1. We learn to embrace and come to terms with pain.
Despite our intense emotional wounds, the hurt will pass and scars eventually heal. We learn, over time, that it is healthy to process our emotions rather than to cling to them.
As time moves on, so does the emotional strain, yet we needn’t clutch to our pain story. We can suffer or let go of what no longer serves us.
We must love and acknowledge our darker aspects like our pain and grief. If you appreciate the sun and wish away the darkness how would you see the stars at night?
Our emotional wounds lead us to the wholeness of ourselves. It is remiss to emphasize our darkness while identifying with our light since we encompass both parts.
Pain is a powerful teacher that connects us with our inner wisdom.
Without pain, how can we recognize the enduring self that lies beneath the rubble of suffering?
Without pain, we are powerless to embrace the entirety of who we are.
Our emotional wounds do not imply we are flawed, yet show our true character. They are our battle scars that show we have danced with life and lived to tell the tale. We communicate to others of the struggles that lie ahead, having traversed the path ourselves.
Our wounds lie fragmented deep within our psyche. If we have not reconciled them, they grow stronger until we address them. They are the imposing shadow, lurking in the darkness waiting to grab hold if we grow weary.
2. We learn the strength in returning back to love.
We can become our own healer in loving and nurturing declarations to ourselves. This reinforces how it is now safe to face these emotions with openness to heal.
Our emotional wounds call us to connect with our inner child instead of escaping when the pain intensifies. To run away from pain is the opposite of loving kindness because we neglect to honor our emotional well-being. We must love ourselves foremost as you would a friend or loved one who is hurt.
To demonstrate this commitment, consider the vows recited when two people marry: to honor one another through the good times and bad. So we ought to make the same commitment to ourselves. Irrespective of the emotions that arise, we will honor them.
Our emotional wounds strengthen us because they show we have lived a purposeful life.
There is a broader lesson contained within each emotional wound. If we penetrate through the pain, we realize it is a return to love.
This simple act of self-renewal permeates into our conscious, so regardless of the external conditions, our deepest wisdom leads us to connect with our heart.
To heal, we must de-clutter our lives and nurture the child within, while creating a secure environment for healing to occur.
3. We becometransformed from theinside-out.
The saying, time heals all wounds does not hold significance if we don’t make the time to face them. We may store away the emotional fragments of the past, only to have them reappear at a later stage.
To confront our emotional wounds means to honor ourselves foremost. No matter what emerges, we trust we will cope.
Everyone is bound to experience hurt and pain in their lives. Unless you’ve lived under a rock, we all carry emotional pain. It’s how we transform the pain to develop a deeper relationship with ourselves that leads to inner freedom.
Our wounds strengthen us because they invite us to be sensitive to our emotional life. We become inquisitive about our emotions and examine them with openness and equanimity.
To be curious fosters a balanced relationship with the wholeness of who we are, rather than dismiss the emotions as untoward. As we associate with our fractured parts, we strengthen our commitment to ourselves.
To accept and heal our emotional wounds, we release them to invite the power of love to occupy its space. We allow the experience to transform us into empowered beings.
Our childhood wounds are exposed through adult relationships and if we do little to confront them, they can ruin our lives. Therefore, they are a gift guiding us to heal within. Through mindfulness, we learn to be grounded in the present moment and experience any emotions that emerge. This simple act cultivates true intimacy with ourselves.
So avoid holding on to your pain. There is no power gained from being a victim, other than to deflect your wounds onto others to appease your suffering.
This statement reaffirms the need to love ourselves completely, no matter the emotions.
Our responsibility is not to judge ourselves, but to reconcile the pain and integrate it into our experience toward oneness.
What is it with us and that enormous emotional baggage that we tend to carry around? For a second, imagine yourself standing in the heavy pouring rain with an empty bucket. The longer you stand there holding the bucket, the heavier it gets. It gets heavier rather quickly, doesn’t it? How long can we hold it for? There comes a moment when we need to release it before it gets too much…
Sometimes we think that what happens to us and what goes to our emotional baggage is what defines us.
We have our bag of sorrows about the past and this striving desire to go back in time and change a few things for the better. Why? Because reality looks nothing like we have imagined. We have this image in our mind of the way things should be and it’s daunting us down. Some of us have trouble accepting what happened in the past and how things turned out because of that. And our emotional baggage grows with new sorrows.
So what hides in our emotional baggage? Isn’t it all about fear? Isn’t about the fear of getting hurt again? Or making the same mistakes and going through disappointments and betrayals? And we then find ourselves trapped in that damaging and “protective” mechanism that keeps us away from living our lives free from used patterns.
How Much of Emotional Baggage Do We Carry Around?
We all have emotional baggage. Some of us have 3 suitcases of heavy things, some of us have just a tiny bag… Everyone has them. Sometimes we feel as if we were carrying a lifetime’s heaviness of sorrows, pain, and anger.
Painful emotions tend to shape us and the way we see others. Those memories and emotions influence what we seek and draw to our life and the way we interact with people. Painful memories from the past create a blueprint for the subconscious mind, which prevents us from fully taking part in new situations and relationships. Meaning that we might treat people we’ve just met as the “guilty” ones whom we feel anger towards because of the past. Or we recreate look-alike experiences to relieve and work out the past.
