It's okay to feel exactly how I feel.
This is something I tell myself more and more these days. And it’s true for every feeling that there is.
Nostalgia. Exhaustion. Happiness. Depression. Gratitude. Anger. Lust. Empathy. Confidence. Shame. Wonder. Fear. Love. Envy. Surprise. Hate. Awe. Boredom. Disgust. Inspiration. Anxiety. Excitement. Pride. Embarrassment. And the list goes on.
This is not to say that I like how all of these feelings make me feel. And it certainly doesn't mean I plan to act on all of them, or even most of them. But it’s okay to feel them.
These days I try to accept my feelings for what they are, and to recognize that they just arise within me. I don’t choose my feelings. I don’t control them. But they’re part of who I am, and it’s important to me to fully embrace who I am.
Ever since I was a boy, I’ve felt tremendous shame about my feelings.
Instead of learning that it was okay to feel exactly how I feel, I felt shame. As if my feelings were wrong, and it was my fault for feeling them.
I now know there are many reasons I felt this shame, and some of them I was born with. For instance, I’m an introvert and I’m also a highly sensitive person.
But there were lots of things that happened in my life that led me to feel shame, too. I experienced several traumatic and extremely painful events when I was young. And there were many moments growing up when I truly needed (and I think deserved) understanding or affection, but was given neither.
Because I felt such shame about my feelings, I didn't talk about them. I didn’t discuss problems I was having. I didn’t talk about what made me afraid or uncomfortable. I didn’t share my feelings about important people in my life who died. I didn't talk about what I truly wanted and what made me happy.
The person I was to others was not the same person I was inside. And over time, these two versions of myself became more disconnected. This created such tension and strangeness within me when I was a boy, and I’m still wrestling with the effects to this day.
Shame can create a cycle of bad feeling.
Let’s say I’m depressed. I feel terrible, and I also feel shame about feeling so terrible. This makes me even more depressed. And the cycle continues.
I still fall into cycles like this.
But deep down I’m learning to accept all of my feelings, even the difficult ones, even shame.
These feelings are normal. They’re human. They’re part of who I am.
And I really believe that accepting them is where it all starts.
Because if it’s okay to feel exactly how I feel, then I can love myself for exactly who I am.
I consider myself to be an optimistic person. I’m generally positive and I see the good in people.
I’m also prone to depression and obsessive patterns of thought, and I’ve struggled with this for as long as I can remember. When I get this way, I feel overcome with self hatred and I isolate myself.
But now I believe there’s no reason to feel shame about my feelings. Or to resent myself for feeling them.
Now I tell myself what I wish I’d been told when I was younger.
It’s okay to feel exactly how I feel.