I’ve gotten quite a bit of feedback from my previous blog, “Resentment is a Girl’s Best Friend.” I’ve discovered that this is an issue that plagues a lot of women, whether or not we’re in positions of leadership.
The reason resentment is so erosive is that it operates largely beneath the surface. We don’t generally see it in ourselves, much less actively admit it and work with it. But as long as it stays hidden from view, it is in charge – and it’s not pretty. Resentment WILL manifest in your actions, speech and mood, but will do so either by “leaking out your shoes” or exploding in a surprise attack. So if we’re going to transmute resentment from an invisible saboteur into an active friend, we first have to be able to SEE it.
First, let’s distinguish resentment from anger. Anger is a potentially mobilizing energy in response to a perceived transgression. It works like this: something happens; you get mad; you do something about it; you move on.
Resentment is different. It is the immobilizing combination of three elements: transgression, resignation and time.
- Transgression – some line (value, principle, boundary) has been crossed
- Resignation – you felt (probably unconsciously) that you didn’t have the power/authority to prevent the transgression or to correct it once it happened
- Time – there’s history here; either this particular line has gotten crossed many times before, or this person has crossed many lines with you over time.
What About You?
To disentangle yourself from resentment’s grip, you can start at any of these three places. So that the resentments don’t pile up, I recommend a weekly inventory. Every Friday afternoon, for example, you could ask yourself the following questions:
- Transgression – Did anything happen this week that felt like it crossed a boundary or violated a value of yours? If so, are you still carrying it emotionally? Name it. Get clear about what happened, what line got crossed, and what impact it had on you, your team, and/or results. This can heighten your motivation/courage to confront the issue.
- Resignation – Are there things that bother you that feel powerless to change? If so, see if you can challenge your conclusions of powerlessness. Take one step, however small. Even if you don’t change the outer situation, taking action can strengthen your internal sense of authority.
- Time – Are there any resentments that you’ve been carrying for quite a while? The longer you carry them, the more intense and pervasive their stench becomes, so there’s no benefit in waiting to address them. Set yourself a time limit (24 or 48 hours) by which you’ll take some action to set things right.
Please feel free to post your reaction and thoughts. Or experiment with these tips and comment on the results.