What your frustration might be telling you
…and why you should listen
I’m not referring to the frustration we feel when we can’t open a really tight jar, or are rushing around and stub our toe or can’t believe that the cashier is taking sooo long to check it people out at the grocery store. I’m talking about the kind of frustration directed within, at your deeper self. The kind that causes an internal restlessness, an unease. The kind that makes you question your own motives for doing what you’re doing (or not doing!). This kind of frustration is powerful…
For a long time, my life was focused on keeping my head above water. That’s it.
Survive with the goal of minimizing the longer term destruction of my soul and spirit. Basically my energy went towards not giving up on what life could be.
And as I made my way out of the fog of sadness and loss and looked to a very uncertain future, I started one by one to put the pieces back together. Not with an externally focused checklist, but with myself.
I took long walks. I exercised every day. I read a lot of books, underlining whole pages at a time. I spent time with good friends (the kinds of friends whose love and encouragement and faith in you you feel for days after you see them). I forced myself to spend time alone. I travelled. I wrote pages and pages in my journal.
Slowly I started to open up to possibilities for a new life. I asked myself what I really wanted. I asked my heart what was most important to me. Which was interesting because it was none of the things I would have listed twenty years ago.
And then my life changed. Or actually, I changed it. Because although many things seemed to just fall into place, I know that it was my intentions (I will create a life that is beautiful to me) combined with my sincere actions that made things happen in my life. It definitely was not just luck or positive thinking or hoping.
A few years later, I am remarried with an almost one year old beautiful daughter and a ten year old gorgeous stepson. I have everything that I wanted. I am overwhelmed with gratitude and amazed at the grace of life.
But recently, I started feeling frustrated. At first I thought, “What is wrong with you? You have everything you wanted!” I felt I was betraying my own convictions about being grateful for what I now have.
But the more I listened to my frustration, the more I realized it was trying to tell me something…it was saying to me, “It is ok to want more”.
Wanting more doesn’t mean you are greedy or selfish or ungrateful for what you have. Wanting more means you are ready for more.
For me “wanting more” means wanting to live life even more fully. I want to try new things more often, I want to travel, I want to meet more interesting new people, I want to help and inspire people, and yes, I want to feel like the material things I desire are within my reach. All things worth getting frustrated for.
Instead of pushing away your frustration, try really listening to it. What is it trying to tell you?
Are you frustrated with your job, your relationship, your health, your eating habits, your living situation? Is it the lack of momentum towards a goal you have? Is it a sense of boredom because you haven’t identified your goals?
What if instead of ignoring these thoughts, you brought them out into the open? What if you voiced them to a friend, your partner, or even out loud (or on paper) to yourself? What if you tried to see your frustration as a close friend trying to tell you something?
A wise and dear friend advised me recently, as I vented my frustration to her - “Go sit on a park bench by yourself. Take time to understand where your frustration is coming from and turn it into a fire in your belly.” When we make frustration our friend, we open up an opportunity to be true to ourselves, to honour our deepest desires, and to grow. Transform your frustration into a fire in your belly — a drive that propels you to new, exciting, uncharted personal territories.
At the heart of every frustration lies a basic structure: the collision of a wish with an unyielding reality. — Alain de Botton
A little note: When I write on a certain topic or idea it is often because I have gone through (or am currently going through) what I’m writing about. I don’t believe I have all the answers or that I’m a professional at life. But I do have a record of guiding myself from a state of feeling powerless to one of feeling empowered (As my new favourite writer Ryan Holiday recently wrote in a post, “I don’t have faith in myself, I have evidence”). That’s what I hope to share with my writing — offer you a glimpse into a more positive perspective, maybe some clarity around what is really happening for you and a glimmer into what your next step could be. And most importantly I hope to remind you that you have the ability to shift the power back into your hands and into your soul. Because we have SO much more power than we realize.