Photo Credit: Pablo Padilla, Unsplash.com

Written by Zette Harbour
June 28, 2019

What’s Wrong With My Attitude?

I had a bad attitude.

I was working on a very demanding project and every time I worked on it I felt bogged down and drained. I was pretty miserable and was sure that “it” was the problem.

How had this happened to me anyway? I felt stuck and unable to get out from under it. My resentment was growing by the day and the project couldn’t end soon enough–and then I read this quote:

“I have complete control over the meaning I attach to any situation and how I respond to it.”

-Cynthia Kersey, Unstoppable Women

It definitely piqued my curiosity. It seemed to me that if I really had control, I wouldn’t be in this mess. I didn’t really see how I could change my attitude toward this situation because the unhappiness I was feeling was very real.

Wouldn’t I just be fooling myself by “putting on a happy face” for myself and those around me? As for meaning, I felt pretty clear that this project didn’t hold any for me. I was doing it out of a sense of obligation to about 700 other people counting on its completion.

It seemed to me that the quickest way to change my attitude would be to quit the project–which, unfortunately, didn’t really seem to be an option. 

Stuck Between a Rock & a Hard Place

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

-Viktor Frankl

I first read Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, about 25 years ago. It struck a deep chord in me. He pointed to some truths that I’d been hungering for during the first 30 years of my life but never understood.

One of these was that most often in life, we don’t have control over what happens to or around us. There are often greater forces at work–especially when we’re children and teens. We find ourselves at the mercy of the imperfect choices of those we rely upon for our safety, our comfort, and our care.

What then do we do?

When we’re young, we compensate as best as we can. We adapt, conform, and hide our true selves. It’s like putting on a cushy, thick snowsuit to protect ourselves from the unfriendly or hostile elements. It keeps the cold at bay, however, it’s also a barrier to other experiences.

Usually, we’ve done such a good job at covering up, we can even forget that the protective layer’s there. As time goes by, that snowsuit gets more snug and uncomfortable but it’s familiar and we know it works to protect us. We feel like we can’t risk the exposure.

This snowsuit is the source of many of our attitudes about ourselves, our world, and our place in it. These perceptions and the beliefs that emerge from them form our attitudes which directly affect our choices. If we want to change our attitude, we’ve got to first see our snowsuit–be willing to peel it off–and risk exposure to uncomfortable conditions and feelings. 

Three Reasons Your Attitude’s Stopping You

Attitudes have an important purpose in life. They do three things for us:

  • help us make sense of the world
  • protect us from perceived danger
  • explain our choices of thoughts and actions

And it’s because of their direct link to our perspective and actions that they have the power to help or hinder us. There are three main reasons they may be working against us.

Attitudes can stop us because they:

  1. Are often invisible, limiting, and seem to be reinforced by our current conditions
  2. Can and do prevent us from making positive, often uncomfortable, changes in our lives 
  3. Block us from seeing the bigger picture 

“To remove discord, we must remove the cause, and this cause can be found only in the world within.”

-Charles F. Haanel, The Master Key System

Each of these reasons are key to feeling like we do or don’t have the freedom to choose the meaning we assign to experiences and how we respond. The only thing stopping us from improving our attitude and moving forward is found inside. Perceptions about ourselves, the world, and who we are in it, all reside within.

The Freedom to Question

“Try seeing your world and yourself this way, eyes open to whatever is before you, mind free of dichotomies. Are you good or bad, fragile or tough, wise or foolish? Yes. And so am I.”

-Martha Beck

We have a choice to keep or change our attitudes–they’re only ideas after all. They don’t take up space in the physical world. They can be changed in seconds by new experiences, new awareness, new information, and new questions.

It’s a good idea to start with your well-worn judgments, especially the ones you have about yourself. Take time to practice developing an attitude that sees you and your world as full of possibility. Make a choice to unlock any attitudes about yourself that make you feel small, scared, or angry. Start with just one.

See if you can come up with a question. Any time you experience negative thoughts or feelings about yourself, ask your question. You may hear an answer from within, or you may not.

Either way, you’ve taken a significant step toward becoming empowered by your attitude and you’ll be on your way to revealing your true self and will be able to celebrate all the brilliance and beauty you were meant to live and share.

About Zette

Zette Harbour is a certified professional coach, a traditional, award-winning storyteller, a writer, and a speaker. Learn more at ZetteHarbour.com and MorphosisCoaching.com

Photo Credit: Pablo Padilla, Unsplash.com