When life gets frustrating, it can often feel like bad things are happening to us. I’ve heard in myself and in those around me this past week a lot of, “I am so fed up,” or “I am doing the best I can”, or “how could they do that to me?”. These are the phrases that come out when we feel helpless. When we feel victim to the circumstances. When we feel like we are doing everything we can to create the result we want, and yet it’s just not working. Whether it’s because of another person not participating, or because of the circumstances just not lining up, it can feel overwhelming.
The problem is, when we do this we not only discount our power, but we end up hurting ourselves. It’s painful to sit with the fact that someone we love could do something to harm us. It’s painful to think that our best for something we really want is just not good enough. It’s painful to think that we have to keep showing up for something that is not showing up for us.
There are two important things to pull from this: 1) people are generally doing the best they can, at all times, and 2) the frustration we feel is FOR US to learn, not against our progress or to hurt us.
1) I finished Rising Strong by Brené Brown last week, and it was by far a great read. There was a story she told about her getting frustrated that I think is really relevant, so I’ll summarize it here. She got invited to speak at a conference, that she did not want to be at, but she felt pressured or felt like she should, so she agreed. Since the moment she agreed, she despised everything about it. In particular, she couldn’t stand her roommate when she arrived at the hotel. Her roommate was rude, loud, uncleanly, among other “annoying” things. She spoke, and left as soon as she could. On her way home she realized she was annoyed with everyone around her. Everything was bothering her. She knew at this point that it was time to look within, so she scheduled an appointment with her therapist. After describing the frustrating story of her crude roommate, her therapist said an awful sentence, “isn’t it possible that your roommate was doing the best she could?” Brené denied this statement, and left with her frustration still in tact. There was no way that was this woman’s best. So she started asking everyone, ‘do you generally think people are doing their best?’ Mostly, to her dismay, the answer she was getting, was yes. She then asked a friend, who she knew shared her general pessimism, and would probably give her the answer she was looking for. Her friend said no, as she’d predicted, but then went on to rant about how ridiculous it is that not all women breast feed, and how they essentially are terrible if they don’t. In that moment, Brené realized the answer to her question was yes, people are doing the best they can. She personally couldn’t breast feed when she was raising her newborn; she tried the best she could, but she could not do it. So yes, people are doing their best.
So what does that mean for our frustration? It means we gotta stop blaming, and start listening. When that frustration boils up and just wants to say, “I can’t do this anymore!”, you know it’s time to slow down, listen to yourself and others, and remember that we are all doing our best.
One other thing to note about Brené’s story, is that the reason she was frustrated in the first place was because she agreed to do something she did not want to do. The conference (according to her story) did seem to be run terribly, her roommate did seem to be terrible, (ha!), but that doesn’t change the fact that she agreed to be there. She was not forced into it. She decided to be there. And THAT is what causes our frustration - OURSELVES! We choose our circumstances, we choose what we step in to, even though it doesn’t feel like it in the moment when someone is being mean, or things aren’t working. The point here is this - usually frustration is telling you to take responsibility for something you have chosen: a relationship, a job, a lifestyle. It asks you to look at the root, and decide, is this something I really want? And if not, you have an easy answer, walk away. But if so, step up, take responsibility for your choice, and know that it comes with challenges.
2) Which brings me to number 2. Everything is FOR YOU. This week, I was getting frustrated with a friend. I felt like she was being really inconsiderate to me, and I was feeling like “I am doing the best I can! What more can I do!?”. But when I looked at it, I realized that I am the one that is pushing her away. I realized that I was not accepting a part of her, a part that I actually love very much, because I felt like I couldn’t be there in that way right now. And, after days of being frustrated with not only her, but all kinds of things and people around me (like Brené on her trip home), I realized that if I didn’t address this frustration in me with her, it would continue to show up. You know that quote, “What you resist, persists”? Well, here it is. When you let one frustration build, it starts to feed into all your circumstances. And it feels like everything is doing that to you. (You know that ‘why me?’ feeling?) But of course, we know, it’s FOR YOU to learn. Those obstacles, those challenges that you keep bumping up against, are placed there for you to look at yourself. They are there for you to make sure you are showing up in the way you want to be, so that you can be even more successful and fulfilled as you continue on your journey (whereas, in the moment in can feel like it’s working against you attaining what you want).
Know that challenges arise because you are ready for the next level. They are gifts! But the more you push them away, and blame other things and people around you, the tougher they get, and the harder they get to see. So when you feel yourself wanting to blame another person for what you’re feeling, or when you feel like nothing is working, or when you feel like you’ve been wronged and you deserve better, it’s time to look within. It’s time to ask yourself, why am I frustrated? This doesn’t change another person’s actions, and it’s very possible that they could be doing something wrong or mean or whatever, but your frustration is yours to deal with. Look at it. Own it. Let it go. It will keep showing up, until you let it go.