Feelings. We all have them. Whether we feel like they are a taboo or feel like they are all you talk about, there is no denying that feelings have a presence in all of our lives. When it comes to dealing with feelings, we often know exactly what to do and give good advice if the feelings being dealt with are someone else’s. When it comes to ourselves, it seems as if we rarely follow our own advice. Here is a gentle reminder of a few things that are important to remember when dealing with your emotions.
1. Everything you are feeling is valid.
I don’t think there is any greater insult than telling someone that they are stupid or wrong for feeling the way they do. Imagine being upset or uncomfortable over something, gathering the courage to tell someone and them dismissing the idea of your thoughts possibly being true. It would be incredibly inconsiderate, and, frankly, inappropriate. Of course, there are cases of over reaction, but, no one just makes up a problem (at least, usually not), so if you’re feeling something, it means it's real. And maybe it isn’t real to someone else, that is okay. Our feelings are our own personal reality, we each have our own and the only way to make progress is to respect one another’s realities rather than belittle them. A problem can be real to Sally that isn't real to Liz, but that does not mean that Liz can decide that Sally is making things up, dismiss her feelings and refuse to accept Sally's reality as even possibly existing. I cannot tell you how long it took for me to understand that. Feelings really have no right and wrong. Besides, for example, if you start laughing at a funeral, that would generally be considered wrong so it is unfair and destructive of us to label each other as such. As my communication theory professor says, "You have to make the effort to understand and respect all sides of an issue, even if you don't agree. That's the only way progress can be made."
2. Having outlets is important.
Notice the plural there: outlets. If you’re anything like me, the same coping mechanism isn’t always going to work when you’re feeling off. Sometimes, putting on a face mask, painting my nails and having a total self-care night by myself is exactly what I need to get back on track, but other times, I feel worse if I stay in my room or sit still for that long and I need to go out and call or meet up with a good friend. Other times, watching my favorite YouTubers, journaling or painting a picture works. The point is, it varies. I personally enjoy having a relaxing-at-home alone option (like the self-care night), an activity option (like painting), and a talking option (calling or meeting up with someone I know I can be vulnerable and candid to). The important part is that you ensure your outlets are healthy. Choose an activity that is constructive or creative, and make sure nothing is going to harm your mind or your body. Also, keep in mind the outlooks of whomever you decide to talk to. Sometimes a talk with someone who will solely commiserate without spending anytime building you up can make you feel worse than before. Basically, choose your outlets carefully.
3. Feelings aren’t bad.
I don’t know when or how it became cool to pretend like nothing, neither good nor bad, phases you. That’s right, I’m talking about all types of feelings here; it is good to be expressive, whatever that means to you. If you’re feeling joy, smile! Laugh! Life is so much more beautiful when you allow yourself to risk looking like a “fool” while you throw your head back and laugh, or grin to yourself. You hold so much beauty. It would be unfair to yourself to never show it. If you love someone or something, oh my goodness, tell them. People like to know they are appreciated. If you’re feeling sad, tell someone. It’s okay to take some time to yourself, but other people are there to help you; no good person will be angry with you for coming to them for advice. If anything, it will make them feel special that you chose them and that will strengthen your bond. If you’re feeling worried, figure out what it is that’s troubling you and conquer it rather than hide from it. You’re a human being (unless animals or aliens now know how to access Fresh U). You were born with feelings; its more than okay to show them.
4. You are not alone.
Literally, and figuratively. Speaking literally, I’m a bit privileged here because I am speaking as someone who has a strong group of friends from high school, a wonderful family, a caring partner and a supportive group of new friends at college. I know that I am very lucky and that not everyone has people like that in their life, but I need to stress to you that you are not alone. If you don’t feel like you can talk to friends or family about your emotions, try your hardest to find someone else, be that a teacher, counselor, co-worker, coach or therapist. I promise you that even just having someone listen to you get everything off your chest will make you feel so much better; it honestly gives me a bit of a rush when I know I have expressed myself to someone.
And as far as feeling figuratively alone, as in you believe that no one has experienced what you are experiencing and so that makes you strange or bad, that simply isn’t true. Someone somewhere has felt like whatever you are feeling before, and they have gotten through it which means you can, too.
5. Neither the highs nor the lows last forever.
Whether you view that as a comfort or a death sentence is up to you because it means that the bad times won’t last forever, yet neither will the good. When I was younger (goodness, I sound like a grandmother), I used to think that adults all had the goal of being happy and once they became happy that’s how they would remain. However, I know now that that is not at all how things work. Feelings come in different waves, so it is best to take things as they come. You might be going through a good streak when you have a clear mind and lots of determination, and then wake up feeling off. There is nothing wrong with you if that happens, it is normal. The goal should not be to remain happy at all times, it should be to know yourself and become comfortable in your own ebbs and flows.
Look, I know feelings are difficult. They’re something we could all use some better understanding of. I’m a huge culprit of beating around the bush and holding things in, and then either just exploding, or taking things out passive aggressively. We all do it. The idea here is to think about how we tell others to treat and heal themselves, and take that advice to heart for ourselves. I’ll end with a quote from one of my favorite Broadway actresses, Sierra Boggess, “You are enough. You are so enough. It is unbelievable how enough you are.”
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