Resentment is the thief of joy

“Resentment is the thief of joy.”

You’ve probably heard that quote using the word “comparison”, not resentment. This morning as I sat fireside by a beautifully lit Christmas tree, I felt a sense of frustration instead of peace. I felt like I was supposed to feel something different in this moment. I’m incredibly grateful for moments of quiet and stillness like this – but the joy did not come this morning like I expected. As I thought about my last year, my life and my inner world, this phrase about resentment and joy kept coming up for me. I could not recall more than a handful of times where I truly felt joyful in the last year. This lack of joy often lead to me feeling resentful, but what I didn’t realize was that not only do I hold the power to my own joy, I also am the one feeding my own resentment.

My life is full of goodness – I have so much to be grateful for and I have been blessed in so many ways. But I have spent most of it bound by my own inner struggles. My own need to be busy, productive and doing. Growing, learning, finishing, improving, moving, giving. The only -ing that seems to be missing is being. That’s where life happens. In the being, not in the doing. So, if I’ve spent most of my time doing and I don’t feel better for it – what have I actually done? How can I appreciate the joy and goodness if I never feel deserving or worthy?

We all have inner struggles. It’s part of life. I wonder how much of it is avoidable? How much of it is just our own perspective? We get stuck on the hard parts and we take on pieces of them as our identity. We believe the bad way more than we believe the good. It’s a choice we make.

Reflecting beyond this last year, I see this kind of behavior over and over. It’s almost as though I took “doing” on as my identity. One that I somehow subconsciously chose but don’t really recall when it happened. I’m sure it’s something I learned along the way as a child or young adult – self-sacrificing fulfilled some kind of need I had to be liked, loved and appreciated. Saying yes made other people happy, and that made me feel good. Giving above and beyond made other people feel loved, and that made me feel appreciated and admired.

But all of this behavior had a cost that I was unaware of.

My own self-sacrificing identity increased ten-fold when I became a mother. I’ve shifted directions a few times. I’ve made an effort to break patterns that were harmful, deal with my own anger and emotions so I don’t use my kids as an outlet and insert time for myself a little more often especially in the last year or so. And therapy. Talk therapy. Friend therapy. Exercise therapy. It takes work! But what I’m missing is the identity. The foundation. My own identity. An identity that I choose, and not for anyone else but myself.

What a concept. That I would choose to be who I want to be instead of who the world wants me to be. Isn’t that how we all start out as children? So incredibly ourselves. Then we are told we are too much. By everyone – our own parents, our friends, our teachers. Too loud. Too quiet. Too picky. Too busy. Too wiggly. Too distracted. Too big. Too small. Too. Much. So we learn to play smaller. We learn to quiet our inner voices and what they need. We learn to choose a new identity that’s more acceptable to everyone else. We learn to live the way everyone else wants us to. Everyone, but ourselves.

Becoming a parent is sort of like an awakening. Children hold up mirrors to you and show you the parts of yourself that need work. If we aren’t careful, we keep trying to flip the mirrors back on them and deny our own growth – blaming them for all of the problems in our relationship. The problem is us. The parent. We are the ones who have lived in this world and assumed identities, beliefs and rules that they know nothing about. Half the time we know nothing about the identities and beliefs we have and why we have them. As adults we forget to take inventory on our inner lives and actually make these choices instead of blindly following patterns. Our children are completely themselves until the world tells them differently and that starts with us. What am I telling my children if I show them my purpose is only to give so much to everyone else that I feel empty, angry and resentful? Is that who I want them to believe they are?

Maybe you’re lucky enough to have held onto your true identity – the one you were born with, the one that you held before the world took it away from you. These people have such a powerful presence and I always know when I’m with someone who owns who they are. It’s magnetic and mesmerizing.

My goals for 2022 look very different this year. I’m not setting out to change something about myself – particularly my body, my money, my space or my career. Those kind of goals don’t serve me if I don’t even know where I’m starting from. You can’t strive for something greater if your foundation is broken. The inner work is the most important work. The stories we tell ourselves are just stories. What if we opened the book and started reading instead of assuming that we know how it goes? What if we took a good look at what isn’t working and got to the bottom of that – instead of constantly cramming on top of it, sweeping it under the rug or putting on a fake smile and pushing through it?

I believe true peace, happiness and joy come from the inner work. Sifting through the good and the bad and dropping any and all identities and parts of our lives that just don’t fit. You aren’t doing anyone any favors by pretending to be something or someone you are not. All the while just putting bricks on top of that pile of resentment that is nobody’s fault but your own. Stop acting like other people are responsible for your joy and go find it for yourself.

On that note – it’s time for me to shift my focus and take inventory of my own life and what foundation I want to build on. I hope you do the same. You are so worthy of it.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to you and your families.
❤ MA

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