|What Are You Tolerating?|
The word ‘toleration’ is so similar to the word ‘tolerance’, and yet they are worlds apart. Tolerance is a very good thing, a moral high ground I believe. It refers to accepting someone who is different from ourselves. I do not believe we will ever eradicate prejudice completely from society; however, the trend of celebrating diversity IS a huge leap towards making the world a better place. We are beginning to recognize that, as human beings, we are one.
Now let’s unpack the word ‘tolerate’ in a different way. By definition, to tolerate something means to endure or to go along with something you are in opposition with.
Tolerations, when applied to the way we accept ourselves, can be damaging. It is often a way to undermine ourselves. seeing ourselves as being less than our best selves. In this way, it can become the thief of joy.
Let me ask you a question to bring light to this sneaky thief. What are you tolerating in your life? In other words, what are you putting up with even though it gives you angst? What thing, behavior, or belief do you continue to endure even though when you see it, or act in a certain way, or think about it, you feel small, anxious or angry?
Let me give you a most ridiculous example of the way this was brought to my attention.
For probably 10 years, I have had a piece of art hanging in my kitchen that, although I love the canvas, it was not hung on the wall to my liking. For years, every time I gazed at this painting, instead of appreciating its simple beauty, I was only focused on the fact that it was not correctly centered on the wall. A one-inch adjustment was all it needed but, instead of taking the time to move the nail from which it hung, I tolerated its unbalanced placement. Every time I looked at the painting, instead of appreciating what I loved about it, I felt mild frustration or even overwhelm and ineptness. What a waste of energy.
A few days ago, I was hanging a new kitchen clock on a different wall. I thought, “Hmmm, why not move the chair across the room and reposition the canvas that has been aggravating me for so long?”. It took all of 45 seconds to lower the nail and center the painting to my liking. That’s all it took – 45 seconds — to completely shift my emotions from a negative to a positive experience. Now every time I look at the canvas, I get an immediate smile on my face.
Tolerations are linked to some belief we are holding onto, old stories we tell ourselves. Like when we fret over the disarray of papers piled up in our workspace, we tell ourselves, “I am a disorganized person” or “I am naturally messy”. Or, even worse, “I am an impostor. I don’t have what it takes to be as successful as ____” (we almost always have someone in our mind we compare ourselves to who we think is better). Whatever it is we tell ourselves about that thing we are tolerating, it creates a negative feeling which is an energy suck.
It is so often the little things and behaviors that. when we shift in a different direction, lead us to a completely new mindset.
Perhaps my most damaging example is around my eating habits. Eating mindlessly is a toleration. I tell myself an old story and ignore what I have learned about the far superior practice of mindful eating. A shift in my habit around eating has the potential to change everything about how I honor and love myself. Something that simple can shift a belief from feeling unworthy (old story I tell myself) to a feeling of empowered and worthy.
Our minds are very good at tricking us. We come across something that we don’t like or do not want but that little monkey voice that feeds our negative self-talk tells us it’s easier to just accept it. Over time, we create the habit of ignoring the wisdom and we question our gut, where the truth always lives. We get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.
This is where tolerance becomes an energy vampire. We bury our feelings to hide from the dread. We may have just disconnected from anything that feels bad, but along with that, we also bury our joy.
If this feels familiar to you, there are a few steps towards making a shift to stop tolerating what squashes our joy.
I recommend, to begin, a scanning exercise to raise our awareness of what we are tolerating.
Start with the easiest. Often our house is a good place to practice uncovering what we are tolerating. Pay attention to how you feel in every room. Once you acknowledge a toleration, it’s only a matter of problem-solving to discover what needs to shift. Some situations are simple (like moving a nail on the wall) and some are much more complicated and take more time.
I promise you that the mere process of claiming that the challenge exists instead of continuing to swallow the negative feelings will bring you more energy and more access to what brings you joy.
Tolerations can take many forms. It could be connected to a person who sucks energy from you because of their negativity. A shift here might be establishing new boundaries around limiting how much time you spend with that person.
There have been times in the past when I spent the entire day with a knot in my stomach. With new wisdom, I have learned to practice what I call “meditation minutes”. When I become aware of feeling out of sync with myself, I make the time to close my eyes, go within to explore what feels off balance.
One last tip. Once you bring closure to that project, create a healthy boundary with a challenging relationship, or make a behavioral change within yourself that has burdened you through the tolerating of it, it is time to celebrate yourself for this small though significant shift. Take the opportunity to make positive affirming I AM statements — I AM organized, I AM a great time manager, I AM great at setting healthy boundaries, I AM a master at mindfulness. Say these each time you notice your accomplishments.
In other words, look for ways to claim your joy every chance you get!