Last week was tough. There were a lot of unresolved emotions that I didn’t realize I was hiding away.
It wasn’t until these feelings started showing up in other ways—anxiety, crankiness with Jason (sorry, boo), overwhelm—that I even allowed myself to acknowledge them, much less let them out.
Then... the flood gates opened.
I'm talking wrap myself in a blanket and ugly cry while Plax tries to lick my tears away. (I pretend this is his sweet doggy way of comforting me, but it also just might be he finds salty tears delicious.)
I realized that I had been trying to convince myself I needed to be “strong”—though historically have a pretty loaded idea of what that word actually means. I didn’t want to allow myself to feel the complex, messy emotions of what I was dealing with. What I am dealing with.
When a loved one is hurting, and you want to be there for them, I think our instinct is to try and be the sturdy one. To act brave and unaffected as a way to support the person who’s reallyhurting or really wading through a tough situation.
BUT… being the supportive one or the caretaker or the family member comes with its own complex feelings. Feelings that have to be acknowledged. Feelings that shouldn't be diminished just because you don't feel you have a right to be upset (it's not YOU that's dealing with a health issue) or because you're afraid of not being supportive enough for the person who needs you.
I was sharing this with my best friend @leahloustyle on the phone, trying to make sense of what I was feeling by talking it out, when I discovered an unexpected root cause of my desire to bottle things up:
I realized I wanted to believe that I could be “stronger” than I have before. I wanted to be “better” than before.
There have been times when life has thrown me a curveball, and—being the sensitive soul I am—it can take me out of the game for a while. It hits me like an emotional tidal wave and sends me for a ride.
Knowing this, and knowing my desire to always grow into a better version of myself, I guess I thought handling things better meant showing less emotion. Steeling myself against that emotional tidal wave.
But then my wise, beautiful friend said something that turned a light on for me.
“Maybe being ‘stronger’ than you have in the past just means building resilience through this.”
Not denying myself the full spectrum of emotions this chapter is bringing me, but instead moving through those emotions with a little more grace and self-compassion.
Strong does not have to mean an absence of sensitivity. Strong can mean being a constant source of support and unconditional love for yourself (and others) as you move through something hard to the other side.
Not to mention, when our loved ones are going through something tough, I don’t think they need someone to pretend it isn’t hard. They just need someone to acknowledge how hard it is and show up anyway.
Just as courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s moving forward in the presence of fear, maybe emotional strength isn’t the absence of emotion—it’s moving forward in the presence of emotion.
What I learned from this is:
Being a better version of yourself doesn’t have to mean denying yourself the emotions or feelings that are most natural to you, and it certainly doesn’t have to mean beating yourself up for not being “better” or “stronger” this time around.
As we aim to grow and evolve into the brightest versions of ourselves, let’s make sure it’s not at the expense of the person we are right now or who we’ve been before. Let’s allow ourselves to feel the full range of emotions within the human experience, and do it without self-criticism or judgment.
Life is hard sometimes, y’all. And we all wish we knew the “right” thing to do when those challenges arise. While I can’t say I ever know the right way to handle things, one thing I know for sure is that loving yourself through it all is never the wrong thing. So maybe that’s a good place to start.
Sending you self-compassion and resilience this week!