Part eight in a series.
For Patience Week, James Mellon asked Boot Campers to score our patience level on a scale of 1 to 10. I gave myself a 9 and wrote with pride, "I feel I am an extraordinarily patient man."
Mo'Nique was on Oprah's post-Oscar special after winning her Academy Award. Oprah asked her, "You expected your name to be called, did you not?" Mo'Nique wasn't having any of that and said, "I really think if I took on that attitude of [I know I'm the winner], the universe would say, 'Really? Watch this trick!'"
Almost immediately after my declaration of extraordinary patience, the universe had a few tricks in store for me.
I received a text message from someone I'd recently met. Things moved a little too fast between us, despite my expression that I didn't want them to. Afterwards, I didn't know what I was more upset about; the fact that I wasn't heard or that I'd broken a promise to myself.
I talked with the person and thought I resolved my issue. Now, he was asking me to spend time with him again. I was non-committal, which made it clear I was still not past what happened. With his next text response, I sensed his impatience with my inability to "let it go" or "get out of my head."
I wanted to be able to get past what happened, but there was a wall. Despite my consciousness of the wall, I didn't feel I could push through it. That frustrated me, so I determined the real impatience was mine, towards myself.
Now all I wanted to do was avoid the situation. Avoiding is the norm when I feel stuck or that no matter what I do, people will be upset with me and friendship will be lost. Since I expect inevitable blame, I find it more comfortable to be blamed for silence. The longer I avoid, the more I assume I will wear out someone else's patience with me and situations will just fade away.
At work the next morning, a woman needed certain documents, and her impatience in trying to get them began to affect me. The fact that I wasn't moving fast enough for her felt like an implication I wasn't doing my job. That was enough to send my impatience even higher, and it took everything in my power to stop myself from telling her off.
During the next Boot Camp session, James said, "Whatever you put your attention on energizes a situation." Obviously, a specific focus on patience was intended to get me to see I am not the extraordinarily patient man I claim to be.
Armed with a clearer awareness of how avoidance and the anxiety of others can test my patience, I felt fortunate to have a therapy session on Saturday. As I talked, several stories from the past and the present came flooding in.
I initially shared the specifics of these stories here until I realized I was reiterating the same thing four or five different ways. The common threads were the same; I was misjudged, ignored and disappointed. What I wanted didn't matter to others. People were not paying attention to me or what I said. I wasn't heard.
In each instance, being unsure of how to cope or handle the situations led me to avoid my feelings and bury them. Of course, stifling everything turned me into a walking pressure-cooker. The more people or situations would push me, the more the pressure would build until "Anxiety Monster" appeared, generally with explosive rage.
My therapist said all the situations I shared sounded very "what about me?"
I had an immediate reaction. Until recently, I had always been very sensitive to being labeled selfish. Being disliked for unexplainable reasons as a child led me to decide to be the nicest person in the history of nice people. It was never going to be "about me."
I spent a lifetime putting aside my needs for those of others. I thought this was what I had to do in order to have friends and be liked. I kept giving to people who wouldn't return the favor when I was in need, but I didn't seem to care. I thought I was being unconditional and understanding that not everyone can give the way I do. I believed that this quality of acceptance made me "extraordinarily patient."
Late in my therapy session, a sentence slipped out without much thought. "I've gotten so used to being hurt and disappointed that I assume I'm not going to get what I want."
A millisecond after I said that, I felt how huge it was.
I have been mistaking patience for an acceptance, way ahead of time, that people will inevitably disappoint me. That is why it never mattered what people did. I'd already prepared to be let down.
Since I have been unconsciously living from a place of always expecting disappointment, disappointment is exactly what has been showing up in my life. I have been drawing people to me that solidify this deep seated belief.
This was a monumental "a-ha!" James is always referring to the "b.s." belief system, and Patience Week uncovered a major component of mine.
I am surprised these issues didn't surface during Belief week, but therein is the excellence of how James Mellon has structured "Mental Muscle" Boot Camp. Each week's theme blends with everything that has come before. Patience can be tied to no complaining, expectations, beliefs and being present.
Now that I am conscious of my heart expecting people to disappoint me, I believe I will smash through this belief and change it. It may have taken many years of soul searching to have a realization this powerful, but authentic patience yields many good things.
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