Memories are just thoughts that have a tendency to rise like dough when it gets hot, but they aren’t real. It just happened and your past has no effect on you in the NOW. We can release ourselves from the tight grip of worrying by focusing on being present.
We don’t have to be tortured by guilt and things that happened in the past. We couldn’t comprehend back then how to handle things better. We tried our best at that time because no one can act beyond their level of consciousness. There is nothing worse than being tremendously upset with ourselves all the time.
We can’t change the past. There is no future in the past anyway. What we can do is to define our sorrows, release the pain and clear space for better things that life has in store for us.
Spotting Emotional Baggage
1. Endless Comparing Cycle – How often do you compare yourself and your life with others? Do you worry that you are not good enough?
2. Utter Deficiency – It’s sharply experienced when we pay too much attention to our faults, shortcomings, and weaknesses feeling inadequate compared to the others. It turns into a habit and even obsession. We tend to go on a quest and dig up something new that we think is “wrong” about us. I certainly know the feeling…
3. Swinging Swords of Bad Moods – it happens when we feel contempt towards new situations, uncertainty about the future, people, and negative outlook on life as a whole.
4. Relocating Emotions and Feelings – Have you ever flipped out at someone because of something when you felt annoyed about something completely different? If we feel angry or annoyed with something or someone, we tend to transfer those emotions to someone else.
5. Terrified of Being Alone – when we are uncomfortable in the company of ourselves, we jump into relationships we don’t care about, we work till we burn out completely, we even exercise extensively, we do-do-do… whatever it takes to distract ourselves from our thoughts. We run the race against ourselves and feel busted when we learn that there is no escape from our thoughts. And we need to learn to deal with them and that emotional baggage that we carry.
How to Deal With Emotional Baggage Effectively
1. Identify The Triggers & Acknowledge Your Emotions
Now. Imagine a crochet hook. Think about the hooks that yank unpleasant emotions. Make a list of all the things you could think of that weight you down. Think about your limiting beliefs and what caused them. Look for the similarities and the patterns. Then pay attention to your emotions.
The more we pay attention to the way we react to things and why the more we control our reaction and what triggers it. Identify the reality which is a direct reflection of your thoughts. And then, think about your new behavior that would enable you to live more freely from the sorrows of the past.
Emotional baggage is often framed as a “story” we tell ourselves. The more you challenge those stories, the faster you accept that you don’t have to carry that heaviness. The more you understand that you can leave that unnecessary heaviness out there on the carousel of the baggage claim and away from you and your life.
2. Do You Have a Desire to Heal and Be Free?
Our conscious desire to heal and be free from emotional baggage is crucial. We cannot heal unless we know what healing should feel like.
Ask yourself this: What will it feel like when I let go of the heaviness and leave my emotional baggage behind? How would I act and think since I don’t have to carry it with me anymore? How would my relationships with people look like?
Take your time to think and reflect on those questions.
Have your desire to heal and to be free at all times in your mind.
3. Forgiveness is Vital
Make it your goal to release yourself from all the weight of the emotional baggage. If you refuse to let go then all you do is sniff rotten milk you should have thrown away ages ago…
Tap into your awareness and stay vigilant of your thinking process. Be aware of what exactly goes into your bucket and make sure you release it on time.
Bless your past, wish it well, forgive and let go…
When you forgive, you in no way change the past, but you sure do change the future. – Bernard Meltzer
4. What Did You Take From The Experience?
Let’s take a look at our past experiences. What did you take from them? What lessons did they bring you?
It’s up to us how we choose to see the world: through the glasses of fear and contempt towards the future… or we can choose to embrace it with all the hope and forgiveness of the past.
The process of letting go and healing takes time. Change doesn’t happen overnight, and it takes a lot of courage and dedication to face the fears and sorrows. But it’s worth it. The moment we start shaping our decisions – our destiny changes.
Emotional baggage is all about fear. But remember that on the other side of fear your freedom is patiently waiting for you to come and claim it.
To develop self-trust, stop seeking the opinions of others and recognize the guidance within you.
Self-trust is harnessed when we follow our sacred wisdom instead of looking outside ourselves to provide inner peace.
We develop self-trust by honoring our emotions instead of hiding behind them. As you honor your feelings, you develop trust in your capacity to deal with what arises.
Equally, we must distance ourselves from people who undermine our self-trust. Some people push your pain buttons because it pleases them to see you suffer. Whilst they can help us to identify our disowned parts, we are better to distance ourselves from them rather than become embroiled in their deceitful ways.
Self-trust is developed by nurturing our innermost thoughts. Whilst we cannot control external circumstances, we become curious to what is going on inside us instead of retaliate in anger.
“As we learn to recognize and understand the body’s subtle sensations, and then act on them, our self-trust will grow tremendously. To me it is rather amazing that the body has this innate sense of the truth, as if the body is hardwired for it,” states psychotherapist John Prendergast Ph.D.
The subtleties of the human body point to what is going on beneath the surface, so we become attuned to the minor fluctuations and our true needs.
