Stop Compromising, Start Living!

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This is the second in a series of articles by Sheila O’Brien. Sheila owns Life Has No Remote, a stress counseling service that is part of our Business Partner Network.


You bite your tongue, keep silent, and ‘go along’. You keep still, not wanting to rock the boat. You withdraw to avoid confrontation. You gossip. You say you don’t want to, but you do anyway. You say ‘yes’ when you mean ‘no’. You comply when you don’t feel right about it. You lie; break your word, set yourself up to fail. You rationalize, make excuses, and justify your behavior. All of these are examples of compromises you make against yourself. You feel like your internal compass is broken, because nothing is clear any more, and you feel lost and helpless as a result. Let’s be honest: you’ve lost your integrity.

Each compromise we make against our own internal sense of what’s right for us as individuals creates a little flaw in our integrity, and a little bit of stress (or a lot of stress, depending up on the compromise). It destroys our self-concept a little bit. All of these compromises have a negative effect on our sense of what we stand for, our sense of worth, our sense of self-respect and self-confidence. It doesn’t matter if you are making 1 tiny compromise in each of 10 areas of your life…that’s 10 compromises against your self-esteem. That’s 10 demonstrations you’ve made to yourself that you are somehow not enough or not worthy to live a life that expresses YOUR uniqueness and YOUR gifts into the world. The stress caused by these compromises accumulates. Eventually, we either right the wrongs we’ve committed against ourselves (eliminating the stress), or we experience a breakdown of some kind. The breakdown is due to lack of energy caused by accumulated stress.

We hear all kinds of ideas about how to manage our stress. Well, I prefer to eliminate stress instead of just manage it! My mental and emotional stress is due to my own internal interpretation of what’s safe and good for me versus what’s dangerous and toxic to me. I’d prefer to identify the toxins and do my best to eliminate them…wouldn’t you? Why keep paying for the antidote when I can stop taking the poison? Why keep taking aspirin once I know the source of the headache is a hammer? The thing is, we have to identify the origin of the pain. We need to identify the root cause of our stress in any given area of our life…we need to dig below the symptoms and pull the stressor out by the roots!

Relaxation techniques and practices are good for short-term results. Long term results require that you STOP COMPROMISING and stand up for your right to be unique and true to yourself. Your poor health and your unhappiness are SYMPTOMS of stress. You might have a physical condition like cancer, an auto-immune disease, digestive problems, chronic fatigue or any other chronic, degenerative disease. These are all SYMPTOMS of mental and emotional stress. The root cause is to be found in the compromises you’ve been making against your own authentic nature as a unique child of the universe.

I want to take a moment to make a distinction between a compromise and a decision. We hear all the time that we have to make compromises in relationships. Not true, if you want healthy relationships. In this context, a compromise is something you agree to even though it doesn’t feel right to you. It is you playing small, and not standing up for yourself. It is you allowing the other person’s opinions and priorities to dictate the rules of the relationship and of your life. It is you lacking the courage to be YOU.

On the other hand, a decision is the conscious choice YOU make to accept some term or condition in exchange for something you want. So, for instance, let’s say that you want to be a career-parent. You would like to be able to raise your children, but you also want to have your career and you know you will be able to provide more opportunities to your children if you are happily employed and if you have more financial resources to invest in your family’s future. In this instance, you might decide EITHER way. You could choose to raise the kids and forego the additional income and career opportunities, knowing your accomplishments will be focused on the hands-on aspects of child-rearing. Or you may decide to have the career and provide the financial opportunities for the family. Either way, you are considering your options and making the decision about what works best for you and your family. No one else is telling you what you will do, and no one else is coercing you to decide one way or the other. You make the best decision you can based on what you know at the moment about how to achieve what you want. You are unflinchingly honest with yourself and your family about the choice you make, and you stand behind your choices. You also have the flexibility to choose differently at any time you feel as though your choice brings any internal compromises to your awareness.

Consider some areas of your life:

Relationships: Family relationships, spouse, life partner, friendships, relationships with co-workers or colleagues or boss. Are all of these relationships just the way you wish they were? Or do you wish people would respect you more, listen to you more, appreciate you more, give you more space, acknowledge you more? What would you change in your relationships?

Job/career: What you actually DO to earn money? Is it fulfilling to you? Is it simply a source of income? Is it a true calling? How do you feel about GOING to the job as you’re thinking about having to get out of bed, get ready, re-arrange your social schedule, etc.? What do you wish was different?

Health: Your health is YOURS. No one else suffers the pain, the limitations, the frustrations of your ill-health. Do you take great care of your body’s health? Do you eat foods that nourish it? Do you move your body and exercise? Do you get enough GOOD QUALITY sleep? Are you dehydrated? Do you worry or obsess with negative thoughts? Do you get yourself all worked up about something and dwell on it? Do you keep yourself in situations that are scary to you? Are you safe?…physically, mentally and emotionally? Do you regularly engage in habits and activities that restore your sense of peace, and your feeling of appreciation for yourself and your life? What is causing to take mediocre care of your health?

