Modern Madness, Written Medicine by Ulrike K.

How Bitching Bit Me In The Butt / About Response-ability

Many years ago I had a freelance job as a data editor. The team was great and I was fine with the work I was tasked with. However, the money wasn’t great and it took up to 2 months after invoicing for me to get paid, stressing me out financially. Plus, certain organizational aspects of the work started bugging me more and more. I bitched and moaned about it to my coworkers; my constant refrain: “This sucks, that’s lousy, that’ll never work; they still haven’t paid me, meh, meh, meh…”

Guess what: After a few months the top boss called me in for a meeting and let me go then and there; no second chances. It hurt being thrown out like that, but the most painful thing was the kicking I gave myself realizing how blind I’d been regarding my own behaviour. I was on Oprah Winfrey’s website a lot at the time and in one of the video clips she said:

“You are responsible for the energy that you create for yourself, you’re responsible for the energy that you bring to others.”

It hit me like a ton of bricks: instead of constantly complaining about what I was dissatisfied with to my colleagues,

  • I could have paid better attention to what I was thinking and feeling, gaining awareness of my needs and consider appropriate action.
  • I could have asked for a meeting with my boss and made suggestions about organizational adjustments – a reasonable and constructive move.
  • I could have addressed the payment issue – and thus stood up for my financial needs.
  • I could have practiced gratitude for the job I had for the time being while working proactively in finding a place of employment that suited me better – thus taking responsibility for my personal happiness and wellbeing, which includes the work and financial conditions I accept.
  • I should have been more aware of and strategic about whom I shared my feelings and opinions with regarding that job on a day to day (especially when in a new position). It’s normal to have the need to offload our opinions and feelings sometimes – but to whom, how often and in what way is important to consider before doing so.

Instead, I mindlessly dumped my dissatisfaction onto my colleagues, infusing the team with a toxic vibe. Our egos thrive on negativity, drama, judgement and pain and I was lapping it up and dishing it out. Regardless of how valid my complaints may have been, the way I handled it ended up painting me in a negative light and turning them against me.

Also, I (unconsciously) chose to curb my own power by not taking action other than bitching, blaming and putting myself in victim mode.

There are a lot of things we have zero control over: the family we’re born into, having to pay taxes, the weather, sudden crisis or accidents. But we do have control over how we react to any given situation or emotional state. We constantly make choices – consciously or unconsciously – about how we show up or react. Externally, in a job scenario as described above, but also internally:

  • When we mess up or fail in some sort of way, do we put ourselves down and beat ourselves up? Or do we practice self-compassion, choose to learn the necessary lessons and lovingly support ourselves through the process?
  • If we’re not in the physical shape we’d like to be in, do we criticize our bodies, moan about it and eat another bar of chocolate? Or – despite dissatisfaction with certain features – can we appreciate our bodies overall for everything they do for us day after day, year after year? “I’ll never have supermodel legs, but these legs of mine are strong and they’ve carried me wherever I’ve wanted to go!”
  • Generally, is our glass half full or half empty? Do we focus more on what’s still broken, missing, not happening – or, despite the challenging stuff that happens to us, can we still be grateful for everything that is good right now, even the small stuff? Birds chirping in the morning; the sun breaking through the clouds on a grey, rainy day; laying in a warm bed on a cold winter’s night; having an uplifting conversation with a friend, being invited for a coffee, etc. In my experience, paying attention to and practicing gratitude for all the good stuff, big and small, increases my feeling of abundance and joy exponentially.
  • Do we have a generous attitude towards others, or do we judge quickly and automatically make negative assumptions, instead of asking questions before coming to a conclusion? Are we mindful of the energy and behavior we allow other people to bring into our sphere and towards us? Have we established personal red lines and are we able to enforce those boundaries? (‘I deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. I am 100% willing to hear about what you’re feeling, but I cannot and will not allow you to scream at me.’)
  • Do we say ‘Yes’ when we feel or think ‘No’, because we’re afraid of what our counterpart may think? Do we have the guts to be honest about what we’re feeling and what we need, even though the other person may not like what we say?
  • When emotionally triggered, do we immediately blurt out exactly how we’re feeling or can we practice being the objective observer, who witnesses the feelings and thoughts coming up within us – and then respond authentically, yet consciously? Do we acknowledge our current or past wounds and inherited family-drama, but actively work toward healing, forgiveness, inner peace, personal transformation – or do we hold on to our pain and choose to stay there?

The American educator and author Stephen R. Covey wrote:

“Look at the word responsibility—response-ability—the ability to choose your response. Highly proactive people recognize that responsibility. They do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. Their behavior is a product of their own conscious choice, based on values, rather than a product of their conditions, based on feeling.”

Depending on the circumstances, that’s so much easier said than done. In my experience it takes practice, because it can feel so damn good to judge and blame and be angry and upset. Bitching about someone or something with someone else can even be a powerful connector. But it is at toxic one.

The job drama I described taught me one hell of an important lesson: Yes, it’s on me. But how I decide to react is not just my responsibility, it is also my right. I get to choose. Making conscious choices in how we react to challenging, messy, painful situations also means we get to take back a good measure of control and yield personal power.

It’s an ultimate act of self-empowerment.


Ulrike Krahnert:
Modern Madness, Written Medicine is my blog where I write about life: the crazy great, the crazy awful that happens in our world; personal growth and transformation.

Born in Hamburg, Germany, I grew up in South Korea and Hong Kong, lived in London in the early  to mid 90s; I identify as a world citizen. In the past 25 years, I’ve worked as a freelance journalist, night life editor and DJ, and in corporate and internal communication.

Deeply inspired by self-development books and healing work since my early 20s, I was first introduced to earth-based spirituality and circle work with women in the early 2000s. In 2015-2016 I did the Medicine Woman Training with MiraMichelle. I live and work in Hamburg, Germany.