2. Follow the Inner Guidance
It’s vital we honor our commitment to ourselves, whether it be in the goals we set or pursuing our dreams. To dishonor them diminishes our self-trust because we fail to follow through on our plans.
Fostering self-trust involves developing a compassionate dialogue with ourselves. In times of turmoil, we should cultivate compassionate thoughts rather than be ruled by the unfolding drama. We plant the seed of equanimity and nurture it with kindness so it grows strong.
Self-trust arises when we make time to honor the child within us. This means devoting time to be with ourselves, instead of declaring how busy we are, in the midst of craving emotional compassion.
John Prendergast states, “As we learn to slow down, tune in to our inner guidance, and act on it, our self-trust grows. We increasingly get the feel for when something resonates as being true or false for us, in or out of accord. This sense of inner resonance becomes our inner authority.”
Our inner authority is the pillar of a stable emotional life. We take the time to connect with our emotional wellbeing and attend to any disturbances that show up.
3. Understand the Power of Silence
How do you recognize when you need time alone?
Whenever you notice internal unrest, it is a call to spend time in silence to examine the emotions.
It is no surprise our lives are hectic. We are more likely to pay attention to external events instead of meet our personal needs. We spend our waking life fixed on the world “out there” instead of within. Yet, if we continue down this path we neglect our inner life, which influences how we relate to the world.
“How am I doing?”
This simple question allows us to distinguish what is going on inside us, instead of dismissing the emotional disturbances as unjustified.
“Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.” — Golda Meir
Eckhart Tolle states that whenever emotional chaos is apparent, we invite an earlier Pain-Body experience into the present moment. This is obvious when others trigger our Pain-Body, such as being cut off in traffic or someone taking our line in the queue whilst shopping.
If we don’t take the time to examine what is going on beneath the surface, we react instead of interact with our core emotions.
“Most of us have not tried just sitting in and through a feeling experience. We have not trusted ourselves enough to let our feelings take their full course. So we never find out that a feeling is not so tough on us as we imagine it will be. We miss out on how much better we feel when we let go instead of hold back. Nothing is so hard to handle as the fear of facing it,” affirms author David Richo.
Building self-trust does not mean we will always say or do the right thing. Irrespective of our words or actions, whatever arises is there to guide our personal evolution.
4. Develop Mindfulness
A well-known practice for developing self-trust is to be mindful of your body moments before you react to external events. So, with someone taking your place in the shopping queue, move into your body and note any tension or tightness. Become curious toward these sensations and observe them non-judgmentally.
For example, you might be aware of a constricting sensation in your chest moments before retaliating with the person who took your place in the queue at the supermarket.
Be with the emotion and simply notice it without an agenda. Silently repeat the phrase, “I’m aware of you” or as Daniel Goleman suggests, label the emotion. So we affirm to ourselves, anger or fear instead of act on it.
This simple action puts the brakes on deferring our emotions and draws our awareness to what is going on inside us.
In this way we become aware and awake, instead of unconscious to the emotional drivers in our life.
We develop self-trust by honoring every facet of our being irrespective of whether we approve or disapprove of that part of us.
For example, those with a diminished self-esteem might criticize themselves for reacting angrily to a situation. In contrast, those with an empowered self-esteem see it as an opportunity to become inquisitive and a teaching point from which to grow.
5. Work On Heart-Centered Awareness
To develop self-trust is to listen to our heart’s guidance, rather than be dictated by the incessant thoughts.
Our thoughts are saboteurs since they cannot be trusted. Given their volatility from moment to moment, we cannot rely on them to make sense of our environment.
For example, at the end of a working day your thoughts are scattered, while mid-morning after you’ve had a cup of coffee they’re less likely to be reactive.
However, the heart is not influenced by fluctuating mood changes. There is a stillness that longs for you to connect with, even during your darkest hour. Practice moving your awareness into your heart in the midst of the commotion and observe the silence.
Be with the sensations that arise and meet them with openness. You’ll soon realize the habitual and stressful thoughts melt away, leaving a sea of expansiveness that permeates your mind and body.
Self-trust is an invitation to develop a relationship with your core self. We learn to become our own best friend and appreciate the interplay between our thoughts and emotions, instead of remaining unconscious to them.
In doing so, we learn to trust the guidance from our deepest wisdom.
Ultimately, if we continue to place our trust in others’ opinions, we will disengage from our sense of authority and diminish our self-confidence over time.
We are all worthy. Each and every one of us has an equal right to occupy our individualized space in the world for as long as we’re alive. There are those who radiate the goodness of their spirit and those who inflict harm on themselves and others. This is balance…whether we accept it or not, it’s not for us to judge. We can control the thinking, actions, and responses of only one person in our lives; ourselves. In the quest of self-growth, evolution, and the process of daily change, we can either become increasingly self-aware or decide to impede our process for a variety of reasons.
When we discover our self-worth and actively maintain it, this is when we begin to live richer lives through equilibrium, reciprocated love, and inner contentment. This is our rite of passage in which we can take ownership with ease — if we choose to do so.