How do we find the root cause of our stress? We look for the compromises we make against ourselves. Start by identifying the one or two biggest areas of mental and emotional stress, and look honestly and deeply at what is at the core of the stress. Consider this very common example:

You’re in a marriage that is very challenging. Your connection with your spouse has deteriorated to the point that you tolerate each other at best. You want to avoid fighting, so you avoid each other. You feel unable to speak up and say what you want, because you’re afraid of being derided for what you want or humiliated in some way. When your spouse tells you how it’s going to be, you go along with his/her decision, because it’s easier than the argument (or abuse) that would come with speaking up. You find yourself feeling unappreciated, perhaps bullied, certainly controlled. Maybe you don’t have any financial control over the budget, or you feel like your spouse is watching your friendships or social life with jealously, and you have to be careful to keep a neutral tone in order to keep the peace. Maybe you’re afraid to upset your spouse in any way for fear he/she would leave you, and you would be alone and perhaps vulnerable to financial or social hardship. Maybe you feel so isolated that you have no support system outside the marriage.

Wake up. This marriage is toxic to your health. You are tiptoeing around, walking on eggshells (emotional stress), and putting yourself on hold. You are imagining all sorts of possible negative outcomes of standing up for yourself (mental stress), or you’re actually experiencing them (emotional stress). You are compromising yourself into a corner. Your energy is being drained. These compromises have already taken a toll on your self-esteem and self-confidence, and the stress will eventually affect your physical health if it hasn’t already. Toxic relationships (of all kinds) are the number one root cause of chronic, debilitating illness. Each time you succumb to the fear and pressure caused by the relationship, you die a little more…it’s the accumulation of all the little (and big) compromises against your values, your principles and your self-concept that finally does you in. It sucks your life away. It weakens you. It literally drains away your life force, leaving you with LESS ENERGY.

“The primary cause of illness is lack of energy. The primary cause of lack of energy is stress, mainly mental and emotional stress.” – Dr. Leonard Coldwell

The GOOD NEWS however, is that you can begin to RECLAIM your energy, your life force, your self-respect and self-confidence ANY TIME you DECIDE to. You can re-build your energy reserves and resources, and you can re-build your potential for happiness.

You do this by STOPPING the compromises. You pay close attention to every aspect of your life: every relationship, every agreement, every circumstance in your life; your health, your career, your relationships (all of them), your spirituality, your finances, your time, your goals, etc. Become very attuned to ANY feelings of compromise, and stop playing small; begin to rock the boat. Become unflinchingly honest, and let the proverbial chips fall where they will. Once the chips have landed, you’ll be able to determine what your options are for moving forward. That’s a good position to be in: dealing with what IS, instead of worrying (creating more mental stress) about POSSIBLE negative scenarios. The act of standing up for yourself can be done in anger, or it can be done in a firm, but loving way. You can decide to communicate lovingly but firmly and confidently about what you want. Your relationship may or may not survive, but YOU WILL! And, in speaking up and acting in ways that are true to yourself, you stop the drains on your energy. Each positive feeling builds up your reserves again, giving you more strength and more self-confidence. YAY!…FREEDOM!! All because you told the truth!

TOOL FOR FREEDOM and EMPOWERMENT: Become unflinchingly honest with yourself and others.

Find some time and space to take an unflinchingly honest look at your life. List ALL the things that you wish were different. Now look at those things again, and see where you have tacitly agreed to something because you didn’t speak up and say what you believed was right. Be honest with yourself about where and how you have allowed other people to make the rules. See where you feel like others are taking advantage of you or are abusing you. Admit to yourself that you have played a part in the dynamics and circumstances of your life, because you’ve either allowed yourself to be manipulated, you’ve been too afraid to take a stand, or you’ve been too afraid to be held accountable for a negative result, so you’ve blamed someone or something else. Just make the list. That’s the place to begin. It might be painful to realize that you HAVE participated in creating this mess.

BUT….TAKE HEART! It stands to reason that if you are able to do something that is harmful to yourself, that makes your life a little bit worse, then you are ALSO CAPABLE of taking some action that will make your life a little bit better, and that will demonstrate a little bit more self-respect. Begin to acknowledge your truth. Avoid the temptation to convince others that you are right…that’s a path to frustration and possible compromise. Just speak up and say what’s true for you. Allow others their right to have their own beliefs and interpretations, but stick to your own version of the truth for your life. Refuse to be silenced by fear. See what happens. Start with the small problems and work your way up. Each time you tell the truth (first to yourself and then to another person) about what you want, about what you feel is right, you will repair your integrity a little bit. You will reclaim your sense of self-respect and self-confidence. Clean your internal house by telling the truth as you see it, and you will soon be living a life that is rewarding and has the potential for true freedom and Love.

Sheila O’Brien
IBMS® Licensed and Certified Coach
(Instinct Based Medicine System®)
Life Has No Remote, LLC


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