HOW TO FREE YOURSELF FROM HOLDING ON TO NEGATIVITY By Ella Miller As humans, we are all a work-in-progress. Nothing reminds me more of this than when I find myself holding a grudge.
If you’re like me, you might have assumed at some point that carrying a grudge and feeling angry, resentful, or wronged by someone is part of your human nature. Yet it doesn’t HAVE to be that way. Through self-awareness, you can begin to understand the many ways that grudges bring you down. By using examples from my own experiences, I will share alternatives to holding a grudge that can leave you feeling at peace and provide you with a fresh perspective.
GRUDGES ARE TOXIC The important thing to remember about any grudge is that it’s not hurting the other person, it’s eating away at YOU. So even though you’re mad at someone else, they are living their life as they please and your grudge has no impact on them. Meanwhile, you are enabling anger and resentment to take over your thoughts and disturb your peace. The grudge could be impacting your emotions and making you moody. It could be causing stress and anxiety that is totally unnecessary. The reality is: it is you – and you alone – who is making a conscious decision to hold onto the grudge. It is all your decision. The good news is that you have the ability to deliberately choose NOT hold a grudge! By making this choice, you will achieve a different, more positive outcome.
RESPECT YOURSELF & RELEASE YOUR ANGER Did you know that the negative emotions that come with holding onto a grudge are actually a stress response? Holding onto a grudge means you are grabbing on to stress, refusing to let it go! When you become more aware of the POWER that you have over your own emotions, the better you will be at avoiding this detrimental behavior. Whatever happened to cause the grudge is in the past. You can’t change the past. Thinking about it just adds to the stress. However, there are tools that you can use to learn how to let go of a grudge and to eventually not hold grudges at all. Using the tools mentioned below will enable you to feel less stressed and happier.
Now that you know the only one being hurt by you holding onto a grudge is YOU, you can choose to shift your perspective about what happened. You can also take action to make sure “holding a grudge” becomes a thing of the past.
Example 1 - Personal Relationship Grudge Without going into too much detail, I had an acquaintance that stole items from me when she visited, by hiding them in a large tote bag. When I first found out, I was deeply hurt because I trusted her. I felt saddened and angered for a couple weeks. During that time, I looked at her life through the eyes of compassion. I saw her struggling to get ahead. I tried to understand her jealous personality and how she wanted what others had. I saw her making questionable choices and reached out to her from a place of love, rather than from a place of judgment.
Most importantly, I was able to show love, respect and honor toward myself by drawing healthy boundaries. First, I no longer enabled her to have access to my home or belongings, so that the instances of theft would not continue. That rid me of stress or anxiety. Second, I came to the realization that I didn’t need to let her actions consume me. In that thought, I found freedom. Third, I was able to walk away with a powerful life lesson about trust that would serve me well in the future. That lesson became a “gift” - a positive takeaway that allowed me to release the bitterness I had toward her and move on.
Example 2 – Workplace Grudge A longer term grudge that I held onto was when I was working at a marketing agency for several years. Despite my strong work ethic, positive attitude and leadership qualities, I witnessed other individuals around me getting promotions. I felt that I, too, was deserving of a promotion. At first, I held a grudge against the agency’s leadership group, wondering why they couldn’t see the qualities that I felt were deserving of my promotion. After realizing that carrying around such feelings would not get me anywhere, I changed my perspective. I put together an actionable plan. I knew that if I wanted a different result, I had to do something different. So, I volunteered for new projects and worked with new clients. I deepened my involvement in mentorship, to share my wealth knowledge and experience with others. I created courses and taught them virtually to employees in offices across the nation. These were all of the ways that I was able to show my commitment to the agency, beyond just my usual day-to-day work — and through this, I empowered myself to get to my goal. That year, I earned the promotion that I wanted by putting in the work. Instead of wasting my energy on holding a grudge that would not get me anywhere. I used my energy in a positive way that created the results I wanted.
