examination. This is your resentment. You choose it. You feel it. It’s time to get to the other side of it.
1. Examine your patterns. Where have you been in this situation, before? I’ll give the example of disliking a job. Where have you felt trapped, before? Where have you reacted to people like your co-workers, before? When you feel like you can’t leave your job, where have you felt that, before? Any patterns?
2. Take responsibility for your part. Even if you don’t like what someone else has done, and even when they’re clearly wrong, there’s power in owning your own part. Yes, you can have the worst boss in the world. Your responsibility is your choice to continue working for her.
3. Ask trusted friends for help with blind spots. Sometimes there are things we aren’t seeing, options that are available that we don’t even realize are there. Practice courage and ask them, “Here’s what’s been happening. If you gave me your honest feedback–delivered with kindness, of course, just total truth–what would you tell me?”
4. Give it time. It can happen that sometimes we dislike a situation and we’re so quick to claw our way out that we inadvertently end up not ever dealing with our discomfort. No job, no relationship, no city, etc., is perfect. As Geneen Roth says, “Never underestimate your inclination to bolt.” The things you’re trying to change up and run from, particularly if you’re always changing up relationships, jobs, living situations, and more, indicates something you’re uncomfortable just being with. Try options 1-3 above, give it six months, then walk if nothing has truly changed.
What happened when I decided to stop feeling resentful
It was time to let go of the situation that I was resenting–I’d done all of the above steps.
I was afraid to take action, but I did.
And once I did, I felt…freer.
Under the new circumstances, I woke up in the morning, and it was all going to be different yet the same, and…it was fine. The little zappers and pin-pricks of irritation that had been mounting were no longer there, and thankfully no more passive-aggressive notes.
Your life is worth more than resentment.
Examine your patterns. Take responsibility for your stuff. Watch out for projection or expectations of perfection, and resist the impulse to bolt simply because you’re hoping that the grass is greener.