So some of you know that I was a professional actress earlier in my career. I actually starred on NBC-TV series in the early 90s, and did some other shows and films too (like “Saved by the Bell” — check out the picture!).

This time period offers a perfect example of what I want to talk about today – the difference between “legitimate pain” and “suffering.”

Being only in my early 20s, I’ll never forget how intimidated I was by my agents. Even though I was the one making money for THEM, I felt tremendous pressure for them to like me – so they’d get me the good auditions.

One day I had this audition for a new series pilot, and it was a very unusual character. I remember she was a little crazy and pretty unpredictable – quirky.

So I went in there wearing a funky hat and a feather boa around my neck. Then I poured my heart into that audition.

And I really blew it. Or at least I found out I did later.

The casting director called my agent later and said that I was over-the-top, ridiculous (!), and embarrassed her in front of the show’s producers. So from that, my agents were now embarrassed by me too!

This was extremely painful. Not only was I being told I made a fool of myself, but I had displeased people I felt were in a position of power.

So here’s where I want to make a distinction.

Sometimes things happen in life where there is genuinely legitimate pain. I felt rejected, and I felt embarrassed.

However, suffering is of our own creation.

You see, I couldn’t stop obsessing about what had happened. For days I replayed it in my head, rewriting it in fantasy or plotting what the hell I would do next to re-win my agent’s favor (from a bunch of fear, I can tell you).

Here I was the one putting myself in prison.

The legitimate pain I felt after getting that feedback was difficult, but after really feeling it and accepting those feelings, I had the choice to release it and move forward…. or not.

When we hold onto something, replay it, obsess about it, and work ourselves up further and further, that would be creating our own suffering.

And oddly enough, a lot of our suffering is borne out of trying to avoid feeling legitimate pain!

I invite you to join me in utilizing this distinction. To accept the moments in life that are legitimately painful, but to not extend or exacerbate it by creating continued upset of your own making.

Barb Wade

Barb is a Speaker, Author, and Coach, who has been on the leading edge of Transformational Coaching for over 15 years. Barb works with high-achievers who, despite external accomplishments, are finding themselves yearning for more freedom, joy, and meaning in their lives. Barb herself knows that “hole” of quiet desperation that can exist even though achievement is high.

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3 Comments

  1. Hi Barb,
    I’ve been reading through your blog and this particular story reminded me of an experience I had when I’d just become a sophomore in high school (and that was the year I moved to a new school and all that). From fifth grade to ninth grade I attended a small Christian school. It was overall a good experience but there was one teacher who did not like me and made it pretty obvious, even having me be the only one in my class who didn’t get a part in a certain play. I had this teacher from 6th grade through 9th grade so, long term. And it bothered me tremendously that she didn’t like me. Several months into my tenure at my high school I was thinking about all the things that were going well for me in high school, all the accomplishments I’d already had under my belt. And I was imagining scenarios where this teacher who didn’t like me would learn about what a great and accomplished student I really was (as indicated by how well high school was going for me) and maybe change her mind about me. My thoughts were interrupted by the voice of God I’d come to recognize telling me that no matter how much I accomplished, there was no way I would ever be vindicated in the eyes of this particular teacher. “Oh no, what do I do?” I asked. I couldn’t imagine *not* being vindicated at some point. “You will simply have to forgive her.” “How do I do that?” The reply: “You make the choice to do it, and then when you find yourself thinking these thoughts about wanting vindication, you remind yourself that you have forgiven her.” So I did that. It took me about six weeks of interrupting my thoughts to remind myself that I’d forgiven this teacher, but finally the obsession with vindication faded.

    Today I still remember the wrongs this teacher did to me, but mostly I remember that she was a terrific English teacher and I credit her with a lot of my skill for writing. She really knew the craft and could impart it. We spent *hours* diagramming sentences and although I hated it at the time I know it was very helpful to my development as a writer.

    A few years ago I connected with some of my old school friends on Facebook. I learned that some of them, twenty-five years later, were still nursing resentments about this teacher and other teachers at the school and some of the painful experiences they had. But I’d largely forgotten about it (other than ordinary memories) and moved on with my life. At that point I was really thankful for the choice I’d made to forgive her so soon after she was done being my teacher. My life after that was much more free not nursing resentments against her for the next twenty-five years!

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