What are you tolerating?

Most physicians are hard-working, driven people.  We wouldn’t have gotten where we are without that drive, ignoring opportunities that might have been more fun so warningwe could gain knowledge and skills to care for our patients.  People are surprised when they learn that our daughter, a second year medical student, is studying over 12 hours each day in preparation for her licensing exams.  No physician would be surprised at her dedication and strict regimen.  It’s what we accepted we must do to become a doctor. Don’t misunderstand me – I’m not complaining about this investment of time and attention.  I love learning and felt happy to be gaining important information that I imagined I would use to help my patients. But along the way, I became disconnected from many things I loved.   What’s troubling is that I became so used to striving that my almost single-minded devotion to learning began to seem normal.  Several years later, I became burned out.

Similarly, people in failed relationships often look back and recall behavior of their partner that foreshadowed what was to come.  Refusals to help when asked, unwillingness to spend time together, and hurtful, dismissive comments were ignored or overlooked.  “She’s tired, stressed, preoccupied,” were excuses given to explain the behavior.   We often tolerate unpleasant or unhealthy behaviors or situations for fear of imagined repercussions, hoping that the behavior will change.  Unfortunately, this is magical thinking. When we tolerate undesirable behavior, from others or ourselves, what we usually get is more of the same, or worse.

What are YOU tolerating?

Are you tolerating intimidating or unfair treatment by others in your office?  Are you tolerating a poor diet or lack of exercise, believing you don’t have time to do better? Are you tolerating being left out of plans made by your partner or friends, even though you feel ignored and hurt?  Or perhaps rude responses from your kids?

While your current level of distress or disappointment may not have reached its boiling point, imagine that this situation has continued for the next 10 years.  How will you feel then?  What will you have given up?  How much better would your life be if you had corrected this situation now?

Stepping up to a conversation in which you honestly share what you have noticed and the impact it is having affords the other person an opportunity to change.  And if the behavior continues, you can make a conscious choice between continuing to tolerate it or changing the situation. Either way, you take greater control of your life, so that in 10 years, you will have given yourself the opportunity to have the life that you truly want to be living, and not one that you are simply tolerating.  How great would that be?


About Helane Fronek

Over the past 28 years I have had a fascinating and fulfilling career in medicine, initially practicing as a general internist and then as a procedural specialist, caring for patients with vein disorders. As Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at UC- San Diego School of Medicine, I’m thrilled to be teaching medical students crucial communication skills along with many other aspects involved in the practice of medicine.
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