On Learning to Open Up
I always prided myself on “never crying”. I never thought there was anything wrong with other people crying, I just didn’t like crying myself.
I used to think it was because I was tough, but in reality - whenever I cried, people would [as caring friends and family do] ask what was wrong. Now that I’m learning to look at things a bit more soundly, I think I never liked crying because:
a. “Nothing was wrong” a.k.a I felt like whatever was wrong didn’t warrant tears
b. I didn’t want people to think I was crying just to get attention
c. I didn’t want to talk about my feelings
d. I didn’t know how to talk about my feelings
e. All of the above
Honestly, most of the time it was probably e., all of the above. Wasn’t that always the correct answer on tests?
Side rant – I always hated when the correct answer was b. AND c. but that wasn’t an option and you were supposed to fill in two answers on the scantron. WHY SUCH TRICKERY?!
Anywho – see how natural it is for me to avoid talking about feelings? In my defense, when you spend 20 something years living a certain way, it’s going to take some time to relearn those habits, so let me pat myself on the back for writing this in the first place and get back to business.
Where was I? Oh yeah – feelings. That dreaded “F” word.
Logically – we all know that feelings are a part of life (up top, limbic system!) so why
am I sitting here staring at my computer screen trying to figure out how to explain how awkward I feel talking about feelings does it feel like such a taboo topic?
As kids, we know that happiness & joy are good feelings – because we can feel them. But when we feel things like anger, sadness, hurt, anxiety – especially as kids – it’s an uncomfortable feeling that we probably don’t know how to express.
Think of a kid on the playground who just got his toy taken away. Chances are, he’s not going to have a rational conversation with the other kid about why it’s wrong to take things that aren’t yours – and his first response is likely not going to be, “I was really enjoying playing with that toy and now I’m feeling sad that you took it from me.” He’s probably going to cry, scream, throw a tantrum, or c. all of the above.
Nothing about this response is wrong – it just shows that most of us experience emotions that we’re not always equipped to deal with from the time we’re kids.
I think most of us would rather feel joy and happiness than scream on the playground or feel sadness, and I think as a kid that grew into a teenager and then into an adult, I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable or negative emotions – so I tried my best to avoid them.
But - here’s a fun fact that needs no spoiler alert – you can’t expect to feel happiness and joy without experiencing some sadness and anger. However, I still thought that avoiding these negative emotions meant I would experience more positive emotions, and it seemed to be working for me.
I didn’t realize that stomach pains, weight loss, weight gain, headaches, nervousness… were all a result of internalizing all of my negative emotions that I tried to avoid.
Fast-forward to becoming an adult, knowing that it’s healthy to talk about emotions but spending years avoiding it so well that it becomes a habit and feeling like you’re supposed to it “have it all together” paired with the plethora of picture-perfect lives that we see on social media….
It’s no wonder that so many of us suppress negative feelings in hopes of living happier lives but instead end up feeling depressed, anxious, really sad or really angry.
I’m pretty sure at one point in my life, I googled, “how to not be upset.” 😂
As funny as it is now that I ever googled that phrase hoping to find a two-second, 5-second fix, the reality is that the only way past it is through it.
The truth is, that all of us, at some point in our life are going to feel heartache, stress, sadness, frustration, anxiety, despair… and if you’re feeling any of these emotions more often than you’d like, it doesn’t mean you’re broken.
In all honesty, it’s probably your inner cheerleader wanting more for you out of life but unsure how to find it.
More importantly, it just shows that you’re human.
You wouldn’t attempt to fix a broken iPhone without at least doing some research online and you probably trust your handy right-click if a word is spelled wrong - so just like anything else in your life – it’s okay if you don’t know 110% what you’re doing and it’s okay to ask for help.
You probably wouldn’t wait until your car was completely run down before taking it in to get looked at, and I recommend taking the same approach to life. 😉 Don’t wait until you’re completely run down to ask for help.
This is the face of someone who has experienced….
Feeling like “I should be doing more.”
…insert all of those human emotions that no one wants to talk about but everyone feels (including still feeling uncomfortable talking about these feelings openly).
It’s okay to ask for help and it’s okay if it feels uncomfortable. You’re going to feel uncomfortable sitting with those feelings and you’re going to feel uncomfortable opening up - so you might as well reap the benefits of the latter.
Talk to friends or family. You might be surprised to find out that someone has felt exactly the way you’re feeling right now.
Although I can’t say enough good things about talking to a therapist and I’d love for you to completely and utterly trust my opinion – know that I’m not the only one, and that some of the most successful people in world have seen a therapist.
Opening up isn’t always the easiest thing to do but I can promise that over time, it gets easier and it IS going to be one of the best things that you can do if you want to live your happiest, most successful, most rewarding life – you have to let yourself fully feel the negative emotions so that you can fully feel the positive ones.
On that note, I’m going to queue up all of those dramas I watched but never cried during so I can really enjoy them. Kidding…. But also taking any and all suggestions for your favorites because I’ve missed out on a lot of good movies.