By accepting who we are right here, right now is half of the victory. If we take a moment and make a list of ten positive qualities and ten negative ones that currently reflect our sense of self, we can begin to see things more concretely—in writing. For every negative belief, make a notation on what can be done to transform this area into something more beneficial, productive, and ultimately worthy of improvement. If it causes great discomfort, it requires more acceptance yet more attention to make peace with it in order to heal. By accepting life’s circumstances and the people that caused us harm, we can forgive them; which in turn allows us to accept and forgive ourselves. The truth is we too have directly and indirectly harmed ourselves and others along the way. We may even go as far to let others know we forgive them and to ask those we have wronged for forgiveness, too. Whether it’s granted or not is of no consequence as long as we can be gentle on ourselves and self-correct.
Once we begin to reflect on the areas in ourselves that feel broken and are in need of care and nurture, all of those wounds begin to reveal themselves on the surface. This is good and honest. The more love we put into our inner holes, the more they begin to radiate a light that was once void in darkness. When we begin to self-heal, our physical, mental, and emotional layers become aligned and we can actively restore ourselves into healthy and strong willed individuals. When something or someone doesn’t add to our lives, we become more attuned to our needs and can make decisions to walk away for self-preservation. When something or someone enriches our lives, we can make the decision to embrace it. This is creating a system of self-protection through reasonable boundaries and limits; a true sign of self-love. The balance of giving and receiving is also another milestone in the discovery and maintenance of one’s relationship with self and others.
Life is made in a series of ups and downs, a dynamic of beauty and brutality, and a sequence of events and relationships that are a part of our journey–for better or for worse. Once we realize that we are in fact the key players in the lives in which we are actively (or inactively) developing, we no longer accept the minimum that we either give/receive yet find natural movement towards achieving the maximum. Although there are many external factors that we seek out to “validate” who and what we are as individuals, it’s the internal factors that dictate our authentic image of self-worth. The higher the value we place on ourselves through gratitude and self-confidence, we live charmed lives in which we are our most prized possessions in mind, body, and spirit. Only if we believe, think, and feel it in unison, no one or nothing (including ourselves) can devalue us. This is because you and I both are invaluable…
Strong girls don’t realize how strong they are until a little bit of time passes, until they’re able to look back on everything from a distance.
In the moment, strong girls mistake themselves as weak. They think there’s something wrong with them for breaking down, for having trouble leaving the house, for crying their eyes out, for lashing out, for questioning whether they can make it through another day when the last one was already hard enough.
In the moment, it’s so easy for even the strongest girls to doubt themselves. It’s easy to say, I’m not sure whether I have what it takes to beat this, I’m not sure whether I can get through this pain, I’m not sure whether I’m going to feel this way forever.
In the moment, you might not be able to see light coming through the cracks. You might lose faith in yourself. You might lose hope in your future. You have no idea what’s in store for you, so you have no idea whether you’re going to be able to handle what’s coming. You have a million different questions and aren’t getting any answers.
In the moment, it’s easy to overlook your strength. You don’t feel strong for surviving another twenty-four hours. You don’t feel strong for walking away from a bad situation. You don’t feel strong because your emotions are pulling your thoughts in a million different directions. You’re too busy experiencing fresh pain to see the situation clearly, to see how strong you are for making it through to the other side.
Right now, you might not think you’re anything special. But when you look back at all of the bullshit that was thrown your way, you’re going to be proud of yourself for how much you accomplished. You’re going to be impressed by all of the times you could have given up but decided to keep going, to keep believing.
When you look back on everything you’ve gone through, you’re going to be able to see the situation more clearly. You’re going to be able to take a step back and say, I never should have been subjected to that kind of pain, that would have been difficult for anyone to get through, it takes a strong person to survive that, I must be stronger than I thought.
If you haven’t been able to reach that place of self-reflection yet, if you’re still in the middle of hell right now, you have to remember that you’re stronger than you believe. You can do this. You can make it through this heartache, this loss, this struggle within yourself.
You were strong enough to get through yesterday even though it was hard, and you’re strong enough to get through today too.
In this moment, you might feel weak, vulnerable, like everything you do is wrong — but in the future you’re going to look back and wish you could pat the current-you on the back because you’re doing the best you can. You’re stronger than you could ever imagine.
The older I get, the more I find myself thinking about the idea of self-acceptance, and what a crucial role it plays in how we all conduct and present ourselves on a daily basis as individuals. As someone who has struggled with social anxiety and depression, you could say I have a lot of personal experience with this concept.
From as early as the age of eight, I’ve compared myself with others, choosing to focus on my supposed physical, emotional, and intellectual deficits in comparison as opposed to my God-given strengths and abilities. When I’m feeling extremely anxious, I’ve noticed that I effectively stifle my personality in fear of appearing too vulnerable or embarrassing myself.
Time and time again, I’ve chosen to believe the lies that I’m not attractive enough (which usually translates to ‘thin’ enough), smart enough, strong enough, enough; period.
Despite having a good number of close friends and family members who have continually affirmed me and recognized the beauty in my individuality, I still continue to believe these horrible lies about myself; about who I’ve been created to be.
Despite identifying as a feminist and strongly if not overwhelmingly agreeing with the feminist ideas of body positivity regardless of shape or size and finding one’s self worth in individual capabilities rather than physical appearance and allure, I still believe I am not physically attractive enough and therefore somehow worth less than others.
