Often, we allow ourselves to get stuck in patterns of rehashing old events where we believe we have been wronged, by a circumstance or a person. When we choose not to let go of a situation where we have been hurt (yes, this is a choice my friends), we put ourselves in a prison of our own making.

Our brain is a powerful thing and when we let a past circumstance or offense take root it can lead to bitterness. When we live in this place of enslavement, our brain then becomes hardwired in the negative. It uses this past circumstance and colors everything new that comes into our life. Instead of welcoming new friends and new opportunities, we face everything with “our back up” in mistrust. The problem with this is we end up putting ourselves in own 4×8 cell. Our brain becomes wired with the response of “I won’t let myself be hurt again,” “I will trust no one” “I will protect myself.” For a while this feels good. It is easy to feel justified because we are right, and they are wrong. We are the judge.

But with this negative perspective, your life becomes ugly, and yes, you become ugly. Instead of developing relationships where people challenge you to be your best, you look for the relationships with other bitter people and spend time putting yourself up and others down.

Is this really working for you? The problem when bitterness has taken a firm root, you stop seeing the good in others or in life. It doesn’t feel good to live in this place of constant negativity. When you get to this place, you stop realizing your own contribution to the problem.

None of us go through life unscathed. We will be let down, and we will let down others. We are human and despite our best intentions we can’t live perfectly. If we are honest with ourselves, none of us can say that we have not made any mistakes or have any regrets.

So, what can we do to kill the bitterness in our life? Here are 5 powerful steps to exchange bitter for better.

1. Recognize the need to change.

Once you realize the prison you are in, and that you want out, is the first step. You won’t be able to heal something that you won’t acknowledge. The good news is awareness is the way out, and with it you can break free.

2. Break out of bitterness with kindness.

Freedom begins with being kind to yourself. If you are beating yourself up with past regrets, it is time to let go of this. If you are judging others, you need to forgive and let go. Remember, this does not mean you have to forget an offense, just that you will forgive it so it will no longer hold you back.

3. Shift your mindset to the positive.

What if instead of focusing on all that has gone wrong for you, you focus your attention on everything that is good in your life? Each of us, if we take the time to do it, can find things we are grateful for in our lives. Choose to exchange your bad memories for your blessings. Each time a negative thought arises, make the decision to replace the negative thought with a positive one.

4. Surround yourself with people who are positive and affirming.

It can feel good, for a while, to hang with people who complain about what is going wrong in their life and the world. These are the ones that will agree with you when you have negative things to say and put others down. Instead choose to spend time with those who will lift you up, as well as call you on your negative behavior and hold you accountable to living your best life.

5. Take action that will lead you forward.

Recognize you are 100% responsible for your own actions. Refuse to allow yourself to sit in judgement, bitterness, or self-pity any longer. Decide what is not working and make a plan to change it. You can’t change a circumstance of the past; however, you can choose your response. Use your past to learn and grow into the best version of yourself. It takes work to let go of the things that are not working for us. It is not easy, but you can do it. Every day you can make progress to replace bitter with better. Little by little you can let go of the story lines that are not helping you, Then, there will come a time when the bitterness of an event or toward another person will no longer be an emotion but only a memory.

Freedom is yours when you learn to let go.


  • Janelle Bruland

    Entrepreneur, Leadership Coach, Author, Speaker, Podcast Host, & Co-Founder of Legacy Leader

    Janelle Bruland is an entrepreneur, author, speaker, and high-performance coach who inspires others to live impactful and successful lives. She is Founder and CEO of Management Services Northwest, a company she started in her living room in 1995 and has grown into an industry leading company, named one of the Fastest Growing Private Companies by Inc. magazine. The CPO of Microsoft, Mike Simms, describes her as a true pioneer in her field. Janelle is also the Co-Founder of Legacy Leader, a leadership development company that teaches business professionals how to build a legacy, transform their leadership, and love their life. She is the author of The Success Lie: 5 Simple Truths to Overcome Overwhelm and Achieve Peace of Mind.
    Janelle is a lifelong resident of Whatcom County, Washington and is married with five children. In her leisure time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling, golf, as well as keeping fit through various sports and activities.