A few weeks ago I was enjoying some time with a friend when she began to share some of the stress she had recently been experiencing at work, stress that was specifically related to her supervisor.
“You wouldn’t believe it Katie, she calls me at 2 AM… also known as 2 in the morning… also known as the time when everyone else is sleeping. And the minute I get to the office she’s harping on me for everything I didn’t get done the day before, all the things she said I could hold off on that day. Then when I try to get back on the ball with this work, she calls me into her office every 5 minutes for consult on the most non-work related stuff possible: “What do you know about cocker spaniels?” “What’s your experience with probiotics?” “Do electric cars have to be plugged in once a day?” I’m losing sleep. I’m grinding my teeth. I have no energy to do anything but make it through the day without losing my cool…
But I know other people have it worse and I should be thankful that I have a job.”
I couldn’t believe this was how the story ended and yet, I know I have played the “someone has it worse” card when I’ve felt at the end of my rope. It’s an attempt to shift perspective and to redirect our focus with the hope that we’ll get out of our rut and on our way.
But this strategy rarely works because it denies our reality. Rather than dealing with the feelings we have, it works with the feelings we think we should have. To really get the point here, imagine a fight you’ve had with a friend, a partner, or a family member where that person tries to argue that your reaction or your feeling in a given situation is wrong. Recall how infuriating that feels and how ineffective that is for the conversation.
This is exactly what we do to ourselves when we do not appreciate our feelings as they are. Just as infuriating and ineffective as an interpersonal argument.
Rather than trying to make the case for a different perspective, go in the other direction. Get specific about what in the situation gets under your skin. Evaluate the cost and the real worth of that cost to you. Maybe you don’t really mind having to wake up early to get a head start of the tasks that your boss will throw at you the minute the workday begin but perhaps the strain it’s causing in your relationship is a big problem for you. Lastly, figure out what things will look like 2, 4, or 6 months down the line if you don’t create room for change. In other words, how sustainable is this current way of operating.
It takes some time and it takes the willingness to come face-to-face with your feelings but in the end it is going to get you where you want to go much more effectively than constantly trying to force yourself onto someone else’s path!