– My daughter peed in my bed yesterday.
– I have no time to myself.
– My body is so uncomfortable, and I feel like a cow!
Yesterday I woke up a total Sourpuss. Six am. Awake with my five-week-old son, soon to be joined by my two-year-old daughter. All I could think about was how utterly exhausted I felt. Like many parents to young children, I was not sure I could get through the day without falling apart.
Soon after drinking a much-needed cup of coffee, I paused. Clearly, my thoughts were justifying my grumpiness. Yet, my thinking wasn’t particularly flawed. It is true that I haven’t slept more than a few hours at a time since my son was born. That my potty-trained daughter peed while sitting next to me in my bed. That I have almost no alone time, and that my body is struggling after an unexpected C-section and breastfeeding fiascos. My thoughts were basically true. So, what is the problem?
Then it dawned on me: When unpleasant events occur in life, we are more prone to feeling grumpy and prolonging our own misery. Because when something happens that is downright undesirable (like the spit-up running down the side of my arm every few hours), we feel justified in our grumpiness. We actually have reasonable explanations that support our feelings. We can easily articulate why we are grumpy, entitled to be grumpy, and entitled to stay grumpy for as long as we please! And, in that way, we begin to use honest descriptions about our lives to justify negative emotions, behavior, and experiences.
Yet, therein lies a problem for our life fulfillment. The world is full of hardships and challenges. Sometimes we have good reasons to be upset or even downright miserable. But where does that leave you? Now what? Okay, you are entitled to be a sourpuss because you are in a tough situation. So now you are miserable. How is that working for you? How does it affect your behavior? Health? Relationships?
When I realized what I was doing—namely focusing on the proverbial puke and not on the privilege of having two children—I had to take responsibility for my sourpuss state. I had to stop justifying my bad mood by describing current life challenges. I had to shift from thinking about why I deserved to be grumpy to appreciating the fact that I am utterly grateful to be a mother to two children. Once I did that, my mood changed. I cannot say that I had the best day of my life or that I became the picture of enthusiasm (the black bags under my eyes gave me away). But, I had a much better day than I would have if I hadn’t changed my perspective.
The Naked Truth is this: There are times in life that are challenging. And days when we wake up a sourpuss. I am not suggesting we should be elated 100% of the time. In fact, that would also be a lie. For to be honest requires that you admit realities that are unpleasant and cause discomfort. Sometimes pain is an honest reaction to the truth! But, often, we use challenging real-life circumstances to justify unpleasant emotional states. That will leave you unhappy and unfulfilled. Yet, we can choose to change our perspective to focus on the positive. At the end of the day, it is a choice —and your choice will affect your life fulfillment and happiness.
Copyright Cortney S. Warren, Ph.D.