9 Things I Wish I Knew About My Emotions When I was Younger
How to feel and express your emotions effectively so that you can enjoy your life every day
Many people simply do not know how to express their emotions. This is shocking when you think about it.
They know they have uncomfortable emotions, but they don’t know how to name them, let alone express them to another human being.
To live with your emotions bottled up is to feel so alone. It doesn’t have to be this way. You just have to learn how to express yourself healthily.
When I was younger, I didn’t know how to express my emotions and it wasn’t good for me. I think everyone should be able to express their emotions without fear or shame.
Below are nine of the main reasons why I believe we struggle to express our emotions.
1. You have a fear of conflict
You are afraid of “angry feelings,” probably due to a childhood experience — angry parents, caregivers, or teachers. I used to have a fear of conflict as there were a lot of hot-tempered people in my life.
As I didn’t like being around explosive people, I had to learn ways to work around their anger.
I spent so much time finding ways to appease them and escape their moods that I didn’t have time to know what was going on within me. I was disconnected from my emotions. All I wanted was harmony.
As I am no longer surrounded by people like that, I have more peace and quietness to be able to listen to the movements within my own soul. I have come to enjoy my emotional self and I try to bring the different aspects of my inner life together to create more wholeness in my being.
2. You fear rejection
You think if you say how you truly feel, you will be rejected. So, instead, you choose to say nothing and continue to appease them. I know this feeling. I didn’t want to admit to anyone that I had a fear of rejection, but I did.
Finally, I have come to realize that I am just another normal human being trying to do life as best I can and face my own complexities.
I think it's sad that I was afraid to ask for what I needed in my relationships, but unfortunately, that started way back in my childhood. So to heal, I had to learn to take risks and one of them was to tell the people in my life how I truly felt and what I would prefer in our relationships.
The majority of them didn’t like the new me and rejected me, but I didn’t die. I learned that I was choosing relationships where I wasn’t free to be myself.
If I didn't play by their rules, there would be no relationship. In the end, I had to find people who valued me.
3. Emotional perfectionism
You believe you should always be rational and in control. This could stem from your family’s makeup or even your culture. I was not completely numbed out in my childhood as my spirit wasn’t crushed. I was able to have some fun and express my positive emotions, but I do know people who are much more rigid and find it difficult to express their emotions.
I would encourage people like this to take little emotional risks, like asking a friend out for coffee and revealing a little more about yourself — to go beyond the comfortable. Who knows, maybe they won’t reject you?
4. You don’t know how you feel
It is difficult for you to express your feelings because you don’t know what they are. I know, it's bizarre, isn’t it? Here we are, grown adults and we have no idea what we’re even feeling half the time. Well, if this is you — you are not alone. I used to be like that. It took me years to tap into my emotional world.
I remember my first boyfriend asking me how I felt about my sister? I didn’t know why he was asking me that. I didn’t think anything only that she was my sister. It makes me laugh now as he was probably trying to get to know me better, but I didn’t really know myself back then. The poor guy, how did he put up with me?
5. You think you are the only one who has strange feelings
You don’t want to say how you feel in case people will think you’re mad. When we are young, especially in our teenage years, we are so self-conscious that we think everyone has their act together, but not us. But the funny thing is, everyone feels insecure at that age.
The problem, of course, is if we are still carrying on like that in our adult years. It plays havoc on our relationships if we don’t mature. One way to develop is to start to become aware of your reactions. If you feel uncomfortable, irritable, or annoyed with someone or a situation — take time to ask yourself, what’s going on. Why are you feeling that way?
6. You don’t trust yourself
You think, “maybe I am wrong, they will laugh at me”. Learn to trust your emotions. No one can tell you that your feelings are wrong. In the past, some of us were scolded for speaking up to an authority figure (a parent or teacher) and that made us doubt ourselves.
If you were told by your parent that you didn’t know anything or that your opinion was not valid, well what then are you to think when you grow up?
The only thing you can do is change that belief and trust that perhaps you do know something and that other people in the world will value your contribution. This will build your confidence and self-esteem.
7. You feel a sense of hopelessness
Maybe you feel, what's the point? I have tried in the past to express my true self and I got shouted down, ridiculed, or abused. Psych Central says, ‘perhaps you feel you have done all that you can do and the relationship is dead.’
This makes sense. Maybe that relationship is dead, but that doesn’t mean that all your relationships are dead. You can always make new friends at any stage of your life. There is always hope.
8. You have a low self-esteem
You feel you do not have a right to ask for what you want in a relationship. If you've been led to think that you are not good enough, you will shy away from the very things that would bring you life.
