Phone conversation. A few years ago:
Friend: “Just forget it and push your feelings down.”
Me: “That doesn’t sound right. Isn’t that just denial?”
Friend: “You know what they say, ‘to get over someone, get under someone else.”
Me: “But I do not want to have sex with someone else. Why would I force myself…. who is ‘they’?”
Friend: [Indistinct chatter]
At one point in my life I had quite a few conversations like this. Asking for, and then questioning advice. It wasn’t always that way. I used to soak it up. I relied on the advice of others -more than I should have. I blindly followed and it got me into a lot of uncomfortable situations.
This time was different. I rejected the advice. Still not sure how to work through my feelings, now I was annoyed. I was wildly aware of just how bad the advice from a well-intentioned friend actually was. Also frustrated -while I inherently knew it was bad advice, I did not know why it was bad advice. Like how an antique dealer can spot a fake within a millisecond – I just knew.
The break-up wasn’t the only thing going on in my life. I was also working on self-love in an attempt at being happier. Looking back, I realize this is what triggered the rejection (and come to think of it, probably also the break-up). The advice was going against my efforts of self-love. While I was questioning the advice I was actually standing up for myself. I was realizing that I did not want to invalidate my feelings.
It seemed my self-awareness was evolving behind a closed door my conscious still needed some help in opening. Being able to instinctually know, while being completely confused as to why I was fighting this advice, brings a deep level of self-love and compassion that I won’t try to describe. I don’t want to describe. I want to keep it beautifully resting. Channeled but uncaged.
Self-love is about accepting who you are. I would not be showing any love to myself if I decided to deny my natural feelings. While everyone was telling me “stuff your feelings down;” or “have sex with another person;” or “get drunk;” what I actually needed to do was acknowledge my feelings.
I now realize that when I was asking for advice from others I should have been focusing on figuring myself out and finding a deeper knowledge of what I wanted. While my friends were giving me advice the best way they knew how, they were giving me the worst possible advice. If they are practicing what they preach I can only assume how depressed and sad they must feel.
Acknowledging and working though your feelings, while everyone around you seems to be escaping theirs, can feel lonely- be the pioneer.
A clear cut sign of bad advice is when a person is told to disregard their feelings. This may have been the way things were before but with advances in psychology we know better and have absolutely no excuse to tell someone to invalidate their feelings.
When we seek advice we are most likely handling a new experience or learning how to navigate a new part of the world. If we respond by invalidating our feelings we create destructive habits that can become core responses and will hurt us our entire lives. I believe this is one of the reasons why there is an influx of depression and anxiety.
Some advice that I will give to you today, if you would like it, is to be kind to yourself. Life is difficult. We have feelings. It is OK to be sad. Break-ups, job loss, death -all sad realities of life. Try your best to acknowledge your feelings. Just because we feel them does not mean we need to act upon them.
While you cannot control the advice you are given you can control what you heed and what you disregard. Give no room to advice that advocates for the invalidation of your feelings. Find balance. Take some time to reflect on your feelings and then do something that you enjoy.
This may be tough at first. It is all trial and err. You will figure out your balance with practice – I did. I now have a routine for whenever I am not feeling myself. I allow myself to process my feelings and then I do an activity that is good for me and that I enjoy. I go to the gym. Sometimes I only do light stretching, sometimes I end up doing a full workout. Whatever the case, I always feel better on my drive home. I have more clarity. It feels good to do something that I enjoy – something that is good for my body.
There have been times when it felt like there was a petulant child inside my brain kicking and screaming while I drove to the gym. I felt sad and depressed but I forced myself to go. Now the petulant child is calm as I tell it the story of how I am foregoing the self destructive habits and taking care of myself.