A Stoic’s Guide to Owning Your Feelings

Jason R. Waller
An Idea (by Ingenious Piece)
6 min readJan 5, 2020

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

“Naming what you feel means claiming what’s real”

I’m not writing this because I’m a guru at understanding my feelings. I’m writing because I’m crap at it. And because I’m crap at it, I’m always working hard to make it better.

I want to improve my emotional awareness because I believe it’s really important. Identifying your emotions is the first step in making empowered choices. And it’s from this awareness that you become an owner of your journey, not a victim of circumstance.

My own journey

I’m masterful at understanding others and helping them discover their emotions. I can probe and ask insightful questions. I can read between the lines. When it comes to examining my own feelings, though, it’s like looking through rock.

In moments where emotions are high, I still struggle to name what I feel. I still scratch my head in confusion any time I’m asked to say what I really want. I’m miles away from where I want to be with my emotional awareness.

That said, I’m much further along than where I was. I’ve grown 1,000% in my self-awareness and I’m genuinely happy about that. I’m farther down the road than I’ve ever been. I’ve learned a lot, and there’s one tool that I think is very helpful.

Build out a “menu of emotions”

Naming how you feel starts off with better emotional vocabulary. A clearer “menu” of things to choose from. A lot of this is practice, repetition, and awareness. It comes naturally, the more you pay attention to it. A lot of this is innate and formed by the language you were exposed to in childhood. But a lot of it can be deliberately learned. There are some ways to exercise this emotional muscle.

The muscle metaphor is actually quite meaningful, because emotions are also physical. What we feel in our body is registered in the mind, and what we feel in the mind is registered in the body.

When we’re excited our heart beats faster, our breath quickens. When we’re scared our muscles tighten and our mouths become dry. We get a lump in our throats or a knot in our stomachs when we’re nervous or embarrassed.

This connection of mind and

Jason R. Waller
An Idea (by Ingenious Piece)

Executive coach to CEOs and leaders. Partner at evolution.team. Speaker, combat veteran, ex-consultant. Top writer in Leadership. www.jasonrwaller.com