Perhaps somewhere on this planet, there are many people who don’t understand what, ‘having a chip on your shoulder’ means. So let’s clear that up immediately. In everybody’s life there are things that happen that frustrate, annoy, anger or upset us from time-to-time. If you develop a grudge against someone, or a group of people and carry that grudge and those feelings around with you, and they change how you interact with people in other settings, you’re said to have a ‘chip on your shoulder’.
So let’s say you’re working at a car plant for 20 years, loyal and hard-working. You come to work only to get a lay-off notice in your box but you also know the company is advertising to hire new employees. You feel betrayed, used, unappreciated and in a state of shock. How you handle such a situation will not only say a lot about you as a person, but it will also affect your emotional and physical health moving forward, your future employability with other companies, your social interaction with others and can even result in extreme situations in a change in marital status, and even death.
“Oh come on”, I hear some of you say, “Death? Really?” Oh yeah, your mortality.
As you move forward after receiving such information, you may actually go into crisis, for that single decision by an employer may result in a loss of present and future income, endanger your ability to pay a mortgage, take that promised trip, put food on the table, send the kids to University etc. It can also damage your self-perception as much of your identity was an employee of such-and-such company. Now you’re a former employee, and may see yourself as having had a former identity and don’t know what your current identity is anymore, and that throws you into a period of flux.
However people being so different, everybody will react to a situation differently. Some will just move on and chalk it up to the economy, while others say what the company did isn’t right, but they don’t waste energy trying to recover something that’s already in the past. Let’s not debate what’s legally right or wrong, or even ethical here, just how you yourself would handle it.
Now carrying around that resentment, you might snap at the waitress who brings you chicken noodle soup instead of chicken with rice. You might fly off the handle when dealing with a retailer who has that blouse in every size but yours etc. “What’s her Problem?” people will mutter after you’ve stormed out. Well it’s the residual feelings of bitterness that get carried around and rise to the surface with the least provocation.
So carrying around this chip is a dangerous thing. It can create an atmosphere around you that people can quickly detect from the creases on your forehead, the scowl on your face, the look of annoyance in your eyes, how you interrupt others because of your impatience with their apparent incompetence. What really starts happening is the transferring of your past emotional turmoil onto those with whom you interact with now and moving forward.
Of course this isn’t healthy and it’s not just as simple as saying, “let it go”. If it were that easy, don’t you really think people would say, “Wow, I’d never thought of doing that!” and drop it then and there? And even when you think you’ve dealt with things and put a problem to rest, those old feelings can surface in seconds when you, for example, run into that Supervisor while shopping in the mall.
However, as long as a person carries all those negative and weighty issues around, you’re not really moving forward 100%. It’s as if there’s a part of you that’s stuck back there in the past, with those unresolved feelings.
Consider that it might be useful to get take that chip off your shoulder and using another body analogy, get it off your chest. Talk to someone in confidence like a Mental Health Counsellor. Vent, and expose your wounded pride, dignity and by doing so, shed the silence that’s been building up. Oddly enough, you can actually develop physical problems in your neck, your back, or other areas where your ‘stress’ is held.
Don’t let an incident from your past rob you of all the good things that may await you in your future. Being at your best is good for your marriage or relationships with your kids, extended family, friends and neighbours. Dealing with resentment can also mean you don’t betray your contempt and loathing in an upcoming job interview when they ask about why you left your past employer too.
Carry it around too long, and that chip becomes a boulder on the shoulder.