Peace on the outside, war on the inside


There’s a lot to be said for keeping the peace. No doubt it makes life run a lot smoother, and it undeniably reduces conflict. For sure, it’s sometimes better to suck it up and go with the flow than cause a scene and throw our toys from the pram. We all know we can’t get our own way all the time.

The thing is, whilst being able to compromise is a valuable life skill leading to increased harmony and longevity in relationships, if we are doing it ALL the time then it can tip over from being a helpful attribute to one that means we live simmering quietly in a sea of resentment.

It’s said that it’s better to lose the battle, but win the war. Which is true. However, here is another truism. When you deliberately keep losing the battle continually in order to keep the peace, you can end up starting a war inside yourself. There is a price to pay for continually backing down. It’s a feeling of being taken for granted, or under appreciated. And that is fertile ground for resentment to breed.

Feeling resentful is a wonderful cue to check in with ourselves to see where in life we have been habitually saying “yes, of course I don’t mind!”, when really we mean “no, I honestly really don’t want to do that”.

Conscious compromise is of enormous value. Habitual overriding of your true needs and desires however is not.

Resentment is an emotional toxin. It floods our veins and it circulates our system silently. It generally only makes us feel bad as we say yes when our soul means no. It doesn’t make anyone else feel bad, they think we are truly happy to come along for the ride – after all that’s what we have said! However, resentment will eventually build up to a chronic level over time, and that’s when passive aggressive sniping and nagging start to set in. Not an attractive way to try and get the balance of power restored and get what you want. You need to get ahead of it.

Sometimes you have to show up for yourself.

Sometimes you need to stand up for yourself.

Sometimes you need to shake up the status quo.

Where compromise is a valuable life skill, so is getting better at vocalising exactly what it is that you need or would prefer. You will be amazed at how often you get it when you can do this effectively.

Living in conflict all the time – not a great way to live. Endlessly combative relationships are exhausting.

But no conflict at all? Usually it’s a sign that things are going unsaid. Ultimately, that’s not the most peaceful way to live either.

Sometimes you need to decide that keeping the peace on the outside is not worth creating a war inside yourself. That speaking up is actually the smart option.

When I see clients starting to speak up, after many years of staying schtum in order to avoid potential conflict, it’s extraordinary (and pleasing) how little conflict speaking their mind actually creates in reality. Generally, the people around them hugely welcome the direction and clarity. They enjoy meeting their needs because they finally actually know what they are, rather than playing an elaborate “you choose, no you choose, I don’t mind” guessing game. Clarity is welcomed and conflict is far rarer than was feared. To a (wo)man they all say “That was so much easier than I thought. I wish I had spoken up years ago!”

Speak your truth clearly, compassionately, firmly. Ask for what you need. Say what your preference would be. Back yourself. Your needs are as valid as anyone else’s. If you participate in a few smaller earlier battles, there is no need for the war at all, internal or external.

Louise Thompson, wellbeing coach

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