For the majority of my 25 years, I’ve begun to realize that I’ve both consciously and unconsciously rejected, rather than embraced, countless unique, God-given attributes of myself–from my fuller figure to my being a verbal processor. I’ve asked myself questions of the like countless times: Why don’t I look more like her? Why can’t I just be an internal processor who isn’t so obnoxious and emotional? Why am I always so sensitive? Why do I sound like such an airhead when I try to make a point compared to that smart girl in class?
Today, in reflecting upon these thoughts and many more, I realized something else: the majority of these self-deprecating thoughts have their root in comparison not just to another individual, but mostly to other women. And while I’ve tended to pride myself as one confident enough to be genuinely happy for others in their own personal achievements and happiness, I’m beginning to see that I’m in reality sometimes jealous of them, whether in regards to physical appearance, relationship status or otherwise, and have effectively fallen into the trap our culture sets for women: that we should believe ourselves to be inherently inferior to and therefore be envious of the strengths and abilities of other women, constantly and aggressively competing with them. All too often, what actress Tina Fey in Mean Girls so eloquently described as “girl-on-girl crime” seems to take the form of comparison, whether of the physical, emotional, intellectual or otherwise personal variety.
If another woman appears to be more attractive, intelligent, is in a relationship while you aren’t; fill in the blank, our culture tells us we need to do whatever we can do to beat or outmaneuver them in order to validate our own personal sense of self-worth. Even in demonstrating self-acceptance, we often do it at the expense of other women as though we have something to prove. Consider, for example, the messages of the “empowering” musical anthems of our day written by female artists, such as the bridge and chorus of Meghan Trainor’s hit, “Me Too”:
I thank God every day
That I woke up feeling this way,
And I can’t help loving myself, and I don’t need nobody else (nu-uh)
If I was you, I’d wanna be me too (x3)
While I will clarify that I greatly appreciate Trainor’s musical style, I believe she is very talented and would consider myself a fan, I will also say that I respectfully disagree with the way she goes about getting her message across here. While I certainly admire her self-love and am not denying her right to do so, I do not believe self-acceptance needs to or should be expressed in a way that implies individual strengths can only be recognized in light of others’ inferiority in comparison.
I honestly believe that women like Meghan Trainor in many cases don’t even realize that they’ve fallen into the trap of comparison when attempting to communicate self-love. In this way, the true idea of true, unabashed self-acceptance in the absence of comparison as a woman in today’s society remains radical in comparison to the self-hatred and body dissatisfaction that is culturally encouraged.
Even more radical, then, is the idea that Christ died for each and every one of us despite our being completely undeserving so that we could be given the privilege of a relationship with God, our creator.
While we haven’t all been born prophets, the fact that He has created us each as unique individuals with a purpose speaks volumes about His love for us and our inherent worth; far more than our comparison or perceived superiority to other women ever could. While Christianity and feminism are often assumed and treated as though they are at odds with one another, I don’t believe this to be true. If God accepts and loves us unconditionally in our belief, how much more should we accept ourselves as He has created us to be physically, mentally, emotionally, and intellectually? This is, of course, much easier said than done, and is something I can admit I haven’t yet achieved. I’ve started by choosing to remind myself daily of some of my strengths–such as that I am easily able to personally connect and empathize with people, that i am loving, caring and that I’m deeply passionate about mental health and hope to work in the field in the future. As a Christian and a woman, I believe it is necessary and possible to recognize and praise God for these abilities and more that He has gifted me with. Radical, but possible.
You are told that you’re an individual when in reality everything around you and inside you screams of other people’s expectations and desires.
The minute we are born, parents subconsciously attach their happiness to us. They pick up outfits for us since we’re too young to even know what to wear or how to socialize. They raise us and teach us to adapt to the society, norms and culture that surrounds us. We give in. That’s how it is.
We are born with genes that determine a lot about our physical and sometimes even behavioural characteristics. What’s so original about being born out of centuries of handed-down genes? It’s not like I’m one of a kind, mutated human like the X-men. Even being a mutant comes with a lot of pressure for societal conformity. So I’m rather comfortable being a human, but sometimes I start to wonder: Does that spark of individuality truly exist within all of us, or is everything just a manifestation and effect of things around us.
After all that conditioning, what is actually left of us? Are we truly as individualistic as we like to think we are?
Go to college. Get a degree. Look for a job. Find your soul mate. Get married.
These are all meaningful steps in our lives, but it’s frightening how much of other’s aspirations are invested in us. Our lives are already engineered in advance by society; we are already working our way to that degree or that entry-level job. That’s how life works. It isn’t necessarily a dreary and wearisome journey; in fact it could be rather enjoyable depending on circumstances and personal preferences.
Many of us are studying for degrees not because it’s what we truly want, but merely because there might be a slight chance that our resume will stand out more in the near future when we are hunting jobs. A good handful of us are pursuing a job or degree we don’t want, primarily because it puts food on the table or because our parents might experience that joyous moment when we graduate with a post-graduate degree. We are not as separate as we think we are, our goals and professions are at times attached to other people and their well-being, joy or expectations.
But you know what?
There are rare occasions where we have the ability to tune into our individual being and soul. Some find it through meditation, music or joy in pursuing a hobby no one else knows about.
