The reality is life is incredibly challenging by its very nature. We have a myriad of experiences, and moods, and feelings, and emotions. So why do we often feel like we have to repress parts of us that make us fully human?
I know this feeling all too well, as I’m sure many of you do too—being ashamed of how I feel or refraining from expressing feelings for fear of being considered weak or flawed.
Growing up I didn’t practice expressing myself much. I learned through the platitude, “boys don’t cry”, music videos by my favorite artists—Jadakiss, Lil Wayne—interactions with peers, conversations with family, and numerous other influences that suppressing fears, worries, sadness, grief, depression, and other unpleasant experiences was the appropriate way deal with our human condition.
That statement sounds baffling as I reread it, but here we are. So what do we do about it?
Recognize and Accept
I’ve realized that our real strength lies in our vulnerability. Our ability to recognize and validate our feelings, while practicing self-compassion is what allows us to heal, ask for help, make changes, grow, and manage life more gracefully.
When we’re able to acknowledge an experience, and allow it to be there, just as it is, we can awaken from a trance that makes us subject to our inner critic, our feelings of shame and fear, our anxious thoughts, and the weight of overwhelming sadness.
Accepting our thoughts, emotions, and body sensations doesn’t mean that we have to change the way we feel about them. We might still be ashamed about our jealousy or fear. But honestly acknowledging the presence of our feelings is the first step towards responding to them in a productive way.
Investigate with Care
Observing our suffering with a sense of curiosity and care allows us to get to the heart of our experience. You might pause to ask yourself questions like: How am I experiencing this inside my body? What most wants attention? What am I telling myself? How does this feeling want me to respond?
These questions may uncover masked feelings and allow you to be aware of subconscious beliefs and emotions that control your experience.
As we investigate with care, compassion naturally arises for our suffering.
The practice of recognizing our thoughts, emotions, and body sensations and then validating the painful ones is difficult. It can sometimes be even harder to extend compassion to ourselves once we accept how we feel.
But as humans some of our experiences are unpleasant, and we’re allowed to feel those.
Validating our undesirable human experiences is what allows us to take productive approaches to resolve our suffering.
Kyle Somersall is the founder of my innerglow. He’s a former elementary school teacher and current meditation teacher. He’s interested in bringing a focus on mental health into schools and building community around mindfulness and human connection.