But, there’s nothing we can do about the damage that’s been done in the past, but what we can do is reprogramme ourselves into believing the truth about who we are, which is that we are precious souls worthy of love.
This means you are deserving of good, life-giving relationships, purposeful work, and a joyful existence here on earth.
9. You think others should be able to read your mind
You think others should know what you want without you asking. And because they don’t, you feel disappointed. I was terrible for this. Honestly, I really believed that people should know what I needed.
I was trained to serve others. It sounds so noble and nice, but believe me, it was neither noble nor nice. It almost killed me because I was only taught half the lesson, the other being, that it was my responsibility to be able to get my needs met.
Of course, as a child, we have no idea how this all works and without good parenting, we are lost in a fog without a torch. We scramble around trying to work this thing out. Needless to say, it leads to a lot of pain and suffering.
I have finally learned how to get my needs met, but it’s still a work in progress as I don’t always know what I need. I know it sounds odd to those of you who didn’t have to go through all of this reprogramming, but I write for the ones who can relate. If you are nodding, ‘yea, I know’, then this is for you.
Start asking for what you need and if you can’t get it, then find a place where that need can be met. It could be a need to be seen, heard, valued, respected, educated, or just a need to be somewhere where you can chill out and feel safe.
What’s The Difference Between Feelings and Emotions?
There is a fundamental difference between feelings and emotions. Feelings are experienced consciously, while emotions manifest, either consciously or subconsciously.
Some people may spend years, or even a lifetime, not understanding the depths of their emotions.
The study of the differences is vast and not something I am going to cover in this post as it’s very technical and complex. But, here’s a simple explanation, given by Dr. Sarah Mckay, neuroscientist, and author of the Your Brain Health.
“Emotions play out in the theater of the body.
Feelings play out in the theater of the mind.”
The Benefits of Expressing Your Emotions
- You feel better.
- Less stress and muscle tension.
- You feel more connected to others.
- You have more peace of mind.
- You feel more honest.
- You feel happier.
- Less physical symptoms, such as headaches, hypertension, and decreased immunity to infection.
- You have a sense of freedom.
- You like yourself more.
- Others know you better.
Wisdom and discernment are needed when expressing your emotions, as not everyone is mature enough to hear what you have to say.
It might be true, but maybe they are not ready to take responsibility for their part, and so you may get met with an angry response to what you thought would bring peace.
Expressing your emotions improve your relationships
By communicating openly with your partner, friends, family, and work colleagues, you will have healthier relationships. It’s not always easy to say if you feel hurt or upset, but what’s the other option?
You could hold resentment against that person, causing you to withhold your love. That way, the relationship goes on, but you don’t feel close.
For example, your partner might feel the coolness in the relationship, but they won’t know why if you don’t tell them.
It takes courage to express your uncomfortable emotions, but if the person is mature enough and loves you enough, they will be willing to listen and hopefully change.
Repression of emotions, especially anger, causes stress, so it’s really in your best interest to take some chances and say how you feel. You are being true to yourself when you do this.
Repressed emotions can lead to depression
It is a serious problem, and if you struggle with this know that there is hope. You can learn how to communicate more effectively.
When I discovered how to express my emotions without fear, my life changed dramatically. It wasn’t an easy transition, but the benefits were tremendous.
I was the same person, but I had developed the courage to be more open and honest. It was quite an awakening to learn how to manage my emotions.
Some Final Points —
Steps to communicating your feelings to others
- Deliver it in a calm way.
- You are simply telling them how you feel and how they are affecting you.
- Be clear and specific.. for example, “when you said that, I felt hurt because I felt you didn’t care about me and I felt rejected.”
- Don’t blame them for hurting you, just tell them how their behavior affected you. They can choose what they do with that information.
- Don’t confront someone with an outcome in mind. You are doing it for yourself. You are not responsible for how they feel. That is their responsibility.
- They might be surprised, so give them time to process the information.
- If you can’t communicate it in person, send a letter or e-mail. At least you won’t have to deal with their immediate reaction and it’s in black and white for them to read later.
- Don’t worry about what they think of you. You are doing it for yourself. You are not out to hurt them but to show them how you feel when they say or do things that you don’t like.
- Be prepared for the worst and hope for the best! If you choose your words, tone, and timing well, you may improve the quality of the relationship, but it’s better not to have a particular outcome in mind.
Sadly, in some cases where I have had to confront people and set healthy boundaries, it exposed what Cloud and Townsend, in their book Boundaries, call a non-relationship.
And this was my worst fear, that maybe they never really loved me in the first place. Well, isn’t it better to know the truth rather than spend your precious time on people who don’t value you?
When you learn to value yourself and lovingly speak your truth, you will start to attract better people into your life, because when you know your worth, somehow others do too.