This is a guest post by Tara Kemp.
Those who know me well know that if I’m not talking about food, I’m probably talking about feels.
I don’t know what it’s like to live in anyone else’s head/heart balance so I’m not trying to compare here, but relatively speaking, I’ve always felt things deeply—and, for better or worse, analyzed my feelings. But what I didn’t realize until more recently is that more important than your feelings themselves, is how you feel about your feelings.
Sound a little trippy and inception-esque? Let me assure you that it’s simpler than it may seem.
For example, have you ever felt angry at someone… and then felt guilty for feeling angry? Or have you ever felt afraid of something… and then ashamed of that fear?
Yup, that is what I am talking about.
When Sara first asked me to write a guest post for the QFYC blog, I had lots of ideas of topics to write about. This was not one of them, haha. But I was feeling some down-ish feels a few days before sitting down to write this, and it got me thinking about how my relationship with and experience through tough feelings has changed.
I am really grateful for my ability to sit with sadness or anxiety and not let it overtake me, or to feel one way or another about it, but just let it be there. I thought that other people might benefit from hearing a little more about this, because unfortunately it’s not something that I’ve seen discussed much.
So I decided to pass on a little insight I’ve gained, in hopes that you might find it helpful. I mean, I certainly had no idea that I used to put myself through unnecessary excess pain by adding a layer of judgment onto already difficult feelings! So if any of this resonates, this post is for you.
When we are experiencing tough feelings, we can be especially hard on ourselves.
But the truth is, that doesn’t do us ANY good. Seriously. You may think that if you aren’t so hard on yourself, then you are endorsing or fueling feelings that you shouldn’t. If you didn’t berate yourself for feeling anxiety about XYZ, you would be passively allowing it, right? Or maybe the anxiety would never go away!
But that’s baloney. If you can relate to these feelings, ask yourself: did being hard on yourself ever make things better? …Nope. It never does.
Being hard on ourselves just piles on additional stress and pain. Be real—who wants to carry that around? That stuff is heavy, yo. No thank you!
One of the most important skills I’ve learned is radical self-acceptance.
What this means is recognizing that no matter what you are feeling, it’s okay to feel. Always. And rather than judging that feeling, to just accept it and be aware of it. Let it be there. Don’t fight it; just sit with it.
By doing this, we lessen the power that the feeling has on us.
When we resist, it persists. By fighting it, we further anchor ourselves to a feeling. The act of resistance actually puts our attention and energy on the very thing we want to avoid. But when we surrender and simply allow the feeling to be, we realize that it doesn’t need to be all consuming. It’s just one of many things going on in our bodies and brains.
When we’re ready, if it’s a particularly big and unpleasant feeling, we may want to unpack it and see where it’s coming from. Or perhaps it will eventually subside naturally.
The first and most important step, though, is acceptance. It’s tougher than it may sound to accept our feelings as they are, but it is absolutely worth the effort—it’s a total game-changer.
All feelings are temporary and transient. If we recognize this, it makes uncomfortable feelings less daunting because we know they will pass. It also makes us savor the particularly good feelings because we know that they, too, will pass – and enables us to be okay with it when they eventually do.
When we accept our feelings, we don’t get as caught up in them. We can watch them from a point of separation and better handle our reaction to them. Because while we can’t control our feelings, we can control how we react to them. When we have compassion with ourselves and accept our feelings as they are, there’s no judgment or pressure to feel differently. We actually detach from them a little more this way, and can look at them more clearly.
Facing our feelings takes bravery. It’s not always easy – but I assure you that it’s much easier when you do it from a place of acceptance and compassion. From there, we can see our feelings for what they really are, and we often realize that they are less scary and less powerful than we might have thought. We know it is okay, and we don’t need to do anything but let them be there. And know that they will pass.
That’s the truth that seems too simple to be true, but which I have found to be undoubtedly true. When feelings arise, we don’t need to DO anything. The most important and foundational thing to do is to not do anything. We need to let go, and let them be. We need to surrender, accept, and make peace with them.
When we make peace with our feelings, we make peace with ourselves.