The Dark Side of Sucking It Up

For most of my life I have practiced the suck-it-up method. In fact, my family lives by this a good deal of the time. There is a lot to be said for this. We take responsibility for our own actions. We do not let small things derail us. We do not waste time wallowing in self-pity or engage in whining. Instead we do what we have to do, what is right, what must be done to get through whatever the situation is.

(c) Christine Whitman/Thinkstock

(c) Christine Whitman/Thinkstock

There are people who could benefit from sucking-it-up once in a while. People who blame everyone and everything else for their difficulties. Who collapse at the least sign of trouble. Then there are those like me who have practiced it to such a degree that we cause harm to ourselves. There is a dark side to this trait.

Sucking It Up

Things were piling up at work. More audits, regulation, more demands with fewer people. My team was all busy. They also had young families, so I sucked it up and picked up the extra work myself.

I was grieving over my husband’s death. After a time I thought it should be over. I didn’t know how to deal with grief and also have a new life at the same time, so I sucked it up and buried my remaining grief.


And then I crashed. I couldn’t keep up the pace. I couldn’t stretch myself that much. But worse than that, I had completely lost track of who I was. In sucking it up, I had buried my emotions so deep that I didn’t recognize them or myself. If you asked me what I wanted, I couldn’t tell you. Suck-it-up had sucked my oxygen and my soul.

Seeing Truth

It took a considerable time and effort to reconnect with who I really was. To know what I wanted and how I felt. I was used to feeling nothing on the surface while my subconscious mind ran amok. I had to bring it all to light so I could sift through what was and wasn’t true. So much of my thinking was false, but I didn’t know because I hadn’t taken the time to explore it. Interestingly, I knew truth as expressed in the Bible, even truth about who I am as God’s child. But I needed to learn even that truth in a different way, without the filter of my suck-it-up mindset. I needed to strip away all that I had created to see what was really there.

A New Way

What I found was a new way. Rather than “suck-it-up”, I call it “saddle-up”. With my saddle-up method, I take the time to experience and acknowledge my emotions. I don’t just hold my breath and go. I also look at my motives. Am I thinking of doing something out of fear – of confrontation, of holding others accountable, or of not being needed? Am I trying to be a super-hero, or a martyr, or do I have right motives?

I then decide what action I will take. I may decide that I need to take care of myself and do nothing right now. I may choose to act despite how I feel because it is the right thing to do. But I do not deny my emotions. I bring them with me and trust that they will catch up.

With the saddle-up method I am still prepared for action. But it is action that brings my whole self with me. I am fully engaged with what I am doing. I am not spending energy holding my breath so I can just get through whatever I have to do. I can actually breathe and enjoy what I am doing.

That’s not to say that I do this all the time. Far from it. Suck-it-up has been my habit for so long that it’s my default behavior. I have to really pay attention and stop myself when I notice I am doing it. And sometimes I don’t notice until I’m far down the suck-it-up path. But at least I notice it. And I stop, breathe, and listen before I rejoin the fray.

How about you? Have you been living a suck-it-up life? Do you want to change your theme to something else – like saddle-up? Please share in the comments below by clicking here.  

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • I really enjoyed this post. I appreciate your story, your honesty, and the alternative you’ve created for yourself. Thanks……

    • Kathleen Thompson

      Thanks, Don. I’m hoping others will use this alternative method and find that it helps them live with greater joy.