Leaning In

I never really understood the concept of just letting yourself feel negative emotions. Growing up, I always made it a goal to crush and squash any feelings of sadness, anger, or grief. I thought that if I let myself feel those things, I would’ve “lost” to it in some way.

I thought the best way was to bottle everything up, not talk to anyone about it, and just vent privately in the comfort of a journal or digital notepad. I would become my own therapist, talking myself out of feeling a certain way, and a lot of the time it worked. I wasn’t to show any emotion, I was to hold it together, I was to act completely fine – and if (god forbid) I didn’t, I would beat myself up relentlessly for it because I perceived it as being weak. My perfectionist tendencies spilled into my personal life in a big way.

As I got older and my circle of trust and confidantes grew, this got a bit better as I was able to express myself to my close friends and the bottling of emotions eased up a bit. I could tell people how I was feeling, seek advice and comfort, and just allow my loved ones to hang lights in the darkest corners of my mind.

Still though, I always felt tremendous guilt and self-loathing when those less than desirable feelings bubbled up. I’d force myself to squash them, kill the feelings, erase as best as I could, and that was how I coped with anything traumatic in my life.

But in light of recent changes (and I’m talking many major parts of my life have been turned upside down), I’ve learned that being kind to yourself is everything. Instead of pushing away feelings of confusion, turmoil, or grief – I let myself feel all those things to my core. I lean into the sadness, the unpleasant feelings, and let it wash over me. I let my friends’ words be a source of comfort, of relief, of stability.

What I’ve realized is that these feelings are fleeting – here one moment, gone the next. If I simply allow myself to be a normal human being and process the emotions, then over time they improve and do not come back to bite me later as it often does with suppressing my emotions. I do not criticize myself – I am kind and gentle and I let myself know that it’s okay. Perfectionism and being unjustly hard on myself has no place in my fight for mental health.

I want to say to anyone out there going through a period of transition or uncertainty, that it’s okay to be feeling the way that you are. Do whatever you need for yourself to feel okay, to work through all your thoughts and feelings, and most importantly to be nice to yourself when you feel like you least deserve it, but need it the most.

– J

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