Alba was in a tricky position.
She was a single mother with two kids. She’d been made redundant from her last job and her attempts to find another hadn’t been very fruitful. She had accepted the first job offered to her out of desperation but she found it unrewarding. She felt undervalued, unappreciated and unfairly treated. She would quite ‘happily’ complain to anyone who would listen about how bad her lot was.
The thing that stuck me about Alba when she came to see me was how much she was married to the idea of playing the victim. She spoke in length about how unfair life was and how she had almost no control over her situation. All her problems were the fault of other people.
Negativity is a poison.
By ‘negativity’ I mean negative emotions (scorn, worry, resentment, disgust) and negative thought patterns (criticising, complaining, slandering, holding a grudge).
By ‘poison’ I mean something that can adversely affect your physical and mental health, reducing your quality of life and the number of years you live.
I’m sure that you are already aware of this, as was Alba. She knew full well that she was being negative – “It’s not my fault I’m negative. They made me like this.”
Her first and foremost problem however was not her negativity. It was her total lack of responsibility for her circumstances. She expected some sort of fairy godmother to come knocking on the door and fix her problems for her.
Nobody is helpless. Even if you have little control over your physical surroundings you still have the power to control your thoughts. The people who were able to survive the horrific life in the WWII concentration camps spoke afterwards of how hope, love, friendship and a positive vision of their future lives kept them going.
In one sense they were fortunate: in 1944 several thousand heavily armed fairy godmothers did come knocking on the door. But for the rest of us it doesn’t matter how shitty you believe your end of the stick to be, nobody is going to come and clean it for you.
One of the curious things about people like Alba is that they don’t usually start off as victims. Little by little their thoughts and behaviours gradually change day by day over the years without their noticing. Let’s admit it – having a good gripe every now and then can have short-term benefits. It can release tension and create a social bonding especially if the other person is griping, too. Likewise, playing the part of ‘poor little me’ can also have certain benefits when trying to get others to help you. But in exactly the same way that eating too many jammy doughnuts makes you unhealthily obese, griping and feeling sorry for yourself can be overdone so much that it becomes a life-ruining characteristic.
So let’s get this straight: You are the one responsible for your life. That means that it is you who decides how you think and how you behave. It is you who decides what you do with the time you have from now until your final breath. Whether you’re in a job, a home or a relationship that doesn’t suit you, or whether your social life is pathetic, your hopes for being the next Steve Jobs have been scuppered or your financial situation is in ruin, the only person who is going to sort you out and put things right is you.
You are the one who needs to identify what it is you want and how you plan to get it. No-one can do that for you. And if Plan A doesn’t work then it is you that needs to come up with Plan B, and so on.
Are you allowed to get people to help? Yes.
Are you allowed to get others to motivate you? Of course.
Are you allowed to use others as sounding-boards, sources of ideas and inspiration? Most definitely!
But none of them are responsible for your life or your happiness. That is entirely down to you.
So if you’re happy with your lot – congratulations and well done! But if there’s anything that is causing you to be unhappy maybe it’s time for you to reclaim your responsibility and do something about it yourself because your fairy godmother is not coming.