Why Do We Tolerate That?

What is it that has us put up with the bad behavior of other people or the institutions we belong to? Many of us are completely asleep as it relates to this experience. Once we take a big step back and look at what is actually happening, we can see how we allow others to bully us, minimize us, humiliate us, and even invalidate our experience. It’s like we think ‘this is how things are’ so we don’t even try to address it. At best, we become aware, speak up and our requests are honored. At worst, we stay silent and keep receiving more of the same.

It’s amazing what we put up with and how much of it we simply accept on an unconscious level.

Recently, I was at the dentist who I’ve been seeing for over 20 years. I came in for a rare filling and felt relaxed anticipating the root-numbing computerized Novocain drip they use to ensure I won’t feel pain. As we began to use the machine, the dentist started telling me that I was a baby and not even the children need this machine and that it doesn’t work that well anyway. They didn’t give me the full dose, then started to work on my tooth. It hurt without the full dose, and they stated that the machine doesn’t work anyway and pushed a needle of Novocain into my jaw instead. I told them that I wanted to go longer with the drip machine, but they said, ‘I’m done, and we are doing it this way’. During the filling, while the dentist and assistant were chatting about college courses, I felt strong pain and signaled them to take a break. I was again told that I was overreacting, and it wasn’t that painful. I sat up and said ‘I don’t need my experience to be invalidated. This is how it is for me’. They both became very quiet after that and they finished things up in silence.

As I left the office stunned and numb, I thought back to all of the times I had been there before. When they teased me in the past, I thought it was funny. I thought it meant they liked me, even if the words and invalidation hurt me. I had learned to simply push those feelings under my own internal rug. I remembered them doing it with others, including my husband who was not able to advocate for himself recently due to health issues. A great wave of anger rose up and I sat in my car and raged out loud until the anger ran out.

As I sat in the car emotionally empty, a new awareness filled my mind and heart. All that had really changed was making my own self-love the highest priority. I realized that I am now highly discerning about what feels good and loving to me and what doesn’t. I get to choose who I look to for support in my body, mind, and spirit. Now, I have a new dentist whose values, and view of the body, health, and healing, are much more in alignment with mine. My inner child is so grateful that I won’t allow this into my experience any longer and those feelings never have to be swept under the rug again.


Wendy Watson-Hallowell | The Belief Coach
Wendy Watson-Hallowell | The Belief Coach
WENDY is passionate about enabling individuals, organizations and communities to value themselves and each other in the ongoing process of change. Wendy has guided hundreds of individuals and over 750+ public and private sector organizations to achieve tangible increases in impact and performance. Her successful practice in mentoring and coaching has led to authorship of the book, ‘Live a Life You Love and Make a Living Doing It’. Over the last 30 years, Wendy’s skills have been honed in leadership roles at MTV Networks, The Rensselaerville Institute, and a variety of community based projects in her town. In 2015 she launched BeliefWorks and offers Belief Coaching as a way to address the root cause of what limits the results we can achieve both personally and professionally. This is an 'upstream' solution to change. Instead of changing limiting behavior, she focuses on changing the limiting beliefs that drive that behavior. In all cases, her clients and partners speak to the specific increases in achievement that her consulting, coaching and partnership roles make possible.

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  1. Thank you so much for your insight and comments. It’s funny, my husband has just decided to leave this dentist as well. It’s so great to decide what works and doesn’t work for us and be able to say no to what we don’t want and yes to what we do want clearly and kindly without anyone having to be wrong. Including us! At the same time I realized that when others are so disconnected from their own feeling center it’s very hard for them to consider anyone else’s. In the end we are all responsible for our own experience and choosing what is best for us and honoring the same for others

  2. Interesting post, Wendy, I am happy that you have found a better dentist. Pain thresholds are very individual but it is amazing how much pain some doctors and dentists can bear – as long as the pain happens in their patients…

    I want to turn your question around and reflect on how often we are the person who inflicts pain – hopefully not the physical kind – by being as clueless as your former dentist? Where with with the best of intentions we invalidate other people’s feelings (it is not as bad as all that. You will be fine.)? Or from some privileged position are oblivious to the experience of others? Not to change your great question – why do we put up with it so often? – but to celebrate how much learning can come from an unpleasant experience.

    Hopefully learning for your former dentist as well when they lost a patient. Wonder how many patients have walked out of their office, not saying anything, putting up with being belittled while it happened, but took their business elsewhere going forward? You may have done them a great favor speaking up.