Recently, I read Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead. It’s great and mostly covers the same topics of her other books through the lens of leadership. I read quickly— yeah, yeah, been through this before, vulnerability, shame, yada yada yada.

Then, boom, I hit a concept like a brick wall. You only feel resentment when you haven’t created good boundaries. My eyebrows furrowed and shoulders rose to my ears. Say again? I cause my own resentment? Impossible! It’s the others’ fault! Intellectually, I believe that I’m the cause and the root of my own feelings. It’s all my reaction or response to external stimuli. But I think resentment’s one of the ugliest feelings one can hold (maybe in the same category as spite or rancor). It’s bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly. I don’t think you can feel indignation without self-indulgence, and what the heck is fair? Is it realistic or setting me up for success to want the world to be fair?

Jake’s carrying the team financially right now as I transition careers. Is that fair? Probably not. Fair by definition would mean I’d be making 50% of the team income. I hope to be soon. I hope to be able to support Jake when he wants to venture out and try something that’s financially scary. But I don’t think “fairness” is at the root of that. Love, learning, responsibility, support. These things I value. Overvaluing fairness to me seems like a child being upset that his friend got a lollipop and he didn’t.

I digress.

I don’t like resentment in myself or the people around me. I really don’t like admitting that I’m causing it. Okay so how do you create your own resentment by not having good boundaries? Let’s look at an example I heard recently. A few individuals were talking about a friend breakup they went through. They told the story of the friend’s behavior— he took and took and took without giving. Doesn’t sound like a great friend. He didn’t thank his friends for all they did for him. Doesn’t sound like a great friend. They felt personally slighted, un-appreciated, taken advantage of. Fair enough. Did they ask for anything to change? No. Did they speak about it directly with him? No. They talked with one another and built up years of collective hurt. Finally, an egregious ungrateful act led the friends to cut off all ties. It’s not crazy to not want to be friends with this person. But to let someone take your energy for years and years without asking for it to stop and also blame them for it? That seems crazy.

I’m trying hard to notice twinges of resentment in myself and examine what boundaries I haven’t established. Feel like a friend, job or family is "taking advantage of me” is my doing. Maybe not the first time around. But it seems to me like any time there’s a repeated pattern of take and I feel empty, it’s my fault. Definitely haven’t nailed this one. But trying.