We’re living in some pretty crazy times right now. From the death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, which I wrote about recently, to the spread of the coronavirus, to President Trump’s acquittal on all impeachment charges – there’s a lot going on in the world around us. And, each of us have important things going on in our lives – both personally and professionally. With all of this happening, it’s extremely important to honor (and actually feel) our feelings.
Honoring our emotions isn’t about being self-absorbed or arrogant – it’s really about being true to ourselves, honest with how we feel, and willing to engage in authentic conversations with other people – even, and especially, when we don’t feel or want the same things that they do.
A question I’ve often asked myself is: “What would it be like to honor my real emotions and to live my life from a deeper place of authenticity?” However, it can be hard to honor our emotions and even harder to share how we truly feel with others. Some of the primary reasons for this are:
- We worry that people won’t like or approve of us
- We don’t value ourselves in an authentic way (i.e. we think we’re not good enough)
- We’ve been taught to put other people’s needs, desires, and feelings ahead of our own
- We’re not comfortable feeling and expressing certain emotions
- We don’t think we “deserve” to have what we want (i.e. we think we’re not important enough)
- We haven’t been taught healthy ways to feel and express our true emotions
- We worry that we’ll be judged as “selfish” or “overly emotional”
These and other things get in the way of feeling and expressing our real emotions. Sadly, by not honoring our feelings we both discount ourselves in a painful, and ultimately damaging way, and we create separation between us and other people – those we live with, work with, and who are most important to us.
Here are a few things you can do to enhance your capacity to honor your emotions:
- Be Real About How You Truly Feel– The first step of any process is always about being real, first and foremost with ourselves. Even if we’re unclear or uncomfortable with a specific situation or certain set of emotions or desires, the more willing we are to be real about what we truly feel and want, the more ability we’ll have to honor ourselves and be authentic with others. Making it a practice of getting in touch with our true feelings is essential. A great way to do this is through journaling. It’s not about justifying how we feel to anyone else; it’s about being honest with ourselves and our emotions.
- Stop Judging Yourself– One of the biggest things that can get in our way in life, in general and specifically when it comes to feeling our emotions and expressing our desires, is self-judgment. We think to ourselves, “I shouldn’t feel this way,” or “If I share this, they will think I’m a terrible person.” We use these self-critical thoughts to suppress our true feelings, which can have significantly negative consequences on us and others. What if we just allowed ourselves to be real and to honor what’s true for us in the moment, without judging it?
- Give Yourself Permission to Feel– Because of our self-judgment, we sometimes don’t give ourselves permission to feel… especially certain emotions. As human beings we tend to have a hierarchy of emotions – liking the “good” ones (love, joy, gratitude, peace, etc.) and not liking the “bad” ones (anger, fear, hurt, powerlessness, etc.). However, at the deepest level, all human emotions have value and can benefit us if we’re willing to feel them in an authentic and healthy way. Giving ourselves permission to feel what we’re feeling is critical to our ability to honor and move through our emotions in a way that serves us, our relationships, our careers, and our lives.
- Let Go of Your “Story”– Many of us, myself included, are attached to our “story.” We love all of the drama and all of the details that make up the relationships, situations, and circumstances in our lives (both past and present). While our life story, as well as the details of specific relationships and circumstances in our lives, are important at some level, too often we get caught in the story and all the drama, which actually takes us out of our emotional experience. Where we have real power is in feeling our emotions authentically, not simply talking about them, rationalizing them, or explaining them – but truly feeling them. Human emotions are not sustainable – especially if they are honestly felt and expressed. It only takes about a minute or two to genuinely feel and move through an emotion. However, when we attach an emotion to a story, we don’t allow ourselves to truly feel it and thus can keep it stuck in place.
- Get Emotional Support– As important as our emotions are to our lives, our well-being, our success, and our relationships, sadly we don’t get a lot of emotional training in life (through school, at work, and in general) and we don’t often have built-in, healthy emotional support mechanisms in our daily lives. We live in a world that is primarily focused on action, results, and appearances – none of which has anything to do with our emotional experience (even though our emotional experience is not only one of the most important aspects of our lives, but is what drives much of what we do and produce in life). There are, however, many ways we can find or enhance our emotional support. Most of us have certain emotional support structures in our lives that we’ve set up for ourselves, consciously or unconsciously. The key is for us to utilize these in a consistent and authentic way, as well as to make sure they are empowering us to honor ourselves and our emotional experience in life.
The craziness in the world, at work, and in our lives may ebb and flow a bit, but it won’t ever really go away completely. We’re the common denominator in all of our experiences and relationships. By authentically honoring, feeling, and expressing our emotions – we can enhance our well-being, eliminate unnecessary suffering, resolve conflicts, and build deeper connections with those around us – at work, at home, and in life. While we’re all beautifully unique as individuals, we all universally experience the full range of emotions as human beings. Remembering this and having the courage to be real about how we truly feel reminds us that we’re all in this thing called life together.
What do you do to honor your emotions in a healthy way? What makes this challenging for you? Feel free to share your thoughts, insights, or any questions you have in the comments section below.
This post was originally published on Forbes.