For a very long time, I had a problem with men. I blamed them for everything that went wrong for me professionally. My problem started when I was in art school. I think I was 26. I looked around at my professional and educational environments and realized, aghast, that there really was an old boys club, it very often did dictate the way things would go, and I really was powerless to stop it.
But I took this problem to such a level that it made me angry. It made me ugly. I was hateful. I very often made things harder on myself because of my distrust of and grudge against men. And not just the men who were active in The Old Boys Club, I would immediately distrust any man who was middle aged and white. It was ridiculous. In being angry about it, I was giving the situation and the issue and people who I thought were responsible, more power. I had altered my personality with my anger.
I was known as Angry Sara. I even started a blog which railed against FWGs (Fucking White Guys). I told you, I was ugly. It is such an embarrassing thing to me now, that I behaved so spitefully, that I carried around so much anger by choice, and I really didn't have to. It made my life so hard.
It was not until I turned 40 that I realized, with the help of a good friend, that I had to stop. In that moment I realized what I had been doing to my life, to my body, to my spirit. I had been crushing it. I had been taking an external experience and internalizing it so that it created a world outside of myself that confirmed my deepest fears and anxieties. Every time a man even looked at me sideways, I was relegating him to The Old Boys Club. I had taken a few isolated experiences and completely skewed my perspective with them. The chip on my shoulder was so large, it was weighing down my entire life.
How did I get over it? As with everything in life, recognizing and admitting the problem was a huge first step. After that, it was a lot of energy work, a lot of yoga, and a lot of looking at myself to see how I had been doing the same things to myself that I was accusing these men of doing. Was I not asking for what I saw myself as worthy of? Yes. Did I sometimes sabotage my best efforts at work? Yes. Did I on occasion throw myself under the bus? Absolutely. Did I accept bad treatment without protest? Yes. I began to see that the problem was not them, the problem, as hard as it was to admit, was me.
I was for such a long time looking externally for blame that I was excusing accountability in myself. It kept me from growing. It kept me from developing. It kept me from myself. I had to grieve for the years I lost to this pattern of behavior. I had to own up to that it was not in fact, everyone else, it was me. But I did it. I turned it around. It has been incredibly tough. I still work on it all the time, but I am better, and I have proof.
The other day, after a particularly rough several weeks at work, my boss asked me if I had had difficulties at other jobs because I am small and I am a woman. I have to tell you, when he asked me, it felt like I could breathe. I could talk about it with him, whereas before, I had not allowed myself. I thanked him for asking me, told him that yes, that had been my experience in the past, but I did not want to mention it because I didn't want to carry that chip on my shoulder. His response was like the pealing of church bells: "You don't seem to have a chip on your shoulder about this at all."
That is what victory sounds like. When you know you have conquered something that for so long (14 years to be exact), held you back. That the things that are actually going on outside of you don't control you on the inside. Over the last several weeks at work, though they were rough, I lost no sleep. I was upset for maybe a day or two. I did not carry it with me so that it affected other parts of my life. I could deal with this problem at work and not let it infuse its bullshit into the rest of my life, which is really quite wonderful.
I have no chip on my shoulder about this now. I am free from the cage I had built around myself. And you know what else? When this type of thing happens now, it doesn't in any way control me. It is a reminder of the person I used to be. The person who used to allow others' behavior to dictate her worth in the world. The person whose anger surrounding bad treatment turned her into the person she most feared she was.
So, if you have a chip on your shoulder, about anything, consider what it might take to shake it off. It might take weeks or years, but in the end you will be free. You will no longer limit yourself with your emotions or anxieties. Wondering if you have a chip? Ask yourself what stories you tell yourself about others, then ask if that is true of yourself. Your answer just might surprise you.
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