Hi. I’m a high performer. And I’ve been bitter. For me, it was being angry much of the time. I felt cynical – assuming that nothing would ever get better. I believed no one worked as hard or cared as much as me. And, frankly, I couldn’t summon a single positive thing to say about work. At the time, I didn’t understand what was driving me to be so bitter. Well, other than no one doing their jobs properly. Obviously.

Perhaps I knew I was bitter at the time. Though it is possible that I was so deeply angry that I didn’t have the self-insight to know I was bitter. What I know for certain is I didn’t understand why I felt this way. Or, more importantly, why everyone around me seemed so obliviously fine with things as they were.

If you are here reading this post, I suspect you don’t understand why either. So let’s start at the beginning.

What is a high performer?

There are some defining characteristics of a high performer. The ones you might recognize the best are:

  • They put in the work and are highly productive
  • They constantly seek ways to improve, grow, and learn

As a fellow high performer, you must see that list and see yourself. And, like me, cannot understand why anyone would not be a high performer. And, that is where the bitterness starts…

What is bitterness?

To begin with, bitterness is not one of the core human emotions. While there’s some debate of whether there are 4 core emotions or 6, bitterness is not one of them. The core emotions include:

  • Happiness
  • Sadness
  • Fear and/or surprise
  • Anger and/or disgust

Dr. Diamond, a psychologist, has defined bitterness as chronic and pervasive state of smoldering resentment…that results from a consistent repression of anger and rage for how someone perceives they have been treated. Resentment is a sense of being wronged.

And so we know that bitterness actually has its core in repressed anger – which IS one of the core emotional responses of humans. And, that we are angry because we feel wronged in some way.

What are you so bitter about?

This isn’t a question I can answer for you. But, I would venture a guess that it goes back to the defining characteristics of a high performer.

You might be angry that no one else puts in the work you do. Or, on the flip side, you might be angry that no one appreciates how much work you put in. Sure, they appreciate the outcomes of whatever you have produced but they don’t deeply appreciate the sacrifices you put in to make that accomplishment.

You might be angry that no one else seems to want to improve or do things better. While someone might see a job as done – you see opportunities for improvement. Perhaps you feel disgust that someone would accept what you see as mediocrity.

Can you recover from being bitter?

I suspect that’s what you really wanted to know from this post. And, I will address that question. Later.

But before I do that, I want you to think about what is it that you are so angry about. Make a list on paper. If you just create a mental list I assure you that you will just end up spiraling down a ruminating trail and not get a solid list. So make sure to write it down somewhere.

When you’re ready, check out our post on whether forgiveness can cure bitterness. Also, you can check out our post on what Freud didn’t know about bitterness.