I just don’t enjoy it. Never have. Never will. This isn’t the time or the place to go into why, but there it is. The park SUCKS. So when the kids were little, where did I spend the vast majority of their childhood? You guessed it, the park. Not even the wicked humour and juicy chitchat of my Mum mates could quell my loathing. Like a dutiful parent I would bung my little ones into the pram and get them outside for some ‘fresh air’ because, you know, that’s what parents do isn’t it? I would run around after them with a smile (often forced) on my face, up and down the slide (for the millionth time), “Mummy can you push me on the swings?” (again!!) Day in, day out and on and on and on.
I was so pre-occupied with what other people would think if I didn’t regularly take my kids to the park, I built up quite an unhealthy resentment towards it. The resentment still lingers to this day. The site of a swing at 30 paces can have me running for the hills.
So many of us spend so much time doing things that we don’t want to do. We call this self-sacrifice. We do it because we feel we should, because we feel obliged to, or we’re worried about what will happen if we don’t. We do things we don’t want to do because we’re afraid of hurting someone’s feelings or breaking a connection, or because we’ve taken on a certain role and doing the ‘thing’ is just part and parcel of it.
We do the things we don’t want to do because we feel like we can’t say no.
This behaviour is all too common in the workplace. How many times have you said yes to extra work from a delegation happy manager or work colleague? Even though you’re up to your eyeballs already. We’ve all been there.
We tie ourselves in knots with the negative emotion that comes with not doing what we believe to be the ‘right’ thing. The fear of disappointing or upsetting someone or worse, being judged is extremely powerful. It stops us from setting boundaries. From saying, “I’m sorry, I can’t fit that in right now,” or “That doesn’t work for me at this moment in time,” or even “If you want me to do that right now, you need to help me prioritise.”
Instead we do it. And then we resent it.
Sometimes we do things we don’t want to do because we crave validation from others. We want to be liked. Valued. Needed. However, we would never in a million years say so. Can you imagine telling your manager that the only reason you’ll finish his proposal is because you want him to like you and just once, invite you out after work with the ‘special team’ for drinks?
More often than not, when we don’t get the validation we crave, because we haven’t been clear about why we’re doing the things we don’t want to do (because we want to be liked, valued or needed), we feel resentful. So then we play the martyr. “The thanks I get, I just don’t know why I bother!”
Resentment is a very ugly and exhausting place to be. It can layer and layer and build over time, until it becomes all consuming.
Maybe it’s time we stopped bothering.
Now I don’t mean this in an existential, giving up on life kind of way. I mean, stop playing the martyr! If you don’t know why you bother, then don’t bother! Stop doing the things you don’t want to do.
Start saying no.
Saying no is extremely uncomfortable. I get it. It can make the strongest amongst us weak at the knees. But give me a moment of discomfort to a lifetime of resentment any day.
The discomfort of saying no is quite intense in the moment, but resentment lingers. Ok, there may be a little discomfort afterwards at first. We may feel hideous and have a mini crisis about what people must think of us and if we’re actually good people after all and now I might get the sack/lose all my friends/be seen as an unfit parent……etc etc for saying the dreaded two-letter word. At first.
But over time, slowly but surely, it gets easier. The more often we say no and put our needs first (in a none selfish way of course. You still can’t get away with eating all the cheesecake at dinner and not saving a piece for anyone else), the more boundaries we set, the more we experience the discomfort of saying no, the less discomfort it brings.
So choose discomfort over resentment. Get out of your comfort zone and say no. Practice saying no to the little things, until you can build up to the big things. You may find that each time you do, the discomfort won’t linger for so long.
In the end, it won’t be a case of discomfort verses resentment. When we become comfortable saying no, there is no discomfort. And because we can say no to the things we don’t want to do, there is ultimately, no resentment.