Others find it in that tiny moment where you’re standing in a crowd of friends and a single thought in your mind knocks down every argument they have to present in the ongoing debate about politics, culture or the economy.
Children who are too young to be aware of morals and consequences stand stubborn as stone against their well-informed parents about something they believe in. That is individuality.
Being put in social conditions and realizing what you feel or think stands apart from any expectation, conditioning or external factor. Experiencing a short moment of self-realization where what you think or feel holds more value than any economic, social or moral standard is being an individual. These tiny moments build up inside us every single day and help morph us into the person we are today or will be tomorrow.
It’s these glimpses within ourselves that allow us to realize we are alone and have the ability to retain our own mind and soul despite everything that is around us.
If something were to happen that would cause you to lose all of your past memories permanently, who would you be? This question absolutely perplexes me, because I feel like I am so much a compilation of my experiences. And aren’t we all?
I want to know if someone would bother to tell me about all of the things I’ve struggled with in my life, or if they’d just let me go on in my ignorant bliss. I want to know if I would actually be blissful, or if I’d find other things to worry about. I want to know if I’d have the same experiences or run into the same problems that I did before.
I want to know who I am at my core, is what I’m trying to say. I want to know who I would be if I hadn’t been shaped by the people, places and events in my life. Because I know I wouldn’t be a blank canvas. I’d have likes and dislikes, opinions and passions, and they wouldn’t be because I’ve been influenced to behave a certain way.
Many times I’ve alluded to how I’ve experienced my fair share of problems (although I haven’t disclosed what exactly they’ve been, you can probably infer) and I’ve also noted how much I’ve changed through the process of coming back from these painful experiences. I want to clarify something. I don’t think I’ve actually changed. I think I’ve become more and more myself. Every time I’m pushed to my limits and don’t know how I’ll go on, the way I eventually do is by removing a layer of my ego and living out what I know to be truly me.
There is nothing more liberating than the day you realize you’re living without consideration of other’s opinions. It’s the day that you’re focused on what you are doing, right in that moment. It’s when you don’t hold back because you’re afraid of who may judge you and make you feel embarrassed. It’s also the day that you accept negative opinions as weightless, insignificant thoughts of others. You make yourself the only person in control of your life. As it should be.
Telling someone they are “overreacting” or they should “lighten up” disconnects them from their emotional experience.
For the majority of highly sensitive people, our experience includes having strong emotions. Indeed, a common trait among HSPs is our ability to feel deeply, as this is adjacent to sensitivity. Unfortunately, many non-HSPs don’t quite comprehend the depths of our emotions, which can result in feeling misunderstood.
While growing up, I repeatedly received the message that my emotions were “too much” — from people telling me that I was “overreacting” or to “lighten up” to shaming me for expressing my emotions and informing me that my feelings were “wrong.” Unsurprisingly, this type of rhetoric disconnects people from their emotional experience, and ultimately, ourselves as a whole.
HSPs, we deserve better. It is all too easy to be labeled as “too emotional,” given that we live in a society that doesn’t value emotions. Instead, “rationality” is largely considered to be the antithesis of being emotional, and is valued and placed on a pedestal. I can’t help but wonder: Is it actually rational to deny something so inherent to the human experience?
6 Reasons Why Your Emotions Are Not ‘Too Much’
1. “You can’t heal what you don’t feel.”
Despite the misconception that emotions are superfluous, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Indeed, emotions aren’t just normal, they’re also healthy. There’s a popular saying in the world of psychotherapy that “you can’t heal what you don’t feel.” Essentially, this means that in order to adequately process and heal from a difficult experience, we need to allow ourselves to name, express, and of course, feel any and all emotions associated with that experience.
A great example of this is from the Disney/Pixar movie Inside Out. At one point, Bing Bong, Riley’s former imaginary friend, becomes distraught after losing his rocket, prompting him to mourn his relationship with Riley. Once he’s able to reflect on why he’s feeling sad, express that sadness, and receive validation, his sadness begins to dissipate and he starts to feel better, allowing him to move on. Although a simplified example — we typically aren’t able to work through emotions quite this quickly — this does illustrate the importance of feeling our emotions in order to heal from life experiences. And since sensitive people feel on a deeper level than others, it may take us a bit longer to process things.
2. Repressing emotions does not work.
The message we receive from society is, in order to prevent being seen as “too emotional,” we simply need to repress our emotions, as this is the “rational” approach to take. However, as you likely already know — either from personal experience or on an intuitive level — repressing our emotions doesn’t work.
There’s a popular metaphor used in therapy: think of a beach ball floating on the surface of the water. What happens when you try to submerge the beach ball into the water? It doesn’t want to go down or stay down. Perhaps you’re able to keep it submerged for a bit, but it takes a lot of effort and struggle. Plus, the harder you try to keep the beach ball submerged, the greater force it’ll have when popping back up. This is the same for our emotions: we can try to repress them, but the more we do, the more we will struggle, and the more force they will reappear with. So it helps to avoid that struggle and simply allow your emotions to be.
Similarly, sometimes HSPs will try to numb their feelings through emotional buffering — they’ll mask them through things like shopping, food, or even substance use. But this, too, is just trying to submerge the beach ball instead of dealing with it.