Example 3 – Grudge in Response to the Death of a Loved One There are also grudges that are caused by life happenings, such as the death of a loved one. In this circumstance, there is no specific person at which to project our bitterness and frustration. If we are religious, these feelings might resonate as a grudge with God. Or we might find ourselves projecting our pain at people that were there when the death happened. I was angry at the universe when my newborn son, Andrew, passed away because his underdeveloped lungs would not oxygenate the way they’re supposed to. I was angry at God for “allowing it to happen.” I was angry at the hospital for not having the right equipment on hand to urgently treat him. I was angry at myself for not seeing the medical signs sooner. I held a huge grudge toward the whole world for the next couple of years. During that time, I replayed Andrew’s birth and death scenario over and over in my head. I cut myself off from people who I love and from activities that brought me joy. My emotional anguish resulted in migraines, stress, anxiety, difficulty breathing, inability to focus, and body aches and pain. Feeling helpless, I recognized my own physical and emotional decline. I had a choice to make: stand by and watch it happen or do something about it.
During deep self-reflection, I found inner strength and reminded myself that I am worthy of happiness, and that my living children deserve a mother who is 100% there for them. So, I showed love, care and honor toward myself by accepting the situation, forgiving my inexperience with Andrew’s medical condition and putting an end to constantly beating myself up over it. This attitude change allowed me to feel worthy of joy again. Andrew’s death changed me, yet I concluded that I didn’t need to let it consume me on a daily basis. In fact, I shifted my perspective; now I celebrate his birth instead of just thinking about his death. Each year, our whole family remembers Andrew on the date of his birth and honors his short life. Once again, through that profound realization, I freed myself from emotional turmoil. I was left with a powerful lesson/reminder about how nothing is promised to us. Loved ones can leave this earth at any moment. It’s important to make sure everything you wish to say has been said. Every hug that you want to give has been given. And every sentiment you want to share has been shared. Because of Andrew, I am now a more compassionate, empathetic, loving and patient mother. That is the gift he gave me and I am a better person for having had Andrew in my life.
ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY & FORGIVE YOURSELF Hard as it can be to accept, when something happens to us, we need to consider what role we played in the situation. This is without a doubt very difficult to do because it often feels like someone else “made us” angry or is the perpetrator of our negative actions. But at the same time, it’s possible that our own choices put us in the predicament. In those cases, we need to accept accountability and move through a personal forgiveness process.
When I talk about how we may have played a role in the situation, I’ll use the example of a breakup because it’s something many of us have experienced. In a breakup or divorce, it’s easy to list what the other person did that wronged or hurt you. Yet, at the same time, it’s also healthy to do some self-reflection that can lead to eye-opening life lessons. For example, maybe you felt your significant other wasn’t on the same page as you but you turned a blind eye and never confronted him/her about it. Or maybe you chose to rush into a relationship without fully knowing the other person and the various aspects of their personality. Or maybe you believed that you could change the other person by helping them to replace negative behaviors with more positive ones as time went on. Seeing how your own personal choices and actions contributed to the relationship can 1) lead to life-changing insights, 2) help you make sure you don’t repeat the same mistakes again, and 3) lead you closer to forgiving yourself and healing.
Tips for self-forgiveness and moving forward: • Remind yourself that you did the best you could, with the knowledge and experience that you had at the time. • Stop replaying situations in your head and beating yourself up over what’s done and in the past. • Do not engage in negative self-talk or put yourself down; this will diminish your confidence
and keep you trapped inside your own head.
NOTE: Self-forgiveness is a positive experience; yet those who have suffered trauma, abuse, loss or other instances over which they had no control, may require the help of a professional to address and overcome it.
SEE EXPERIENCES AS A TEACHER Everything that happens, occurs in order to make us who we are. Situations that seem less than desirable or downright heartbreaking create character, develop our resilience and ability to adapt. Challenges leave us with lasting impressions that can have an effect on our future decisions. Without these impressions, we risk making the same mistakes over and over again, getting stuck in the same rut. In a way, the experiences that anger us are also teaching us, empowering us, and making us wiser. All humans are here on earth to learn lessons. Our entire life is all about learning from our experiences. When you come to accept this, holding a grudge does not make sense. It serves no functional purpose in your life and offers no positive value.
In the end, just like the popular saying suggests, “We cannot control other people’s actions. However, we can control how we respond to them.” Knowing this, we can come to realize that we have the choice to hold a grudge and keep negativity in, or we can choose to show self-love and let it go.
Want to know more about forgiveness? Discover this Forgiveness Ritual to help you heal and move on. You can also check out my blog, 5 Habits of Positive People, for tips on how to silence your inner critic — the voice that can hold you back from becoming your best self.