Let me guess, your boss won’t let you be creative. Or he won’t pay you what you’re worth. Men don’t notice or women won’t date you. Your family won’t support you in your dreams. Your coworkers misunderstand you. Your friends won’t go on those epic adventures you long for. You’re a loser for being fat. Life just doesn’t like you. In fact, life is kind of a bitch, and then you die.
Ever get caught in the blame game? We all have at some point. Complaining and blaming is seductive because it feels like we’re working on the problem by focusing on it and trying to solve it. We think we can figure out who’s to blame and eradicate them. Or that by complaining we’ll become so sick of how it is, that eventually, we’ll work harder to change it.
The culture we live in seems to promote this very kind of thinking, that if you just hate your life, the people around you or yourself enough, you’ll change them. Do I have to tell you just how sick this is? Or can you see it already just by reading that sentence? That idea that hate transforms for the better seems ludicrous on paper. Don’t get me wrong, hate is tremendously transformative –but only for the worse, not the better. Hate digs a bigger hole.
A favorite mentor of mine often says “You cannot hate yourself thin.” And this
is sage advice for anywhere you feel stuck. You can’t hate yourself into a better life, any more than you can hate your partner into being a better man or woman. Seems obvious, and yet you’d be surprised how often that seems to be our first solution to anything we don’t like or feel stuck in, whether it’s a love affair gone wrong or a jihadist terrorist looking for justice. And yet, no matter how often we reach for it, hating things better does not work.
Complaining, blaming and hating something a lot will never work to elevate things. You have only to look to your own life for proof. Allow me to demonstrate. Grab a pen and paper. Think of something or someone you hate. It can be your boss, your significant other, your thighs, the small town you live in — anything. Write it down your paper. Now go there in your mind. Feel into it. Pull out the details of it. What specifically do you hate the most? Make a little list of five things you hate about it.
Get specific and detailed. For instance, if you hate your thighs is it the jiggle of your cellulite under the fluorescent light of dressing room mirror as you change that you hate? Or is it the small hick town you live in? The way everybody there thinks drinking counts as a hobby? Or is the sweaty oily brow of your boss in that morning meeting as he bumbles his way through the numbers? Or is it how your significant other numbs out to endless reality tv marathons when you’re dying to get out? How should it be instead? What do you need them to do? Make a list. When you’re done, read on.
So how ya feeling? Do you feel alive and ready to go out and have fun? Ready to brainstorm a list of solutions? Do you feel buoyant and hopeful? Do you feel creative and filled with possibility? Is the energy in your body moving up and out? No? Shocking! Instead you’re probably tense in your body. Maybe your jaw is clenched and tight. Or you’re holding your breath, or maybe your throat is constricted. The energy in your body feels bottled up and stuck or it’s draining out of you and you feel weak.
The anger or depression your feeling isn’t motivating you either. Instead, your hyper focused on your anger and the problem so that you just keep reliving it over and over, getting more and more frustrated. Or you’re hyper focused on the depression and hopelessness and you keep reliving that, feeling more and more down. Maybe you even want to numb out with something distracting like TV, shopping, or food– whatever your drug of choice is.
This is not a recipe for success. In fact, Hate, anger and sadness narrows our focus on what’s not right. We can’t see outside of the problem, which makes it feel hopeless & unsolvable. It makes us hostile, inflexible and impossible to please. We stop believing in ourselves or others. We give up on or axe people out of our lives ruthlessly, sometimes even ourselves if we feel we are to blame. We are SHOCKED when we end up with the exact doppelgänger of our problem back in our lives mere weeks or months later.
So if hate just digs a bigger hole, what is that will build us a ladder up and out of the hole were in? What can move us forward?
Take a deep breathe. Brace yourself. This may be hard to hear. Stuck is a mere state of mind. It’s not about other people or where you live. It’s not about not being good enough, or not having what it takes. Stuck is just a choice. Stuck is a habit of giving up your power by complaining and blaming. Stuck is a habit of letting fear keep you from taking action – of needing certainty in order to move forward. Being stuck is about grasping onto things that don’t work out of a false belief that they can save us.
How to get unstuck might surprise you. We’re a society of doers and strivers. But getting unstuck is about relaxing. Getting unstuck is about releasing the breaks and letting go of things. What do we need to let go of? Releasing our tendencies to complain & blame, to force things, and to habitually focus on what isn’t right, as well as our need to be right or certain frees us up to move forward, and onward.
Instead of complaining and blaming we start practicing appreciation and approval. When you feel tempted to complain you’re are going to instead find something to appreciate about the situation. When you’re tempted to blame someone you’re going to lean into approval of them instead, and you’re going to lean into it hard. If it’s too difficult find something immediately, find the tiniest thing or get more general.
For instance, if you’re tempted to complain about your critical coworker and blame her for your rotten mood, find the tiniest or most general thing to appreciate and approve of, even if it’s as superficial as approving of her earrings, or as general as appreciating that your glad you don’t have to do her work AND yours. If your blaming yourself, figure out something to approve of about how you’re handling the situation. Start small.
This will feel awkward at first and unnatural. It might even seem like a bitter pill to swallow at first. So why do it at all, you may be wondering? Because you have to start somewhere. Nothing comes out of nowhere. You can only grow things from what exists now. You have to water the tiny little seeds of the good life you have now to get them to grow bigger and better.
If you haven’t guessed already love is the stuff that transforms your life upwardly and you can’t keep waiting to love your life. You can’t keep hoping to magically one day wake up to a life you love without working to create it now. You have to love your life now in small ways to shift it upward. Appreciation, approval, surrender… These are the building blocks of love. If hate digs a bigger hole, it’s love that can build an ever bigger ladder and eventually, a platform to stand on and then a home.
What else can we do to get unstuck and grow a life we love? Walk into situations looking for what’s right within them instead of always scanning for what’s wrong or what you don’t like. Looking for what’s wrong is often a subconscious habit we’ve developed that tries to unsuccessfully stave off disappointment. However, by always being on the lookout for what could disappoint us, instead of avoiding it, we manage to find it everywhere. Hardly a successful habit. Instead, we need to constantly look for and appreciate what is right as we walk into each new situation.
Look for the opportunities within problems you complain about. Will dealing with this problem make you a better communicator with your partner? Will asking for a raise teach you to stand up for yourself with your boss? Will it it teach you how to love yourself more fiercely regardless of your thighs, or thinness? Embrace problems as opportunities. Look for the good within your problems.
Let go of cherished beliefs and habits that aren’t working, like the need to be right or trying to force others to act/look/be a certain way so that we can be happy. We’re often very attached to what we know even when we know it’s not working. It feels scary to let go of the known and our self-protective habits, even when we aren’t happy with them. Embrace the inherent uncertainty and risk of life.
After all, playing it safe by grasping onto to old beliefs and habits isn’t keeping you safe, it’s keeping you stifled, bored and unhappy. Try something new. Be willing to be wrong. Be willing to make yourself happy and let other people be. So if you want to go out for the night, take yourself out and let your partner stay home and watch TV. Take your girlfriends with you or be really brave and head out alone. It’s one night of your life, if you hate it you can rethink and come up with a new plan next time. One moment isn’t life defining. It’s just one moment.
Stop thinking things need to look a certain way. Instead be creative and open to something entirely new. That’s when magic happens. When you take risks and learn to embrace what’s right in your life.