From frustrating work meetings to family members that just won't stop, it can sometimes be hard to take a step back and remind yourself that sometimes, you just have to swallow the things you don't want to.
In this, the second installment of our Tools for the Year Ahead series, we ask leading wellness experts Shahroo Izadi, a behavioural change specialist, and Michael James Wong, a meditation and yoga guru, on their approaches to tolerance.
Shahroo Izado - Behavioural Change Specialist
"Time and time again, I see clients who, when it comes to their own lives, accept that it’s enough to live in survival mode..."
It is important to establish what we tolerate when it comes to how we’re treated by others. Whether it’s in the workplace or in our personal relationships, considering how we want -and deserve - to be treated and spoken to can play a huge role in how satisfied, comfortable and proud we feel in our day-to-day interactions.
A lot of very helpful advice is available when it comes to setting boundaries, communicating them to others and sticking to them, especially when it’s most difficult to. The same can be said for deciding what we will tolerate externally. Many of my clients see marked changes in their wellbeing and levels of self-esteem when they enforce clear boundaries based on their needs and what's in the best interest of their overall wellbeing. That said, it can be an entirely different challenge to look at - and address - what we tolerate when it comes to how we treat and speak to ourselves.
When it comes to neglecting basic needs, from becoming sleep deprived to over-using our phones to the point where it’s making us feel anxious or exhausted, many of us adopt the mindset of: “I wouldn’t want anyone I love to have to do this, but for me it’s okay. I can handle it.” Time and time again, I see clients who, when it comes to their own lives, accept that it’s enough to live in survival mode, whilst feeling very strongly that they wouldn’t want their loved ones to have to do this, even if they were capable of doing so.
This extends to what we’re prepared to tolerate when it comes to the conversations that we have with ourselves, and how long we take to forgive ourselves when we do something that we’re less than proud of. Many people, when they choose to turn up the volume on their internal soundtrack and consciously listen-in on the messages they give themselves, realise that they are tolerating a level of unkindness – sometimes even abuse – that they would never deem acceptable if they were receiving those messages from someone else.
Let’s take the workplace, for example. Consider the last time you made a mistake or felt you’d let yourself down in some way. Perhaps you answered an email in haste and later regretted it, or made a blunder during a presentation. Think about how you spoke to and about yourself, both during the experience and afterwards. Was that conversation fair, balanced and compassionate – or did it feel more like you were beating yourself up? If it’s the latter, consider whether you would tolerate being spoken to like that by a colleague, or indeed anyone. Ask yourself how you would feel if you discovered a loved one had simply got used to being spoken to that way. Would you think that they should tolerate it?
Perhaps you've planned to change a habit and fallen off-track or had a blip. Do you give yourself the compassionate, common sense advice you’d give a loved one, or do you tolerate an internal soundtrack that puts you down and calls you cruel names? Again, if it’s the latter commit to remembering that if you wouldn’t tolerate being spoken to that way, and you wouldn’t tolerate hearing someone you care about be spoken that way, then why should you tolerate it at all?
Shahroo Izadi is a Behavioural Change Specialist, speaker, coach and author of The Kindness Method, which has been translated into five languages. Shahroo’s second book The Last Diet is available now.
Her therapeutic approach is influenced by her experience of working in frontline addiction treatment. During this time, Shahroo developed a knowledge of how to elicit self-led change, even in those who are most resistant to it. Find out more about her work on her website and follow her on Instagram.
You can find Shahroo speaking in The LAB at Balance Festival 2020.
By Michael James Wong, Founder of Just Breathe
"Tolerance divides us, understanding connects us"
Instead of tolerance, I prefer to speak about understanding. Tolerance can feel dismissive or hierarchical, whereas understanding is rooted in compassion. But similarly, both ideas come from a state of disconnection or disagreement, different perspectives on a situation, conversation or outcome, and that’s ok, we’re human, and we don’t have to agree on everything.
For some, the idea of a good night out is loud music, dance floors and a wild time, for others, it’s a quiet evening, less people and more meaningful conversation. Whether you’re the former or the latter, we have the opportunity understand and appreciate our differences, because there is already enough in the world that tries to divide us.
If we live our lives ‘tolerating’ others, we are allowing our differences to stay different. I’ve found that most times where we try to tolerate someone or something else, we’re focusing on a single action or occasion, rather than the person, the connection or the relationship.
So, in the moments of your life where you disagree with someone or something else, don’t just tolerate them as a means to enduring, but consider understanding their perspective or point of view and appreciate that we can always learn from our differences.
Recognised around the world as a leading voice in the global movement for modern mindfulness and a man on a mission to turn the volume down and bring a quieter conversation into the real world. A community activist, author, yoga teacher, and the founder of Just Breathe and Boys of Yoga, you can find more about him on his website and Instagram.
Find Michael on the Main Stage, teaching in the Yoga FLOW and leading sessions in the Mediation Dome studio at Balance Festival 2020