I’m taking a different tack with my writing today. This article is about something I struggle with talking about, though I think is important to talk about in order to learn how to feel comfortable with being vulnerable and strong in a quest to love yourself and the people in your life.
I’m trying not to cringe writing this because I think it’s necessary to talk about things that make some of us, like me, squirm in our seats. Things like love *ugh* of any sort, platonic or otherwise, and if you, like me, struggle to open yourself up to the abundance of help around you which is available in the form of other peoples’ support.
We should all feel empowered by being truthful about things that matter deep below the surface of our public faces, and I aim to appeal to you readers who face the same psychological issue of feeling uncertain or uncomfortable in how to express your emotional selves.
Unfortunately, not everyone is naturally great at processing the energies which move us. I am one of these people *cries*, but this is something I know can be changed with learning and time.
Ultimately, love is about acceptance. I will address one way we might achieve acceptance of our emotional needs and how to accept kindness from others, by practising gratitude.
Not Feeling Good Enough
For as long as I can remember I have kept most of my emotions to myself. I was one of those students at school who was relatively academic and got on well enough socially, though always had a slight tinge of some kind of darkish haze that nobody, not least myself, could quite put their finger on the origin of.
I think people just thought I was sad. The truth is, I wasn’t really sad, I just spent so much time in my head that I sometimes became overwhelmed by all the people around me. In these times, my ‘selfhood’ sort of shutdown until I had some time alone to recharge and regain my energy. This is a common problem associated with having introverted tendencies, though I didn’t know this in primary school. When I was young I often wondered if there was something wrong with me, which of course there wasn’t as, although more modern science suggests most people are neither specifically ‘extroverted’ or ‘introverted’, it is still commonly accepted that over half the world is more introverted than extraverted.
Even though so much growth has happened to me over the years, I’m still essentially the same core ‘me’ I always was, and probably always will be. I think the core part of ourselves remains the same throughout our lives but it’s the way we deal with things that changes. Although I am now a lot more extraverted than when I was a child and I don’t generally have a problem with talking to people, I still sometimes find it difficult to express my thoughts and feelings in certain situations for fear that they may not be relevant, useful or understood.
Accepting What Is
When the external reality was harsh, I retreated to the comforts offered by the safe space of my mind. After my dad died, I think I attributed feelings of sadness and dissatisfaction to that particular situation. Although definitely a huge factor influencing my emotional world, it was probably only directly related to a handful of the times I felt so down. This period was in my early teenage years when I was dealing with some depression and anxiety, when my world seemed coloured by a film of bleak hopelessness at the idea of truly being happy.
Why did nothing ever make me feel as happy as I wanted to be? The answer lies in the question: I was relying on factors outside of myself to provide me with something only I had the power to change, through actively changing my pattern of thinking. The problem, as anyone who has gone through a difficult period themselves will know, is that it’s not straightforward to even recognise that you are not okay, let alone be able to practically take steps to help yourself. I was lucky to have a small but strong support system consisting of some close family and friends, who recognised what was happening and helped me navigate through the darkest nights.
It wasn’t all illness though. I was also so caught up in unrealistic utopian fantasies inside my head that I insisted on perpetuating unrealistically high expectations about how people were supposed to treat each other. I always had an idea about what people meant with certain actions, and when the real outcome didn’t align with my expectations I gave up hope. Yes, that’s not a very productive strategy for personal growth, but alas once recognised it meant change could start to happen!
Learning to Give the Benefit of the Doubt
“Everyone is acting from his own level of consciousness. This is all we can ask of ourselves or anyone else. However hurtful someone is, he is doing the best he can, given the limits of his consciousness”. — Deepak Chopra (Goalcast)
I thought I could never be enough for anyone, so why even try making an effort.
When friends showed me kindness that melted my heart and took my breath away (gross, but true) I paid it back by retreating. I wasn’t sure how to accept such gestures without my vulnerability showing. When you struggle with expressing emotions, though are most definitely a sensitive soul, that is not possible, sadly.
I didn’t even know how to bring down the walls I had myself created. Why didn’t I just open up and let my gratitude pour out, even if I did end up an emotional wreck collapsed in someone’s kindly arms?
Because I was scared as hell that it was all some big conspiracy, that they would turn on me and suddenly decide I wasn’t worth it, that they’d regret their actions, or that it was just being ‘nice’ and not because they really valued some untouchable attribute specific to my energy. I mean, let’s face it, maybe this isn’t generally something people worry about in friendship? I don’t know, but I guess it matters to me so instead of loathing that sensitivity I should learn to cherish it.
I suppose if you don’t show just how much acts of kindness mean to you, it may or may not negatively affect other people as a flow-on effect.
