The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
If letting go of a grudge was as easy as throwing a broken seashell back into the ocean, we might be getting somewhere.
Here’s what sucks about grudges: they’re easy. A friend betrays you? Boom, grudge. Your partner cheats on you? Grudge. Someone criticized you? Oh look, another grudge.
Whether it’s intentional or unintentional, it’s like a way of protecting ourselves. If our brain reminds us of how we were hurt before, it can’t happen again, right?
Sadly, that’s not exactly the case.
Truth is, people are going to come and go in your life, for good or for worse. Ultimately, the choice to hold on to that bitterness towards them is yours.
“But… I’m not just going to go around forgiving everyone. That’s just becoming a doormat to people.”
If that’s what you’re thinking, I get it. This is where it’s important to note— getting rid of a grudge does not have to result in forgiving and keeping a toxic person in your life. In fact, it’s actually the opposite. While getting upset and acknowledging the pain that someone may have caused you, holding on to it for a long period of time is different, and can even be damaging.
In fact, here’s some reasons why holding a grudge can negatively impact your mental health.
1. It affects new relationships
Imagine you meet a new person with a great personality. Fortunately, you hit it off with them and a new friendship forms. Only thing is… your last friendship ended terribly.
So now you have this grudge against that old friend that can sneak into your relationship with this new friend.
Bad experiences can cause trust issues, which is a common reaction. But if you bring bitterness and anxiety into every new relationship you form, the relationship might not last as long as you think.
It risks the trust between you and someone else, which means the other person will be hesitant as well.
Communicating and being honest with this new friend can be extremely beneficial for both of you.
It can help them understand why you’re hesitant in new relationships, and it can help you express your emotions to someone new, which may help you get a better understanding of your own emotions.
Putting that old friend in the past and acknowledging the new person in front of you can put that healthy line between the past and the present, which goes along with #2.
2. You won’t live in the present
A couple of years ago, I went on vacation over spring break.
I met this older woman at the sauna. She was almost like a psychic.
She said to me and my friends without any prior knowledge of us, “Remember to stop living in the past. You need to get out of your head, and focus on what’s happening right now.”
Maybe those weren’t her exact words, but it was pretty close.
Anyway, that hit home for me. As someone who feels like they’re constantly stuck in the past, it really makes it evident when a total stranger points it out for you.
Grudges are something from the past, and living in the past typically does more harm than good.
If you’re too obsessed with a bad thing that happened back then, you can’t enjoy the what’s happening right now.
Clear your head, focus on the present, and keep moving forward. (Meet the Robinsons, anyone?)
Mentally staying in one place for a long period of time is damaging, and can cause loads of stress.
It can even damage your physical state.
Speaking of damaging your physical state…
3. Grudges hurt the immune system
Licensed psychotherapist Angela Buttimer says, “When we hold onto grudges and resentment, it’s like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick.”
Grudges harm ourselves more than they harm anyone else.
By now, it’s obvious that grudges cause stress, and we all know that stress isn’t good for our body and brain. Buttimer goes on to explain that staying in a state of tension can increase inflammation and the stress hormone in your body.
This means that too much stress can even make you physically ill.
Along with physical illness, depression and anxiety may follow.
Constantly feeling as a victim of a toxic friendship can make you lose control of yourself. It can be all you think about.
If it’s all you think about, it puts your body and brain into stress-mode for a prolonged period of time.
That’s why it’s important to evaluate and take care of yourself.
Self-care isn’t just doing a face mask and calling it a day. It’s also taking care of yourself mentally.
Think about the situation, why it hurt you, and why it’s best to leave it in the past so you can move forward.
It can be difficult and can even seem impossible. If you allow yourself to look at the situation from a different perspective, you can also allow yourself to move on.
With all of this, having a grudge isn’t always necessarily a bad thing. It can be a way to process something bad that happened in a relationship.
Eventually, you have to come to a conclusion with that grudge and make a decision- will you hold on to it, or let it go?