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Accepting the Unacceptable

Friday, 19 August 2011

Why do we accept unacceptable behaviors in our life? 

Why do we allow them again and again? 

This has been on my mind a lot lately.  I have come out of a cycle of this in my own life and have no more patience for it.  The sad thing is that I can’t shake the people around me and make them wake up from these cycles they are going through on their own.  Just as no one could snap me out of the cycles I went through…though bless them they sure tried!  I suppose that’s all we can do when we see repetitive unacceptable things in life.  Try to gently bring that to people’s attention…or not gently, depending on the person and situation.  We end up staying in these loops for so many reasons and in so many situations.

  • The job where you take on more and more work for no more pay. 
  • The significant other who we give everything to and they take and take without giving back on even a similar scale. 
  • The friend who is eternally going through one break up after another and needs to lean on us…or sleep on our couch.
  • Accepting rotten customer service from our health insurance company because they are just too big to fight.
  • The significant other or friend who uses us as their emotional punching bag and we allow it because “they just need to let off some steam”.
  • Accepting a back handed compliment from someone because it would be “rude” to call them on it.

There are those examples and so many more available throughout life.  But we still haven’t looked at the “why” of accepting the unacceptable.  First we have to define what is unacceptable and this is where the road diverges.  What is unacceptable to some may seem perfectly normal to others.  Though deep, deep down we in fact know the difference and what in actuality is unacceptable.  So, if we really do know most of the time, why do we do it?

  • On some level we think we deserve this treatment.
  • Denial: “it’s just this once” or “just this one more time”.
  • We think we can change the situation if “we were only more (fill in the blank).”
  • We prefer the unacceptable or abuse to being ignored.
  • We don’t want to be alone.
  • We think because someone is treating us this way that they must still care about us.
  • If only I do ___________ then it will change. 
  • It is the status quo and we don’t want to be the one to rock the boat.
  • We can’t afford to lose our job if we speak up.
  • If I get through this one last deadline it will change.

All of these are just excuses that we come up with to placate our rational mind.  Our brain starts poking us saying “Hey, what’s up?  Why are you putting up with this?”  And we scurry to come up with some excuse or multiple excuses to snow our minds unto submission…see any of the few listed above. So many of these reasons are backed by pure and simple F-E-A-R and there are numerous ways and places this old boogeyman can crop up!  No one likes to think that they will buckle and end up being in the position of accepting the unacceptable but at some point or other, we all have done it.  Can you honestly say that you have never, ever done it? Not once?

So, we know some of the what, why and how.  Now let’s talk solution; you know I love getting into the solution. And if you don’t know it yet, you soon will!

How do we stop accepting the unacceptable?  How do we put down that ten ton weight and walk away?  How do we start a new day and stand up for ourselves?  How do we turn to that person we are terrified of and say our piece?  How do we turn to that friend or significant other and speak our heart and needs while feeling the most intense fear that they will turn away from us?

First we have to face the fact that most of the reasons we allow the unacceptable is out of fear and it is running the train and we are locked out of the conductor’s booth.  Eleanor Roosevelt said “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along’…You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” 

That may seem like a tall order and honestly in the beginning it is a very tall order but not insurmountable.  And this is where the second and third parts come in; faith and belief.  Even just the tiniest bit of faith that taking a step into the unknown and facing those fears will not ruin us brings us a little closer to that belief.  I am not necessarily talking about a religious faith here but if that is how it works for you then grab that bull by the horns and swing up onto the back of it!  It takes just the tiniest bit of faith to spurn us on toward taking the next step. 

What’s the next step?  This is where it can get hairy and tough.  I hear you asking “Mags, are you nuts?  This is already terrifying!  I can’t face those fears and make changes, it’s just too scary!”  Really?  If you are at a point of wondering why you are accepting the unacceptable then you have already taken that first step of saying “Hey, there’s something not working right here!”  and knowing you need to do something about it.  So, the next step is to start to look deeper into the “why” you are doing, or not doing, what you are.  Look at why you are afraid.  What is at the root of those fears?  The deep seated roots?  How far back does that fear go?  This is the part where ya really have to start digging and separating the roots and getting down to the bottom of it.  Do some writing about those fears, really dive in and hold them up to the light, examine them from every angle.

Ok, you dug up that whole muddy mess so now what do you do with it?  Just like broken toys you got rid of as you grew up, it’s time to offload these old fears and useless behaviors.  Yes, I know it’s scary and I know the unknown is staring you right in the face and it is one scary, tough SOB.  Guess what?  You are tougher! 

Something we often forget as we barrel along the road of living is that it is about the ride, not the arrival.  Think about that for a minute…this is about how we get wherever we are going, what we see and learn along the way, not the arrival point.  If it is only about the end of the journey, what’s the point in taking the scenic route and hoping we live very long lives?  Stop for a moment and try to think of life and everything that happens in it as one giant classroom.  Think about using experiences for learning.  Everything, everyone and every time is an opportunity to add to our knowledge base.  The more we add to our catalog of experience, the more we have to draw from every time we face something new…or old. 

So, how do we offload the mess that we uprooted?  How do we move forward from it?  How do we start doing things we have never done before? 

Here’s the easy and the rough of it: one step at a time. 

A good place to start is to turn to someone you trust and talk this stuff out.  If you don’t have someone you can talk to about this, there are plenty of places to find someone: therapists, clergy (of most any faith), therapy groups, twelve step recovery groups (if some of what you are dealing with falls under this arena) and so many other places.  Talking about what terrifies us takes power away from it.  I know this sounds trite but I can guarantee that it’s true.  Some of my biggest fears in life that I look back on now seem so small and insignificant to me and I wonder at how I let them hold me back so long.  They began to look not so towering and terrifying the moment I shared them with someone else who looked at me and said “I totally get that, I have been there!”  In that moment I was no longer dealing with this alone and I knew I wasn’t’ the only one who was scared.  That gave me strength to look a bit deeper into some of the dark crevasses that I had never thought I would disturb.

There comes a point where we either get tired of fear running the show or we sign the contract for the long haul.  I decided that I wasn’t a contract signing kinda gal when it came to my old pal fear.  I wanted to run the show and leave that pushy fear to fend for itself.  Now imagine facing fears when I am overwhelmed with constant mach 10 anxiety.  How in the world did I do that?  Simply, I wanted to be free more than I wanted to cower any longer. 

Was it easy?  Hell no!

Was it worth it? Absofrickinglutely!

All it takes is that first step into wanting to make the change.  Then having just the tiny ounce of faith that maybe you can.  And here’s the wonderful thing about facing your fears: the more you do it, the more you come to believe that you can and it becomes easier each time as you build up experience doing the thing you thought you could not.  That is exactly what Eleanor Roosevelt was talking about.  When I came across that quote by her many years ago it gave me a glimmer of hope.  I thought “If this woman who went through so much and came out the other side knows what it’s like to face fear and overcome it, then maybe I can do the same thing!”  That quote from her has never left my mind and I have shared it with many people over the years and will continue to do so because it encapsulates the core of my own belief system about facing my fears.

Are you ready to stop accepting the unacceptable?

One Comment leave one →
  1. Friday, 19 August 2011 2:22 am

    Very true words. I used to accept the unacceptable until I turned 39-40yrs and then I told myself Im too old for this and gave them a shove..Now I say what needs to be said and I do what I feel is right. I’m not a “Yes Mam” or “No Mam” lady. I tell it like it is. I say “No” when I feel like it and “Yes” if I feel like it too!! Great blog

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