Helping others does make us feel good, that’s normal and it’s human. We have evolved to be generous for the survival of our species. If you don’t show just how much acts of kindness mean to you, it may or may not negatively affect other people as a flow-on effect, so it’s probably best to express rather than suppress and push through the discomfort.
Maybe I Was Just Spoilt
Let’s face it. It’s a very real possibility. I have so much compared to so many people in the world. If I can’t be happy with that, jee wizz, maybe I need a reality check or something.
When we have it all we forget what truly matters. We forget who the people are who really love us and that they don’t just love us because of who we are or what we do but because of who they are. That is what matters.
Love doesn’t require, doesn’t connect at all, in fact, with materiality. We experience love when we see our own soul reflected in someone else.
When we have it all, materially, we eventually forget the true abundance around us and makeup problems to distract ourselves. We don’t want to risk having our minds split apart trying to solve problems that we don’t yet have the experiential capacity to solve.
Humans Are Still Greedy Creatures, We Never Stop Wanting
Our minds influence the key activity of the brain, which then influences everything; perception, cognition, thoughts and feelings, personal relationships; they’re all a projection of you. — Deepak Chopra (Goalcast)
I’ve encountered several spirituality-type texts that say we must all pass through the stage of wanting things before we get to that of wanting nothing but to sit in silence with ourselves and thus experience a higher state of being. Until that point though, nothing seems to fully satiate our need for more.
I remember when I was first living away from home as a seventeen-and-a-half-year-old. It was with a school which specialised in Outdoor Pursuits (adventure sports and leadership) and us final year students in the programme lived in student flat situation overseen by the school. We were allocated NZD 220 per flat for our weekly grocery shop, an amount which had to feed six hungry teens. We bought the cheapest food possible at the supermarket so that we would have enough to eat for all six of us for the whole week. As we were doing quite a bit of exercise, this was challenging. All of us inevitably ended up spending extra on basic food every week. During this time, I craved the ease offered by home, where there was good food magically available at any time of the day, every day. When I went back home to visit, I remember feeling immensely grateful for the abundance once again, though I did start to forget this again over time when thins were easy once again.
Practically Implementing the Power of Gratitude
Whatever you focus your mind on expands. When you focus on lack, you operate from a position of loss and discontent and experience more lack. — Bryan Robinson (Forbes)
Going off this quote by Robinson then, if we focus on having abundance we will be centring our gaze on what we want and so experience more of it.
Gratitude is one of the most powerful human emotions we can experience. By looking at any situation with the view of “What can I learn from this situation?” even the most negative experiences can be transformed and recoloured positively.
The practice of being thankful cultivates a stronger love for others and yourself. You know the happy feeling you get when you help someone else seems to bring more joy in unexpected ways? It’s because when you focus on the positive aspects of any situation the direction of your focus leads to identifying more positives, and of course the same goes for negatives. The answer is learning to appreciate what you have and making room for the possibility of having things better, without forming an attachment to specific outcomes.
In an article I wrote about the difference between being ‘nice’ and being ‘kind’, I suggested jotting down a few points in a regular journaling practise on ways you might want to show kindness in the future. As I have been reflecting on ways I can be more kind, I would now also like to suggest adding a few words in your journal for things you are grateful for. It would be interesting to see if and/or how your base mindset changes after doing this for a few weeks or so.
I’m going to try this experiment for myself and write an article on my results in a month or so. I’m looking forward to feeling more peaceful and connected to the flow of every day, and I’m interested to see how it may impact the quality of my relationships.
Despite where we currently are in our lives, how well or poorly we feel we are doing, it is safe to say that there are things all of us can be grateful for. Right now, I’m so grateful for my family and friends, having a place to live, a job, and the ability to study and enjoy time for my hobbies.
Sometimes we lose track of all the good people and opportunities we have in our lives, which can lead us to feel down and get upset. It’s normal to not be your ‘best self’ all the time, and you shouldn't feel bad when you’re having an off day, just remember that it’ll pass and you can always get back on your way the next day or even much further in the future.
Like you do with your family and friends, it’s important to hold compassion for yourself whatever mood you’re in. Next time you feel miserable, you could try to come up with three things you are grateful for and you might feel just a little bit better. Remember that, like you, most people are just trying their best, and so aim to spot acts of kindness and give people the benefit of the doubt more often.
Here's to all of us learning how to be blessed bosses who are emotionally available to ourselves and our communities. Oh! And if you do show your vulnerability and someone makes fun of your sensitivity, don’t take it personally. You can’t change who you are so you must love yourself first and foremost.
Of course, RuPaul said it best,
“If you can’t love yourself how in the hell you gonna love anybody else? Can I get an amen?”