By Mike Robbins
I sometimes find it challenging to honor my own feelings – especially if what I want or feel seems to be at odds with other people, or my emotions don’t seem to be “appropriate” to the situation. While I’m not someone who tends to hold back sharing my honest opinions, desires, and feelings, over the years, I’ve gotten quite a bit of feedback from people close to me about talking too much, dominating situations or conversations, and being selfish – underneath all of this is a deep fear that my feelings and desires aren’t as important as other people’s.
It has been humbling to come to this realization about myself recently. However, it has also been incredibly liberating to see this pattern and to ask myself the question, “What would it be like to honor my real feelings and to live my life knowing that what I want and feel is just as important as anyone else?”
Honoring our feelings isn’t about being self-absorbed, arrogant, or better than anyone – it’s really about being true to ourselves, honest with how we feel and what we want, 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.
So why can it be so challenging for us to honor our own feelings? 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 honor our feelings
- We worry that we’ll be seen as selfish
These and other things get in the way of truly honoring what we feel and what we want in life. 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, often the most important people in our lives.
Here are a few things you can do to enhance your capacity to honor your own feelings:
1. 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 feel 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.
2. 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 feelings 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?
3. 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, and our life.
4. 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, is 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 feelings, not talking about them, rationalizing them, or explaining them – but in simply feeling them. Human emotions are not sustainable – especially if they are authentically felt. 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.
5. Get Emotional Support – As important as our emotions are to our lives, our well being, 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.
Share your thoughts, ideas, insights, actions, and more below in the comments.