Motivational Monday Vol. 14

This past week one of my employees confided that she was struggling with anxiety and needed a few days off to reset. I of course said yes and attempted to give her some space and not pepper her with one million motherly "just checking in" texts.

When we spoke two days later, I could see she was still struggling and our work conversation quickly turned personal. As we discussed how she was feeling, she said two things I've heard many times before, but particularly struck me in that moment. First she said, "I'm fine, I'm fine. Forget it" and next, "I don't have a reason to feel this way." 

Both of those statements saddened me. As I'm writing this, remembering how she spoke those words as I watched her fight back tears, I'm brought right back to a feeling of utter compassion - and the desire to say to her "NO! Take it back! Take it all back!" 

I'm tired of hearing the words "I'm fine" from too many friends and loved ones who are struggling. I'm tired of hearing those spoken from my own mouth as I try to swallow my emotions and put a smile on for others.

Yes, I am aware of the studies that prove the simple act of smiling can increase your mood and decrease rates of depression. I'm all for smiling - but not as a mask to suppress emotions. 

Suppressing emotions tricks you into thinking you have conquered them. But what's really happening is that they are getting stored inside, waiting to feed off other suppressed emotions until they either slowly eat away at your body (in the form of pain or disease), or they simply implode one day.

The only way to actually conquer your emotions is to face and feel them head on. Allow yourself to sit with them and identify the emotions. In my colleagues instance, after she remarked she's fine - I responded "No, you're not fine. Take a few deep breaths and can you describe to me - just one word at a time - all the emotions you're feeling?" 

When she identified how she was feeling, I asked her to just let her mind and body bask in those emotions, to let go and let herself be consumed with those feelings. If you want to cry, cry your heart out. If you want to scream, scream. Surrendering yourself to feeling is the first step.

David Hawkings writes "Grief is time-limited. [..] If we don't resist the feeling of grief and totally surrender to it, it will run out in about 10-20 minutes; then it will stop for variable lengths of time. If we keep surrendering to it every time it comes up, then it will eventually run out."

Have you ever noticed how after a good cry, about 20 minutes later you realize you're not longer crying, you're feeling better, you're probably distracted by something else? When we fully surrender, the waves of emotion and pain will not go on forever, we just need to have the courage to face them for these short periods and let them pass through.

When you face them, try identifying the emotions. Something like, "Oh wow, this is what loneliness feels like. This is what sadness feels like." This helps you identify those emotions in the future so you can separate those feelings from experiences and start to dig into why you're feeling this particular emotion.

Clearly my colleague didn't know who she was talking to when she said, "Forget it." Ha.

This brings me to her second statement, "I don't have a reason to feel this way." 

Where to even begin?!

Why do we continue to feel like our emotions are not worthy of feeling? Why do we feel so ashamed? And why, OH WHY, do so many of us shame others for their emotions instead of just holding space for them to feel?

I'll say this as simply as I can. Pain is pain. Period. 

We are each reacting to our own experiences, which are relative to others experiences. Listening to and educating yourself on others experiences might put your pain into perspective, but it does NOT mean your reactions, emotions and feelings are not valid in that moment.

Yet time and time again I hear individuals shame others for feeling certain ways."Your life is perfect, what do you have to be so upset about?" "I can't believe you're upset about this, it's not even a big deal," "Just get over it already." Even worse, we sometimes try to one up each other's pain, "If you think your pain is bad, listen to my pain." Are we seriously competing over who has more pain?!

If we all just judged a little less and instead turned that judgement into genuine compassion for others - I think we would have a less angry, depressed and anxious society. 

If instead of rolling our eyes at someone, we embraced them in a hug or extended a hand to help pick them up - I think we could heal a lot of pain.

And so I challenge you this week to not shrug off your feelings by saying "I'm fine," and instead just feel them fully. I challenge you to stop thinking like your feelings aren't worthy. And lastly, I challenge you to pause before you judge someone else's feelings. And in that pause, try to remember that pain is pain and have some compassion for theirs.

For those of you interested, I highly suggest getting your hands on a copy of David R. Hawkins book, "Letting Go" and if you think someone you know may benefit from this MM note, pass it along to them!

I'll end with one quick update! After this experience with my colleague, I decided to implement a mandatory, monthly personal day for all our full time employees at Ellsworth & Ivey and The Skinny Dip. 

Sometimes we all need a day to just feel and process so that we can continue on our journey to our best self. That day usually ends up being a random Tuesday and it is most certainly NOT a vacation or a sick day - it's a day for growth and healing. Something I'm all for and hope other companies will continue to embrace.