3. For better or worse, emotions help guide us.
As alluded to previously, the common argument against displaying emotions is that they can be considered to be the opposite of rationality. That is a grave misunderstanding of emotions and the benefits they bring us.
You can think of emotions like signals we can use to navigate the roads of life. Firstly, we need to identify what the signal actually is. When we are able to recognize and label the emotion we are feeling, we can then process our emotions with more efficiency. Secondly, our emotions have purpose; each one has useful information we can use to help guide us.
For example, sadness can mean that a need of ours is not being met; anger can indicate that our boundaries are being violated; fear can warn us against a potentially dangerous situation; guilt can help us learn from past mistakes and make amends; and happiness can keep us returning to something that promotes overall well-being. As a highly sensitive person, you may feel all these emotions more so than a non-HSP, which can add beauty and depth to your life.
When we are connected to our emotional experience, we are better able to define our emotions. That way, we can then receive important knowledge about what steps to take in order to live our best possible lives.
4. Emotions allow us to be embodied.
Embodiment is the ability for us to fully feel into our bodies and be present with our experience. Embodiment also has many benefits, including better physical and mental health. Sounds simple, right?
Unfortunately, we live in a world that frequently promotes the opposite of this. Feeling tired? You can sleep when you’re dead! Feeling hungry? Diet culture rewards you for that! Feeling pain during exercise? No pain, no gain! We receive messages that we are “weak” for listening to the important signals our bodies are trying to communicate to us: for getting enough sleep, eating when we’re hungry, and stopping exercise when we’re in pain.
It’s difficult, to say the least, to be embodied in a culture that tries to disconnect us from our bodies. Being with our emotions, however, can help bring us back to our bodies. Indeed, our emotions reside in our bodies. Have you noticed how your chest feels heavy when you’re sad? That your heart races when you’re scared? That you feel hot when you’re angry? Or even that you feel light when you’re happy? By recognizing our physical sensations, including those associated with our emotions, as they are happening, we are able to return to embodiment.
5. Emotions increase our self-knowledge.
As previously established, emotions are a basic component of the human experience. Therefore, when we deny our emotions, we in turn deny ourselves. Instead, when we can be with our emotions — something we HSPs are naturally good at anyway, given our intuitive abilities — we can better recognize them. And then, we can comprehend how to approach them healthfully, both within ourselves and others. This is what research psychologist Daniel Goleman defines as “emotional intelligence.”
Although allowing yourself to feel your emotions does not automatically equate to emotional intelligence, it’s a step in the right direction. Conversely, we move further away from emotional intelligence when we attempt to repress our emotions. This not only makes the experience of being with our feelings less familiar, but it also sends the message that feeling our emotions is unsafe.
6. Only you know your own experience.
The fact of the matter is — you are the only one living your life. Therefore, you are the only one who knows your experience. Only you can determine your emotional reality. Therefore, when others accuse you of being “too emotional,” this is gaslighting, which is when the other person uses a form of manipulation that makes you question your sanity or your version of things. In this particular situation, the gaslighting by the other person is typically rooted in an effort to make themselves feel more comfortable.
However, dear reader, you do not have to censor yourself for the sake of others. It’s okay to have a lot of feelings and to express those feelings — don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You are the author of your story and you alone are the expert on your experience.
A Note on Emotional Response vs. Reaction
When discussing our experience of emotions, it’s important to distinguish between an emotional response vs. an emotional reaction, in addition to the emotion itself. Emotions are a feeling and state of being (i.e., happiness, sadness, anger, jealousy, etc.). When we describe HSPs as “deep feelers,” this means we feel our emotions more strongly and more frequently than non-HSPs. There’s no action inherent in emotions. The proceeding action can be either a response or a reaction. A response is using data from the emotion to make an informed decision; a reaction, on the other hand, is being overtaken by that emotion.
Let’s illustrate this with an example: You are having a conversation with someone, when all of a sudden it turns sour. The other individual turns to rudeness and insults you. Most likely, you would be experiencing the emotion of anger in this situation. An emotional response would be to inform that individual what they said was wrong and hurtful, and that you will not be engaging with them if they continue to treat you poorly, i.e., using the signal from your anger to rectify the situation thoughtfully.
Conversely, an emotional reaction might include insulting the other person back, storming out of the room and slamming the door, or turning to physical violence, i.e., being controlled by your anger. As we can see here, it’s not the emotion of anger that’s wrong, but rather, how that anger overtakes you. However, since we HSPs are deep processors, we are more likely to take our time to respond rather than react immediately (yet another benefit of being a sensitive person!).
Emotions are not only normal — they’re also important. Our society undervalues emotions and doesn’t understand that by feeling deeply, we are not “too emotional,” but in fact are experiencing an essential part of life. So, fellow HSP, I urge you to continue to feel your emotions, express your emotions, and be that deep feeler that you are. It’s a beautiful thing.
Your values are a guiding light that lead you to a more meaningful, fulfilling life.
Your values define what a meaningful life looks like to you.
Your values are the justification for who and how you are — at your deepest, most personal level.
Your values can even help you heal from different conditions. Several evidence-based treatments use values as the basis for treating depression.
