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5 Problems with Passivity and Why It's Harmful to a Purposeful Life

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I've never been afraid of hard work. I often joke that in a different life, I would do physical labor as a full-time job. Both of my parents worked (and still work) so hard; my mom was a principle of a K-12 school for years and my dad was a real-life farmer.

When my brother and I were kids, every Saturday we would work outside on some project mom and dad cooked up. At the time neither my brother or myself thought we were living the teenage dream, but if it wasn't for my parents I would not have learned the value of hard work and discipline.

Hard work turned into one of my core values as I got older -- to this day, things that require work don't scare me. In fact, I thrive in most environments that require labor, discipline and a heck of a lot of work.

The only arena where I struggle to apply myself 100% of the time is emotional labor -- the work that is much more difficult than any physical task.

Engaging with emotions is difficult and I had no idea what to even begin to do with them until I went to therapy. Over the last few weeks I've felt more emotional than usual and have been DYING to neglect each and every one. (The visitors aren't welcome. #NotAvailabe).

However, despite my desire to neglect my own emotions I've taken many long showers to reflect on the problems with not actively engaged with what I'm feeling. (Shout out to the prepaid water bill. #Blessed).

I've narrowed it down 5 main ideas -- let's talk about the problems that come with passivity.

Passivity creates envy.

The more passive we are, the more jealous we become. It's natural to want things that you don't have; sometimes envy can even motive us in a healthy way to earn the things we want.

However, when we are passive with our thoughts, desire and goals we become more envious of others in an unhealthy way. We can begin to compare ourselves to others and often remain resentful, angry and hurt... because of our own passiveness.

Envy is easy though because it continuously focuses on others. As we all know, it's easier to look outside ourselves than turn inward and make change.

Therefore if we are always passively focused on others and their success, it generates an easy excuse to neglect our own responsibilities (emotional health and growth, professional and relational development, etc) and be lazy with our goals and dreams.

If we can channel the energy we use to feed jealousy into productive habits that will help us live a fulfilling life, we miraculously become less resentful and more grateful.

Passivity kills boundaries.

Boundaries exist whether we communicate them or not - it's simply the natural order of the world. If boundaries are not exposed directly and clearly, they will eventually be shown through manipulation, withdrawal, anger, resentment or even real-life harmful things (violence).

Boundaries require active engagement in our relationships. They also require us to be direct, forward and honest -- we're often scared of those things and terrified of how our directness or honesty may impact people. Bottom line: we don't want to hurt the feelings of others, especially if we love them.

There is a major difference between hurt and harm. Dr. Henry Cloud addresses this idea in his book, "Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life."

Essentially, when we are direct and honest about what we will and won't accept, we may hurt others and cause disappointment, but this can actually help each person grow. When we passively go through relationships with no communication about boundaries, we may not hurt them-- in fact, it probably feels really good to have the "peace" that comes with passivity.

However, when we experience the spontaneous combustion that comes about because of our non-communicated boundaries it can be harmful for the relationship, ourselves and other people.