Two magic words you need to hear about legitimising your feelings

I've noticed a trend in myself and in my friends of apologising for getting upset about something that we 'should' be grateful for. Or more specifically, upset about an aspect of something that is, overall, a good thing. It has come to my attention because I feel like it's a pretty destructive habit -  albeit a rather subtle one - that seems to go under the radar because it's just an accepted part of What We Do. 

Let me give you an example: 

I was talking to a friend the other day about motherhood and I became teary and upset. I was upset about a few difficult things, yet almost as soon as the tears had come, I found myself making excuses for them. Apologising for them. 

Another example: A friend recently told me that she has just had an offer accepted on the most beautiful house that she will move into soon. As she spoke, her voice began to crack and waver, giving way to tears. She was upset about the prospect of moving, the stress of it whilst having to work in a demanding (and very well-paid) job (which, by the way, she LOVED). Yet again, the tears ended and in their place was an apology. 

Both myself and my friend were apologising out of some warped form of guilt. Because we felt bad about being upset. We felt bad because we were - in our own eyes - bringing negativity into a situation that is actually brimming with blessings. We considered ourselves to be complaining about something that we were actually GLAD about (being a mother to the most gorgeous little girl I could ever have imagined / moving into the house of our dreams), and we considered that we didn't really have a right to be doing that. We should be quiet about those things because it's pretty ridiculous to shit on your own parade and sing about it.

Well let me just say two things: 

1. If anyone is allowed to shit on your parade, it's sure as hell YOU.

2. SAYING HOW HARD SOMETHING IS ISN'T THE SAME THING AS COMPLAINING. 

When we feel the need to apologise for any sad or difficult emotions we feel surrounding a situation that is inherently good (if such inherent goodness exists?), we are doing ourselves a massive disservice. We are illegitimising what we feel before we have even allowed ourselves to sit properly with it. And if you don't sit with it, you'll turn to shit with it. 

I think that the reason we do this is because we have an ingrained belief in false dichotomies; something is either this, or it's that; black or white; good or bad; easy or hard; beautiful or ugly; a blessing or a challenge. We feel we have to choose between something good versus something difficult. This belief keeps us quiet, stops us from reaching out for support or a shoulder to cry on.

Saying how hard something is or that your having a shitty time isn't complaining. It's just Saying How You Feel. It's Expressing Yourself, and You Are Allowed. When we don't allow ourselves this we are simply perpetuating -  in ourselves and in others - a belief in false dichotomies, which only serves to further close us all off. 

I think as women we especially need reminding that it's okay to talk about the nitty gritty amongst the good stuff. For generations women have been taught to be quiet. To minimise. To make small the work we do. 'Ah, it's nothing'. To just get on with it (and look good at the same time). 

I'm still working on this myself, which goes together with a general distaste of vulnerability and issues with asking for help. I'm not very okay with being not very okay. In my own journey I have offered myself two words that have been a welcome and powerful reminder to me and I want to offer you these same two words...

BOTH

AND

Yep, these two tiny little nothing-to-see-here words. Perhaps you were expecting more? Something a little more fancy? You'll see. 

A dichotomy tells us something is EITHER this OR that. It is EITHER beautiful OR tragic. But these two words allow you to make a much more truthful and liberating sentence: It is BOTH beautiful AND tragic. I am BOTH happy and SAD. We are BOTH unbelievably powerful AND unbelievably fragile. Two opposite things can be true at the same time without diminishing the truth of either. 

No matter how good something is, there is always a place for our oh-so-human difficulties and challenges. Heartaches and set-backs. And there is always a place for owning these and expressing them free from any black or white judgement of how you think you should be feeling in said situation. 

Feel free to shit on your parade. Just know your shit's sufficient and important and it's the kind that doesn't need apologising for. 

I'm really interested in your own take on this - if you have anything to share, and thoughts that have arisen as you read these words - go ahead and share them. Express yourself :).

 

claire rotherComment