“Can I kiss you?” he asked.
Balls. I didn’t really want to kiss him. It had been a lack lustre first date. Zero spark if you know what I mean. However I didn’t quite know how to say no without hurting his feelings. Sod it. Would it really do any harm? I think I maybe nodded my head at him in a rather unenthusiastic, deaf mute fashion at this point.
He, on the other hand, was rather enthusiastic. As he leaned in, I closed my eyes (screwed them up dead tight) and endured his smooch – which for the record most definitely did not tingle all the way to my toes. And it went on nearly as long as I could hold my breath, because again, I didn’t know how to end it without hurting his feelings. So I wriggled a bit and made my break for freedom. I thanked him for the drink, told him it was “absolutely delightful” to meet him and scuttled into the tube station as fast as my little legs would carry me.
Instantly I was relieved to be alone. That was a close call. And damn it, I was really rather annoyed. This perfectly inoffensive man had morphed into an overbearing octopus-like bore in my head. How dare he treat me like that? Seriously! Couldn’t he see that I wasn’t interested? Was he thick? Why did he have to kiss me?! And it was not absolutely delightful to meet him either! Odious little so and so. Grrrr!
Sat on the tube heading for home I reflected on what had just happened. The fact of the matter was that I’d allowed him to kiss me when I didn’t want him to. But when I thought about it a bit more, he’d actually done nothing wrong. He’d been a perfect gent, and would no doubt have been horrified if he’d known his advances were unwanted. His good intentions and obvious respect for me forced me to question what was really going on in my noggin.
I resented him.
Major light bulb moment.
The dude was just following my hazy lead, and would no doubt have backed off in the blink of an eye had I simply spoken up and said no. The only person who deserved the brunt of my anger was in actual fact me.
Resentment isn’t anger with someone else at all; resentment is anger with oneself, misdirected at someone else through the lens of playing the victim.
Everything changed in that moment.
When you like keeping everyone happy – as I do – then you will go to great lengths to keep the peace, to not upset people or hurt their feelings in any way. And – even worse – sometimes you don’t tell them when they overstep boundaries. That night it seemed easier to go with the flow, and then after the fact get all resentful and blaming when my unspoken wishes weren’t adhered to.
It’s a rather trite example I know, but actually the maths applies to lots of other scenarios. Work. Home. Friendships. Relationships. Families. All sorts…
Resentment is seductive. I think that naively most of us assume that on some level feeling resentful towards something or someone is going to help us feel better. It doesn’t.
I’ve grown to realise that being resentful doesn’t make me happy. Setting and communicating clear boundaries does. Standing up for myself and my beliefs does. Being clear about what is and isn’t acceptable to me does. Taking responsibility for myself and my actions does – when I am in the right, and especially when I am in the wrong.
So these days I do the stuff that makes me happy. A handy by product is less unwanted advances too.