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The insidious slide from willing to tolerating

Updated: Jun 29, 2023

Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is the way I can unconsciously slide from a state of enthusiasm to a state of being willing, and more disturbingly, from a state of willing to a state of tolerating. This process generally ends when things become decidedly intolerable, and I find myself thinking, “How did I get here?!”

I can start out enthusiastically agreeing to an activity, and somewhere along the way, I may realize that it’s not going to be as enjoyable as I had anticipated. I may have thoughts like, “I thought this would go differently…”, or “Well this isn’t as great as I had hoped, but it’s still alright.” Or I may just have a swirling and confusing emotional reaction until I finally emerge with the knowledge that I’m no longer participating enthusiastically, but I’m still feeling positive and wholeheartedly willing to continue.

What’s harder to reconcile is when my state of mind slides gradually and imperceptibly from wholeheartedly willing, to dubiously willing, to graciously tolerating, to a steaming hot mess of resentfully tolerating. This process usually ends in an explosion of frustration or outrage at the point when things become undeniably intolerable.

I may have thoughts along the way like, “I really don’t want to do this anymore, but they’ll be so disappointed!”, or “I have to think of a way out of this! I’ll need an excuse, because it would be rude to simply change my mind.”

Or to the chagrin of all involved, because this whole downward slide will most likely have happened on an unconscious level and therefore was not expressed, my newly found displeasure is a shock to everyone, including me.

It’s not surprising that this happens, because there is a toxic combination of tendencies - especially for those of us socialized as female - which includes:

  • prioritizing the wants and needs of others above our own,

  • being used to tolerating many things that we have no choice about,

  • and NOT being used to checking in with ourselves to notice our shifting boundaries, wants, and emotional landscapes.

The learning and unlearning I need to do to overcome all of this will be something I’ll be practicing for the rest of my life, and I have compassion for myself around that. I remind myself to check in with myself and take the time to notice how I’m feeling, now, in this moment. I revisit my decision to not tolerate things that I have a choice around. And I tell myself yet again that I am allowed to change my mind, and that anyone who truly cares about me will want to know how I’m truly feeling and what I want, even if it disappoints them.

In our book, “Creating Consent Culture: A Handbook for Educators”, my co-author Marcia Baczynski and I talk about the difference between being enthusiastically wanting, wholeheartedly willing, and resentfully tolerating. The first two are consent, and the third is not. If I were to write the book now, I would want to add something about how we can unconsciously slide between these states without realizing what’s happening.

The ways we can counter this unconscious and insidious slide between internal states are internal processes of practicing our self check ins, practicing noticing what we want in the moment, reassuring ourselves that we can change our minds, and practicing asking for what we want clearly.

What this can sound like to others is, “I’ve thought about it and my feelings have changed. I know I said I was happy to do this thing, but now I want to do something different.”, or “I know I asked for this, and I really thought I’d like it, but it’s not working for me. Let’s talk about what we can do differently.”

And if we feel a swirl of confusing emotions and aren’t able to understand the causes yet, we can still express that. It can sound like “I’m not sure what I’m feeling, but it’s not enthusiasm. I need some time to figure out what I really want here.”

What do you think? Is this something that you’ve noticed happens for you as well?

Checking in with ourselves, feeling confident to change our minds, and asking for what we want clearly, are just a few of the essential consent skills that we share in the book. To learn more about the workshops available and the book, visit

Order the book here!

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1 Comment

Gabrielle Thomas
Gabrielle Thomas
Apr 08, 2023

This really resonates with me right now. It's a lot easier to recover from consequences of honoring your feelings and resentment that can come from that, versus the grueling process of recovering from that decline into resentful willingness. Wow!

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