The online dictionary defines tolerate as:
1. To allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference. (Synonyms: allow, permit, condone, accept, swallow, countenance.)
2. To accept or endure (someone or something unpleasant or disliked) with forbearance. (Synonyms: endure, put up with, bear, take, stand, support, stomach, deal with.)
Endure, bear, permit, condone. Any of these words feel familiar? This is what tolerating feels like – stomaching something that we don’t want to, yet we do. Tolerations suck up our energy. Whether big or small, they impact us in a negative way and occupy space and time that could be spent on other, more productive positive things. I know this because I’ve tolerated countless things in my life, ranging from cluttered closets, to bad hairdressers, to toxic work environments, to a verbally and emotionally abusive relationship. Yep, I’ve endured, permitted, and swallowed my way through all those things, until I couldn’t do it anymore. How did I stop? Well, first I had to acknowledge the fact that I was actually tolerating something. How do you know if something has become a toleration?
First, it creates chatter in your brain.
Anytime I’d get home from my hairdresser and be unhappy with the outcome, my brain would start churning: What the heck? How come she can’t just do what I ask? Or during my insanely long time in a verbally and emotionally abusive relationship, the chatter in my head was nonstop: This is insane. What is wrong with him? What is wrong with me? Why am I staying in this relationship? (The answer to that question deserves its own blog post!)
Second, you tend to avoid it.
Whenever I’d open the cluttered closet in my office and see stacks of old files and paper and countless other things buried in there, I’d close the door thinking: Ugh, I’ll deal with that later. But later usually didn’t come. Instead, I continued to tolerate it and let it annoy me.
Third, you don’t want to hear about it.
My husband would ask me repeatedly why I continued to allow my hair to be done by a woman who actually turned my highlights RED three days before we were eloping. (Yes my hair was red and is in a picture below, at end of post, as proof). I never had a good response. I just stared at him and thought: I have no idea. I think he’s right. But I was too “busy” to find another hairdresser so instead, I tolerated it and complained, and let it suck up my energy.
Once you realize something is consistently creating negative chatter in your brain and giving you that “ugh” feeling in your gut, you can be pretty sure it’s become a toleration. And, you owe it to yourself to do something about it. Granted, it took me a long time to get out of an abusive relationship, but once I realized I deserved so much better and decided to do something about it, change happened. That’s the first way to stop tolerating both the big and small things:
Decide and commit to yourself that you deserve better.
You deserve to not be brought down by a cluttered closet, a bad hairdresser, or a bad relationship. Once you decide and commit to creating something better for yourself you can move onto the second way to stop tolerating:
Start doing one thing at a time to remove it from your life.
Obviously, some will take longer than others, but once I decided it was time for a new hairdresser, it didn’t take long to find a new one. I even questioned why I tolerated the frustration and mental chatter and complaining about it for so long! It was the same thing with the abusive relationship. Once I decided it was time for that crap to stop, I took one step at a time to end the relationship and create a new life for myself. It wasn’t as simple as finding a new hairdresser and took many months, but with each step I became closer to losing that lump of negative energy that was weighing me down. Yes, I had to dig deep and deal with difficult emotions. And, every bit of it was worth it.
That’s the thing with tolerations: they weigh you down. From a cluttered closet, to dysfunctional relationships and work environments – they create negativity and become somewhat habitual. Before you know it, you’re tolerating many things, when instead, you can free up that space in your life for things that bring you joy.
With each step to remove a toleration you become freer and your space becomes more open and clear. The weight lifts, you have renewed energy to expand in new ways and see new opportunities that were blocked by what you were tolerating. Here’s the other thing: once you clear one, you will feel the need to clear others. You begin to realize that there’s nothing worth tolerating in your life. Nothing. Because you are worthy of only the best and tolerating things usually isn’t what’s best.
So…what are you tolerating? (Hopefully it’s not bad hair, like me in the photo below…) And, what can you do to start to free yourself from it?
This post originally appeared in HuffPost on Tuesday May 2, 2017.