Bitter or Better

It’s Monday again and that means it’s time for another mental health-ish post. Usually I pull a topic that’s come to mind and somehow seems relatable. I hope this one will be too! That being said, I bring you Bitter or Better.

Bitter or Better

Did you ever read Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster? It remains one of my favorite books and she one of my favorite authors. Incidentally I had the privilege of meeting both Jen and her husband Fletch some years back when they did a book signing in Orlando. Definitely a pinch me moment! But I digress…

I’m writing this post on the premise that you’ll agree with me that bitterness usually results from hurt feelings. It rears its ugly head as anger and isn’t a good look nor state of being. People who are bitter are no fun to be around, feel stressed, and have a low quality of life overall – despite how things might appear to the outside world.

Anger is a Secondary Emotion

One of the very best lessons I ever came up with when I worked in a brick and mortar public school as a school counselor was one on anger. I had the entire 5th grade (one class at a time) create anger masks. The task was quite simple. I explained that anger is a secondary emotion; meaning it results from another initial feeling. Anger is a reaction to something else. Maybe we are hurt, maybe we are sad, it comes out as anger. It’s easier to be angry sometimes. The problem is it does nothing to solve the problem and only makes it worse.

The lesson was powerful! The kids loved it! They drew their faces and then labeled them with different emotions they often expressed with anger. Hurt, afraid, shy, lonely, embarrassed were all identified. This came in handy later on when disagreements or melt downs cropped up – we could simply talk about what was really happening and identify healthier ways to express and deal with the emotion.

Healthy Expression

Obviously keeping our feelings bottled up isn’t healthy. You know all about how exercise and journaling can help. You probably know that reaching out to a friend or talking to someone else – even a therapist or counselor can be beneficial. But sometimes those hurt feelings are hard to let go of – they remain and rear their ugly heads when we least expect it.

Healthy expression of feelings is circular and ongoing. It happens over and over again. As much as we’d like to say we’ve dealt with it and we’ve moved on, the truth for many of us is that we have not. But we choose to handle things and make choices when the feeling crop up. This is when the bitterness sets in. You’ve felt this same thing over and over again and each time you find some way to be hurt or offended. Before you know it, you are bitter. But you can be better!

Take the 1st Step

Knowing what triggers you is key. Once you have that step down then it’s a matter of examining what happened and why. Promise yourself you won’t react immediately – you cannot take back spoken words or for that matter written words. They hurt. Acknowledge the pain. Address the pain at the source. Take responsibility. Actively choose feeling better rather than staying stuck being bitter.

Say It or Stuff It

When I was a young girl and had friendship trouble I couldn’t wait to be a grown up and not have to deal with this kind of thing. Little did I know! It can be so much worse as an adult. It seemed to happen over and over again with some of the same people and I came to the realization that I needed it to stop. The toll it took mentally and physically was no fun. My best friend and I decided a – a long time ago – that we either needed to say it or stuff it. Saying it applied to times when we knew we couldn’t let it go and it would potentially end the friendship. Stuffing it applied to those times that seemed more forgivable. We could excuse or write off what happened. Maybe we were being a little too sensitive?

I stick by this mantra. Good friends talk it out. They don’t ignore you nor give you the silent treatment. They don’t behave in passive aggressive ways, they don’t try to get your attention and play with your emotions. People who are interested in being better and not bitter use “I” statements, they realize there are two sides and they are quick to step back and not judge. Let me say this, opinions are things we all have, judgement on the other hand is almost final, we label, we declare, we close the book – she’s not my friend, she’s horrible, she’s self-centered!

I Know What She’s Going to Say

You have heard this before and you might have even said it yourself. Guess what? You might even be right! But this conversation is not about what the other person says, it’s about what YOU say. You are the one who needs to get it out so it doesn’t fester and leave you bitter. Recognize “I know what she’s going to say” for what it is, an excuse. It’s an excuse we use so we don’t have to address or confront an uncomfortable issue.

It’s Not Easy

Being honest with your feelings can be scary. But do it. For yourself as much as for others. You might lose a friend or two along the way but quality over quantity is always a good thing. I’d like to say I have mastered this skill but honestly, there are a few instances in which I still struggle. I am sensitive and get my feelings hurt easily so I have to work constantly on this. But, at the end of the day, I am committed to being better and not bitter. I hope you will be too! No matter where you are in this journey I hope you know that you are not alone friend!

Thanks so much for stopping by today, I appreciate you being here. Please consider signing up to receive my posts by email and following me on Instagram and Pinterest.

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