More than 10 years ago, I was in a job where I felt powerless. What seemed like a dream scenario played out more like a nightmare.
I had been sought after by a very high-ranking woman who wanted me to work with - and by that, I mean for - her. She painted a picture that turned out to be nothing like what actually happened.
(Familiar with The Devil Wears Prada? I was like Andy, without the designer wardrobe and bangs.)
My dire situation was pretty much the only thing I talked to my best friend/roommate about, until one night when she cut me off mid-sentence and told me to stop talking. She was done and would no longer listen to my complaints.
WHAT?!?!?! Is this a joke?? I don’t think so.
I acknowledged that listening was probably no fun and thanked her for being there for me, but kept talking. She interrupted me again. She was serious. The topic was off limits.
Then she told me that if I wasn’t part of the solution, I was part of the problem. I thought, “What does that even mean???”
I couldn’t understand what she was trying to say, because all I could think about was my fix. I was like an addict whose supply was suddenly and unexpectedly cut off.
My (internal) tantrum began. How DARE she?! She can’t do this to me! We’re friends, and that’s what friends do! They talk. They listen. I NEED her! Oh, I was fuming...
But, like a strong parent who knows that a little pain in the short term will serve their child best in the long term, she held her ground with me.
Did I continue to try to talk about work? You bet your bum I did!
"No, wait, I just have to tell you this one thing! I swear, it’s not negative. I’ve been sooo good lately. I just want to tell you this one thing. Please??”
With each attempt, I was shut down.
I may not have gotten what I wanted at that moment, but I got what I needed.
Not being able to dump my negativity onto my friend got me thinking about why she was doing this to me. (Sorry, I mean for me. <wink>)
At the heart of my anger and frustration was me feeling lost and confused.
I wasn’t sure what to do, but eventually came to the realization that if I kept emotionally draining myself (and my dear friend) by going to that negative place, I’d never have the energy to get myself somewhere positive again.
Wait! So that’s what she meant about being a part of the solution? Ah ha!
Now, I’m not saying you can never vent, or that as a friend, you don’t have to listen. That’s not where I’m trying to go with this at all!
What I was doing - talking over and over about the reality of my situation and how it made me feel - is typical for a lot of people. But, like a lot of things, just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean it’s healthy.
The truth is, when you complain, you remain. You stay stuck and stalled and cannot move forward. Heck, you might even move backwards, getting further from where you really want to be.
Instead of spiraling down into a negative pit of hopelessness, I learned how to get a grip, take control, and pull myself out of despair.
I assessed my situation without all the emotion and put myself back in the power position. (Really, my boss was controlling me?? I don’t think so…)
Goodbye victim, hello victor!
Like anything worth being good at, this behavior takes practice. You don’t just learn it and bam, suddenly you’re an expert. We’re all works in progress. Even after 10 + years, I still struggle at times, though I’m much better at it, and much better off.
You can get there too when you find yourself in a similar place. Trust me.
Here’s to grabbing the reins of your life and “bee”ing all the better for it.
Amy, The Queen Bee NYC
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