The Secret to Staying Stuck

The Secret to Staying Stuck

A therapist once told me that I had a high tolerance for pain. I took it as a compliment. I don’t think he meant it to be. I internalized it as being tough, resilient, and disciplined. What I now see is that my well-honed ability to suck it up kept me stuck.

Let’s be honest, we all have to suck it up more than we would like. It’s the nature of living in an imperfect world with other imperfect people. From the daily slights, unresponsive co-workers to annoying meetings, we are all sucking it up on a daily basis.

But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the big things that smother the best parts of ourselves. I see it in my clients when they talk about “sticking it out for another 2 years” or who resign themselves to “keeping their head down” in a toxic system. I think a younger, more impulsive me would have wanted to shake them while quoting Mary Oliver’s The Summer Day.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” 

The me of today is willing to be humbled by complexity.

My last post was about endings. I was processing the end of a years-long relationship with one of my biggest clients. On paper, the engagement looked great, but I was becoming increasingly unhappy since a recent regime change. What had been a net positive in my life was becoming a net negative.

I justified it with the financial stability it provided; a belief I could somehow change it; and by focusing on the impact I was having with my clients. I limped around that way for months, knowing that I was doing damage to myself. If it were not for the work with my coach, I might not have seen as clearly how I unconsciously repressed, minimized and reframed the toll it was taking.

Sometimes the universe gives you the gift of clarity. In my case, the client made a request that was in stark opposition to my core value of integrity. In spite of the clarity, there was still anger, sadness and exhaustion. Endings are hard (refer to Is it Time to Move on? ), even when we choose them. It can feel easier to suck it up and stay on auto-pilot than to face the reality of the situation and the uncertainty that might bring.

How about you?  What are you putting up with? 

  1. What values are you actively ignoring? What is that doing to you?

  2. What is your body telling you? Do you have pain that won’t go away – the knot in your back? The headaches? The mystery illness? One cold after another?

  3. What excuses are you making?  (e.g.  It could be worse. It will get better. I don’t know what the alternative is.)

  4. Is this situation making you better or is it damaging you?

  5. Imagine it’s a year from now and nothing has changed. What impact has that had on your future self?

Admitting that something isn’t working doesn’t automatically translate into walking away. It is simply a sign to wake-up to yourself.  Only then can you begin to have real conversations with yourself and those around you.  On the other side of this decision, I can still feel the lingering effects of the breakup, but I also feel a deep sense of relief.  I feel lighter. My sleep is better.  And there is more room now.  For what?  I’m not sure yet… something creative, different work or maybe it’s as simple as being more present with the people I love.

Here’s to honoring what was while making space for what can be.


Starla Sireno is recognized as one of the top executive coaches in NYC. Starla is in the business of transforming executives into better leaders and better humans. Inquire how to work with Starla or her team.

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