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How to avoid feelings of resentment: get better at speaking your mind

Doing so might make others unhappy, but it can spare you feelings of resentment

What is resentment?

Feelings of resentment can sneak up on us. They can build up slowly over time until suddenly we are weapons-grade chippy.

“Resentment is the persistent feeling that we are being treated unfairly, that we are under-appreciated, or that we are not being respected,” says Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy member Ciarán Coyle, a psychotherapist with “It’s the feeling that our voice is not being taken into consideration, or that we are not being recognised for our work,” says Coyle.

Comparing ourselves to others can also make us feel resentful. “We see a person with this job, this house, this family and we wonder why we don’t have it,” he says.

“Resentment is like we are locked into a devalued state where it’s hard to appreciate or connect positively with anything.”


Why is resentment bad?

Feelings of resentment can make us quietly seethe and potentially explode. They can also lead to destructive, compulsive or addictive behaviour, says Coyle.

“When you are stressed out in your body, it can eat away at your immune system and open you up to increased risk of illness and disease too,” says Coyle. “Resentment is like holding a hot coal in your hand where you are burning over and over,” he says. The only one it’s hurting is you.

Where does resentment come from?

If we don’t have boundaries, others can encroach on us in ways that can make us feel resentful. “Maybe we don’t speak our mind, we hold things in, or we are trying to manage and mind other people’s feelings more than our own,” says Coyle.

“This can come from our childhood or school days where there was someone in a position of power and we felt it was unsafe to say something, so we ended up keeping it in,” he says.

How do we avoid feeling resentful?

To avoid resentment, get better at speaking your mind, says Coyle. Speaking to others using ‘I’ statements is the way to go. “You could say, ‘I felt this way when you did this or you said that’. So, you are not getting angry, but you are getting your voice heard.”

Expressing a boundary or saying something doesn’t suit you takes practice. “It’s about slowing down. Breathing is a great way to balance your nervous system. Ask yourself, what’s bothering me, why is it bothering me and am I contributing to the problem?” says Coyle.

Speaking your mind might make others unhappy, but it can spare you feelings of resentment. “You can’t control other people’s opinions of you, but you can control your reaction,” says Coyle.

“If someone criticises you, it’s about that person being hard on themselves. It’s not about you. Not personalising things can be a real game changer.”

If your resentment stems from feeling envious of others, remember to stay in your lane. “Stop seeking external validation. Comparison is the thief of joy. Focus on yourself,” says Coyle.

Write on

Journalling is another good way to identify how you are feeling and what you would like to change, says Coyle. “Writing things down can help you get to the source of what’s underneath the resentment – is it hurt, guilt or overwhelm. Getting things out of your head and on to a page can help you look at things rationally.”

Joanne Hunt

Joanne Hunt

Joanne Hunt, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about homes and property, lifestyle, and personal finance