Impatience … Definitely *Not* a Virtue

I’ve always said, “If patience is a virtue, I must be a huge sinner.”

I was a breach baby — so very impatient to get the hell out of the womb that I had to be delivered via C-section because I was coming out that way, or no way.

In hindsight, I think it was a pretty good indication that I’m not the kind of person who waits for much. πŸ˜‰

I tend to be horribly impatient, which I realize now is often to a fault …

On the positive, it means I’m dependable and rarely late for anything … but it can be a real negative trait in many situations.

So when I read “Hate to Wait” in this month’s SELF magazine (despite my misgivings, my subscription is still active; when it ends I won’t renew, promise!) — it hit me like a ton of bricks.

The author is one I love — Valerie Frankel. She’s honest and, to use my friend E’s favorite adjective, “supremely” funny. Seriously, I love Valerie (and E.!)

Apparently, she and I both have TUI — Time-Urgency Impatience —Β  defined as “the feeling of being under constant pressure.” (It’s also known as “hurry-up” syndrome and yes, it really exists).

In my own words — and I’m slightly ashamed to admit this — it tends to makes us (at times, not always!) obnoxious travel companions, annoying grocery line companions, and irritating driving companions.

Likewise, we tend to get exasperated easily, and start running our mouths at the slightest delays or inconveniences — and most of the time are absolutely unaware at how we’re behaving — though our families and loved ones are usually there to remind us of it πŸ˜‰

According to the article, people with TUI tend to be narcissists (my dad does call me Copernicus …) who think, however subconsciously, that their time is more valuable.


Impatience can also be a byproduct of living in a chaotic world where we don’t feel in control. This makes total sense to me, as a Type-A/recovering perfectionist/high-expectation-setter kinda gal.

Fortunately, cognitive behavioral therapy techniques –much like those I learned in therapy with Dr. G. last year– can help people like me and Valerie calm down in those situations.

(Funny how we never really addressed my impatience issues with respect to anxiety … but I digress).

So fulfilling her research, Valerie called upon a Buddhist monk for some counsel.

His sage advice? “Waiting with patience means actively accepting theΒ  current circumstances and giving up the illusion that you can control the world. It’s not easy; patience takes practice. Actually, patience is a practice. The best way to cultivate it is to remind yourself constantly that every moment is the only place that your life is occurring.Β  The point is to train yourself to live completely in the present, in peace, even if you’re sitting in the middle of a traffic jam.”

Wow … living in the moment …does that ring a bell?! Hmmmm ….

So much of my anxiety is related to being unable to be in the moment, whatever that moment is. I’m getting better at it as time goes on, but at times I still struggle with it (absorbing experiences, really enjoying life vs. obsessing) … then go all impulsive at other times.

A giant contradiction.

Case in point: I am someone who goes window-shopping … and comes home toting shopping bags (often having buyer’s remorse and returning said items within days of purchasing them).

Or I see something I want to eat, and “have to have it” right then and there (my obsessive-compulsive attraction to unhealthy candy & Chex mix come to mind …). When I began Weight Watchers in 2004, I could easily walk away from such foods … I banned them all cold turkey for about three years, in fact.

But somewhere along the line, they became tantalizing triggers … and the disordered stuff began.

Looking at things on a deeper level, I see clearly that I lack patience in many, many areas of my life … but mostly related to spending and my weight. And they are, naturally, inter-related with anxiety and impatience.

Therefore it makes perfect sense to me that through her research, Valerie discovered that impatient people often struggle with their weight: they want to eat in the here and now and don’t think beyond the immediate moment. I am 100% guilty of this, 100%.

In fact, most of my former chewing/spitting behavior (almost a year “sober!”) was about impatience … and then it turned to the compulsive buying of those foods I used to chew/spit.

Impatience runs throughout my life, and it’s something I really need to work on. For example, getting frustrated that I’m on hold for what feels like forever with my credit card company isn’t going to solve world peace or make me feel any better …. it just makes me more agitated and miserable to be around … and what does that solve? Nada.

What the monk wants people like Valerie and I to understand is that there are some things we just can’t control.

For Valerie, the way she overcame her impatient tendencies was to sit with whatever was agonizing her (a traffic jam, a late flight, etc.) and get through it by dredging up her sense of humor — envisioning herself all pissed off and looking like a red-faced crazy lady.

I’m not sure what I’ll do, but lord knows I need to start practicing patience better.

For one thing, I need to be more cognizant before buying (clothes, food, etc.) and for another, I need to be more in the moment during other times (you never know who you’ll meet in line at the grocery store — you could make a friend!).

It’s a challenge I’m willing to take. It’s something I need to do, to reach the next level on this wild journey I’m on. Self-acceptance is more than just accepting how we look; it’s very much about how we behave, as well.

I haven’t come up with a solution for “how” I will do this yet — that’s my homework this weekend. Stay tuned.

How about you? Are you impatient by nature? How has it affected your recovery?


10 thoughts on “Impatience … Definitely *Not* a Virtue

  1. I am exactly the same way….but I grew up with a parent that was that way, too, so I thought that’s just how adults handled the world! Just yesterday I freaked out because I was stuck behind someone on a one-way road going 20 mph in a 45 and I was running late to get my daughter for music lessons and I didn’t have my phone with me (forgot it in my usual rush rush rush) so I about exploded with impatience.
    I need help myself!
    In regards to losing weight, I’m impatient. I get upset if I don’t lose weight when I’ve been perfect and feel like a day’s or week’s worth of effort really should have been enough to lose it…! LOL. I’m trying, though. Being married to a VERY patient man is rubbing off…but now we’re not always on time because of HIM which is stressful … and the cycle continues…


    1. Melissa, my hubby is super-patient, too, so some of that has rubbed off. But not always! πŸ˜‰ He’s also chronically late … and that drives me nuts!

      Let’s see if we can tackle this together; there are lots of people just like us out there. We’re NOT alone.

  2. Wow. Your blog post TOTALLY spoke to me today! I just blogged about it on my own blog because it was exactly what I needed to hear today! Thank you for that, from a fellow control freak/type-A-er to another. πŸ™‚

  3. I never knew there was a name for such feelings of urgency and control — I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one. I do have to say, the “craziness” has diminished since becoming pregnant. Since I realized that can’t control the pregnancy, I might as well relax. It’s truly enlightening! XoXo

  4. oh wow, i could have written some of what you wrote! i had no idea there was a name for this. just like i didn’t know i had an eating disorder until a little over two years ago and just thought i had a “sweet tooth” for 30 years.

    i’m going to print out the quote about patience, it was great, thanks!

    funny, i’m reading a valerie frankel book right now and am really enjoying it.

    and um, wait until you see how your tendency towards impatience goes when you have kids. πŸ˜‰

  5. I tend to be VERY impatient–though, like you, it’s gotten better with time! I get so anxious if there is something I can’t fix immediately or do anything about. Traffic and waiting and lines and all of those things used to send my anxiety and frustration through the roof. Now, I have used the knowledge that “I cannot do anything about this” as kind a comfort. I can’t do anything about the traffic jam, or my therapist running late, or whatever it is, so it’s useless to get worked up about it.

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