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December 20, 2019

How Not To Be Bitter

I recently had a client who’s in a very difficult relationship. “He made me the angry, bitter woman that no one can stand,” she said. And it’s true. She is kind of bitter. So how can you avoid becoming this person?

Acknowledge that you are bitter

The first thing to do is acknowledge that you’re bitter, that you’re feeling bitter. Nothing in your life can be fixed if you ignore it or you pretend that it’s not there. So if you’re bitter: say it! Admit it! Then you can fix it.

If you’re not sure, ask your friends. Although, to be honest, if you are bitter, you might not have many friends left. Unless of course they are just friends who are commiserating in your bitterness. But a true friend will tell you “yeah, you’re kind of bitter.” She’ll probably couch it with the words ‘kind’, so it doesn’t sound so mean, but she’ll let you know.

Why are you bitter?

The next step is to look at why you’re bitter. You probably already have a good idea of why you’re bitter. You can probably name all the hurts, all the things that were done to you. I bet you can even name names.

Now, ask yourself, why are you holding on to that? How is it serving you in your life? I’m not asking so you can say “it’s not serving me.”

No really, how is it serving you in your life?

We generally continue behavior because it does something for us. Maybe your bitterness protects you. Maybe your bitterness is the only way you know how to express your pain. Maybe your bitterness gets you attention. Really be honest with yourself about how it serves you. Because I promise you, it is hurting you way more than it is serving you. If you aren’t clear about how it’s serving you, it will be harder for you to let it go.

You have a choice

Bitterness comes from a place of hurt, and it also comes from a place of feeling stuck in that hurt. So when you resolve that whatever is happening in your life is just the way it is- that there’s nothing you can do about it-  then you can start to feel stuck, and bitterness can grow. The reality is that you do have choices. You’re never really stuck.

I know it doesn’t feel good to hear, but the problem isn’t that you’re stuck, it’s that you don’t like how hard the work is to get out of that place. You don’t like how uncomfortable it will make you feel, or you’re just scared to make the changes in your life. But that’s okay! Own that too! And then own that your life can change, if you want it to.

How to change your mindset

Now you might be thinking ‘Dr. Zoe, you just don’t know! I’m stuck in a hopeless marriage. There’s no changing my situation.’ You can’t always change your circumstances, but you can always change your mindset. As long as you have a functioning brain, there are always options for something different.

So what do you have to do? You’ve  got to let go of how it’s supposed to be. I know it’s not that easy, but sometimes you just have to let go of how things are supposed to be in your mind. I know that letting go of your dreams and hopes can seem devastating. But I’m telling you that holding on to it, when a door has closed, is even more devastating.

Sometimes letting go of how it’s supposed to be in your mind opens up a world you couldn’t have even dreamed of. But you can’t step into that world until you let go of the one that isn’t yours. And then you’ve got to forgive!


I’m not talking about forgiving other people, although that’s great. You need to do that too. I’m talking about forgiving yourself. We get so caught up in forgiving other people that we forget to forgive ourselves. We’re the person we travel this whole journey with.

Forgive yourself for not knowing any better. Forgive yourself for allowing treatment that you didn’t deserve. Forgive yourself for staying too long. Forgive yourself for leaving too early. Forgive yourself for hurting other people. Mostly forgive yourself for hurting yourself. There’s a lot of internal forgiveness that needs to happen in order to let go of bitterness.

You’ve got to know that you’re bigger than the lie of bitterness. Bitterness is like an infection; it can run deep and hard, and it destroys you from the inside. You’re better than that. You deserve better than that.

Dr. Zoe Shaw


I’ve heard bitterness defined as ‘a chronic state of resentment’. Resentment happens when you don’t speak our truth and you allow others to overstep your boundaries. So if you feel resentment, that means that your boundaries are low. That’s a red flag for you. Let that be a warning sign that you need to speak up. That you need to up your boundaries, because that prevents bitterness.

Bitterness is about the past. You’ve got to remember that you’re living in the present, and into the future. So you’ve got to work on changing your focus to future thoughts and not ones focused on past. And not ones focused on revenge either.

Sit with this for a minute: The alternative to not dealing with your bitterness is death; death to happiness, death to relationships, a physical death. Bitterness will kill you. So choose today to live! Really live forward, and be determined to not allow yourself to be consumed. Get help if you need it. You can change this.

We develop bitterness because we choose to hold things in instead of expressing ourselves. But you can choose different. So I’m challenging you today; choose different and let go of the bitterness. Live in the future. You’ve got this!


Would you like to listen to this post? Click here to listen to the podcast version! Enjoy!

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