A while back, I set a goal for myself to become a more self-aware adult. In other words, I want to live authentically in all things that I do. But when I set that goal I had no idea that self-improvement was hard AF. And let’s just say that in my quest to become a better human, I’ve found some habits are harder to shake than others.
I hold on to the hurtful things people do for a long time. There is no statute of limitations for me. I’ll spend days, weeks, and even years reflecting on the pain of someone wronging me.
To give you an idea, I still get sensitive just thinking about the bullying I experienced in elementary and middle school. The hurtful comments of relatives have lived on long past their earthly departures. Holding on to grudges has way too much of an impact on my life.
The interesting part is, this way of life isn’t a product of my pessimistic views on humanity. I don’t see people as “good” or “bad.” But I believe most people act in their best interests, and there will be times when those interests conflict with my needs. That awareness has thrown me into a loop of anxiety over the years. I know people will do what’s best for them so I wait on it and keep a running tally of past transgressions while waiting for the next time someone will hurt me.
Through the years, these memories have created sleepless nights and sprinkles of social aversion. But I’m realizing that maybe this isn’t the healthiest way for me to live. I want something better for my life.
Don’t get me wrong, there is no problem with keeping a thorough record of past interactions. I think keeping track of past behaviors can give you insight into the types of people you let into your life and the relationship patterns you hold.
But in my case, holding grudges means holding on to pain and generalizing the human race. These feelings persist even when I tell myself not to take it personally. And that’s a problem.
I’m not interested in carrying that baggage anymore. It’s become clear that if anything is slowing my progress to the top of the pyramid, grudge-holding and the accompanying anxiety is it. I just don’t have the emotional or mental bandwidth to carry those things around with me anymore.
Making these changes hasn’t been easy. I have to rethink the way I see people and unlearn most of the ideas I have about interpersonal relationships. It means I have to assume less and take my interactions for what they are. I’m learning to understand that there are people who hurt me intentionally, but cutting them out doesn’t have to impact my quality of life. I’m also learning that good people make mistakes that hurt you and sometimes those mistakes are not reflective of their overall feelings towards you.
And the biggest thing that I’ve learned is life is better when not giving a f*ck.
I think grudge-holding develops as a coping mechanism based on some of your early life experiences. But you decide whether or not you want to continue letting that past experience control you and dictate the way you respond to similar situations. Keeping in mind that even if you decide you want to turn your life around it’s going to take daily effort to change your way of thinking.
At the same time, there is some usefulness to holding grudges. It’s a part of my identity for a reason. As I work to improve who I am as a person, it’s become clear that the grudges I hold teach me things about the people I interact with and teach me things about myself. It has made it really easy to learn my triggers and areas of sensitivity. I wouldn’t say I need to completely ditch grudge holding. I just need to make it work better for me — instead of letting it control so much of my life.
There are still days when I can feel myself shooting death glares at people who have hurt me. I don’t know if I can ever completely shed that quality. But the time I spend stewing over the past is getting shorter and shorter. The discomfort I feel when meeting mutual friends has started to lessen in severity. And the panic attacks I have going back to the pain that led to the grudges are becoming less common.
I’m a grudge holder, and that’s okay. Because holding onto the memories of the way someone behaved doesn’t mean I have to hold on to the pain.