In today’s fast-paced world, it’s completely understandable if you feel disconnected from your values — or like you’re at the mercy of everyone else’s personal agendas and desires for you.
But here’s the great news: You can find your way. The key is to pause as the business swirls around you and reflect on the qualities that are most pivotal to you alone — not to anyone else.
Why does having and articulating values matter?
Identifying your values and living them out loud helps you build a fulfilling, satisfying life in a range of ways.
When you know your core values, it’s easier not to allow fear, anxiety, or negative thoughts to hold you back from pursuing deeply important, inspiring projects, activities, or adventures.
Your values can draw out the best (internal) pep talk for giving that poignant speech, writing a book that helps someone through a painful time, or traveling to a fabulous, bucket-list location. Your core values are the fuel that keeps you moving in the direction you set out to go, even when jitters or self-doubt show up.
Similarly, your core values serve as resistance bands to how much (if any) anger, frustration, jealousy, or other potentially overwhelming emotions can build while resolving a conflict or mending a relationship. Your core values guide you in taking action on what you hold dear.
Your core values help you to stand firm when declining not-so-meaningful requests, invites, and activities. Saying “no” to less-important things gives you the time, energy, and resources for what really matters to you.
If you still have a hard time saying no, though, know that it’s a skill anyone can sharpen and master.
Articulating your values helps you to wake up with a sense of purpose that carries you throughout your day, no matter what hiccups or stressors arise.
Research has found that having a purpose in life can lead to a variety of benefits, including reducing anxiety, depression, and stress. Maintaining a sense of purpose in midlife can even predict greater physical well being.
When difficult situations or ethical dilemmas arise, your core values may guide you in your decision making. Your core values can give you clarity during possibly chaotic, confusing times. They lead you to make wise, healthy decisions that could set you up for success in the long term.
What values are already out there?
Online, you’ll find plenty of values lists. For example, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics lists these five core values to help athletes thrive in all areas of their lives:
Integrity: knowing and doing what’s right, including being honest and learning from your mistakes
Respect: treating others the way you’d like to be treated, including being accepting, considerate, and encouraging
Responsibility: embracing opportunities to contribute, including being helpful and reliable
Sportsmanship: bringing your best to all competition in life, including being humble and gracious
On his website, author James Clear features a list of more than 50 core values. He warns to only pick a handful to focus on, because if everything’s a core value, then nothing’s really a priority.
Strategies to discover your values
There are so many ways to discover your values, which is why we’re sharing an assortment of strategies. You can pick the exercises that resonate with you.
Also, because your core values aren’t set in stone, return to your favorite exercises periodically to rediscover what’s important to you.
Use your peak experiences
Your most meaningful experiences can be clues into your core values. To tap into your peak experiences, Dr. Jennifer Leigh Selig, co-author of “Deep Creativity,” suggests this exercise:
Describe a time you felt “high on life.”
Draw this experience, even if your drawing skills start and stop with stick figures; this simply provides another perspective.
Reflect on this peak experience, considering the values that were being expressed at that time.
Use your emotions
Similar to peak experiences, our emotions can help us answer the difficult question of “what are my core values?” Selig also suggests this collage exercise:
Flip through different magazines, looking for images that stir your emotions.
Create a collage using these images.
After you’ve finished the collage, ask yourself, “What is happening in each picture? What values are being expressed?”
Do a self-audit
According to Gary Chapman, author of the seminal book “The 5 Love Languages,” before we can love someone, we must learn what we personally value. And those values can actually show up in our less-than-positive feelings and experiences. Done right, we can use these seemingly frustrating parts of our lives to pinpoint our core values.
Connecting to your younger self can actually reunite you with values that are deeply embedded in your soul, says Selig. Here’s how, with an exercise from “Deep Creativity”:
Think back to when you were a child or teen.
Think about your favorite personal classics — books, images, movies, music, or works of art that spoke to you then.
Write these classics down on a big piece of paper.
Reflect on the values that these classics illustrate, which may still be important to you today.
Pack up your values
Exploring objects you can’t live without may just help you identify the values you can’t live without, either. According to psychologists Diana Hill and Debbie Sorensen in their book “ACT Daily Journal,” start by penning answers to these three questions:
If you had to immediately evacuate your home, what important objects would you pack?
What do these objects reveal about what you most love?
How can you act on this love today?
Use these questions
To further discover your values, author Karen Benke suggests asking yourself these questions, skipping the questions that don’t resonate with you and diving deep into the ones that do with a simple “Why?”:
What’s your most prized possession?
What’s a sound from nature that calms you?
Where do you feel the safest?
What was your favorite place to play as a child?
What’s your favorite piece of clothing?
What’s your favorite game?
Let’s recap: Living your core values
Living a rich, meaningful life starts with discovering your core values. Your core values are qualities that are both the starting blocks and home base for you. These guiding principles help you to prioritize activities, relationships, and projects worthy of your attention and intention — and to know how to respond in challenging times.
To make the most of your values, make them tangible. List your core values. Snap a photo and use it as your phone or computer background. Paste the list around your home and workspace.
And, of course, once you know your values, start living them.
What’s one value-inspired step you can take today? Right now?