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Peanut butter on a spoon

The other day I found this spoon on the kitchen counter.

Such a small, seemingly insignificant thing… just some peanut butter on a spoon.

No big deal, right?

Yet for me the sight of this peanut butter on a spoon may as well come with a trigger warning.

To me, this spoon is more than just evidence of a good source of protein on-the-go. This spoon is a physical manifestation of all my shit.

I see this spoon and I my brain goes:

What the actual fuck? Do these people think I’m the maid? Do they not realize that I have better things to do then to clean up the peanut butter off their spoon that they didn’t even bother to put in the sink?! Do they have any *&^%$ing respect for me at all??? Am I nothing to them other than a person who cleans peanut butter?

So I take a picture of the spoon and I text it to the guilty party: “THIS IS NOT OKAY”

Then my brain goes:

Great. Now I’m that person. A nag, uptight, a nitpicker. Why can’t I be more chill? Why can’t I be more tolerant? What is wrong with me? I should NOT be so triggered about this spoon!!!

A few weeks ago, someone stood up for me among a group. Someone had something mildly invalidating to me and my friend stepped in and set them straight in a protective way.

This has never happened to me before. I remember feeling odd and slightly uncomfortable. Unworthy, even.

I have witnessed this same behavior among friends, one standing up for the other. Nothing huge. Just a friend speaking up for another friend or protecting them from being embarrassed. Friends just wanting other friends to be okay.

And it had always made jealous. I would cringe with resentment.

It used to trigger me because…

Nobody ever protected me when I was young and vulnerable.

Nobody kept me safe from abuse, from violence, from neglect, from abandonment, from lies.

In fact, I was told to “stop feeling sorry for myself” because feeling sorry for oneself was the most despicably weak thing a person could ever do.

Instead, I learned to adapt quickly. I grew a tough exterior that said, I can take care of myself and do not fuck with me.

Naturally people came to assume I was tough and I didn’t need protection. And, as a result, nobody ever stood up for me.

I can see why. I had built up a pretty convincing “tough guy” facade.

It was such a convincing facade that I believed it myself. 

Over the years I convinced myself that my value was about being tough which meant never feeling sorry for myself.

Then, I layered self help over the top of that and concluded that in all circumstances…

I should be zen. Nothing should ruffle my feathers. I should never feel sorry for myself. And if I did, something was wrong with me.

Getting angry over peanut butter on a spoon?

Not allowed.

I have never given myself permission to advocate for myself from a place of self compassion. Because that would mean weakness. That would be some kind of personal defect.

The result?

For years I have struggled with anger. I have been angry, then guilty about being angry, then angry at myself for being angry, then ashamed about being angry at myself for being angry…

And this new awareness that bubbled up thanks to the intersection of a series of fortuitous events and came to a head with the fated placement of some peanut butter on a spoon, has set me on a new timeline.

In this new timeline, I am a woman who is allowed to get angry over things left on the counter that are not my responsibility to clean. She can lovingly advocate for herself with a sense of humor. She can show compassion to herself and understanding to others. And because of that she can give herself permission to be a little more human.

And now, finally, she has someone to stand up for her.  Who will always be there to protect her and to make sure she’s okay.


Bottom line?

Never let anyone tell you it’s not okay to feel sorry for yourself. You are worthy of compassion. You are worth of love. And you are 1000 percent allowed to show it to yourself.

Now go have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

And clean up your mess!

Coaching Tool: I notice myself having the thought that…

Do you ever find yourself ruminating over stressful thoughts? I thought so. Here’s an easy trick. It comes from a school of psychology called Action and Commitment Therapy.

For more on ACT: Check out The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris.
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