This was first published on KSL.COM
I am seriously overwhelmed and burned out, and I admit I complain about it more than I should. My spouse says she is tired of my childish drama about my problems and my discouragement. But is it drama if I really feel down and discouraged, and my life really is hard? She says I have a victim story that I’m stuck in, but this isn’t a story, my life really has been hard. That is truth, so I don’t think it’s a story. I’m not stuck either, I’m just going through a really rough time and I want people to cut me some slack. How can I handle my feelings about my life in a more mature way, though that won’t incite criticism or be seen as drama?
I have no doubt your journey has been a rough one, and in some ways your trials justify a pity party and some complaining. The problem is you can't live there. Too much complaining about your troubles tends to make people lose respect for you and not like your company. They might feel sorry for you and give you sympathy love, but it won’t be the kind of love you are really after. Pity isn’t love.
It sounds to me like you haven’t had an opportunity to learn how to process emotions and consciously choose your mindset in a healthy way. Most people haven’t learned these skills, because they didn’t have parents who knew them and they don’t teach this stuff in school or church. The bottom line is, you can’t do better until you know better. So you just need some new skills.
You are also fighting your subconscious programming, which you adopted accidentally when you were just a small child. Many of your subconscious beliefs are fear-based and inaccurate, and they drive very immature behavior. Neuroscientists tell us 95 percent of our choices we make subconsciously. This means you are on autopilot most of the time and just reacting to life, not consciously choosing your behavior, which is why it might not be good.
Let me show you the difference between mature adult responses to life and emotions, and the childish reactions that are probably in your subconscious programming. You can test yourself on these and see how mature you show up:
1) Do you take things personally that really aren’t about you?
When a family member is unhappy, children assumes it’s their fault. When someone doesn’t like the food they made, they assume it’s personal and they aren’t good enough themselves. If someone disagrees with their opinion, they assume they aren’t valued.
If a family member is unhappy, mature adults care, but they also know it’s not their responsibility to fix it, because it’s out of their control. If someone doesn’t like the food they made, they realize it’s about the food, not about them. Adults don’t attach their value to their opinions, so they don’t take it personally if you disagree with them.
2) Do you feel jealous or threatened by other people’s successes?
A child sees a win for others as a loss for them. If mom says she is proud of a sibling, they assume she isn’t proud of them. A child is always watching to make sure things are fair and they aren’t getting less than anyone else.
Mature adults aren't jealous of others, because they see the universe as abundant, and a win for someone else doesn’t mean a loss for them. Adults aren't keeping score or expecting the universe to be fair. They understand they will always get their perfect classroom, and others will get theirs. They know life isn’t fair, but it is a wise teacher who knows what it’s doing.
3) Are you personally responsible for your emotions?
Children blame their emotions on events or other people. They think they can’t help feeling overwhelmed, angry or jealous. They think other people can make them sad. They also let emotions take over and become bigger and bigger. They can’t see that focusing on them and expressing them can make them worse. They haven't learned how to own responsiblity for any emotion. They don't get that every feeling is something you are choosing to feel.
Mature adults know they are responsible for how they choose to feel in every situation. They may get triggered and feel overwhelmed, angry or jealous, but they quickly realize being overwhelmed, angry or jealous is a choice. They can see when expressing emotion would just make it bigger and more painful. They don’t stuff emotions or suppress them either. They process through them, seeing the situation accurately and consciously choose how they want to feel and deal with this moment. Mature adults know that no one can make them feel anything. They can see that choosing suffering or misery doesn’t do any good.
4) Are you trusting the journey and being responsible for your part in a problem?
Children have temper tantrums when they don’t get what they want. They cry and yell and blame. They want things to be fair. They want to be in control of a situation and they feel “hard done by” when they don’t get the experience they wanted. They also like to blame others when things go wrong. (Well, he started it and I only hit back.) They don’t take responsibility for their part.
Mature adults don't resist “what is” but instead understand this exact situation is the right one to serve them and educate them in some way. They understand yelling and cursing (though it might feel good for a minute) doesn’t change anything and only makes them look immature. They let go of trying to control things they can’t control. They trust God and the universe know what they are doing. They know a victim mentality and feeling “hard done by” does no good and isn’t accurate. They embrace "what is" and look for the lessons in everything. They take personal responsibility for their part in every problem. They know they co-create their journey with the universe. They also understand if they are responsible, then they have power to change it. This might mean choosing to leave an abusive relationship, stepping up and changing their habits, or getting some professional help.
5) When you get offended, can you see being offended is a choice?
Children think being upset, hurt or offended by another is out of their control. They think having hurt feelings is a real wound. A child also thinks forgiving is hard and takes a long time.
Mature adults understand that offenses are just lessons and opportunities to stretch, love bigger and trust God (or the universe) at a deeper level. They know an offense doesn’t actually wound them, change their value or mean anything. It’s just a lesson and an opportunity to grow. They know forgiving is easy, as soon as you trust the classroom and see the experience as here to serve you.
6) Do you look for solutions to problems or just complain about them?
Children just like to complain to get sympathy. If they actually fixed the problem they wouldn’t have this great victim story and the pity love that comes with it. They would have to give that up and be strong and fine, which would mean less attention.
A mature adult knows that being respected is the foundation of real love. It’s hard to respect someone who has chosen weakness as a way to get validation. An adult would rather be strong and whole and focus on serving other people than be seen as weak and sad.
Now let's get real:
The reality is that we all behave like a child at times (myself included) because we are all functioning from our subconscious programming that was set in place when we were a child (most before we were 7 years old).
We all have to work to grow up every day. We must be committed to stepping back and looking at emotions, reactions and behavior honestly. Was that behavior childish? Was that who I really want to be? How could I trust the journey more and let go of anger, disappointment, self-pity, grudges and offenses? How could I take responsiblty for that behavior?
Make a commitment to upskill yourself this year and find a coach, counselor, class or seminar to help you break through the subconscious programming that is driving your bad behavior. There are lots of resources out there to help you, but the first (most important) step is owning that you need some better skills and tools. Drop the ego and the fear around asking for help. Asking for help is not weakness. Not asking for help because you are afraid of looking bad is weakness.
We are hosting a two-day Be Fearless seminar in January to help you break through the fears and problems that have held you back. We also offer private life coaching that might really help. Visit our website.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is the author of the book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a life coach, speaker and people skills expert.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.