A few weeks ago, a client reached out to me over Voxer to share how anxious she was about a virtual work event she was hosting. I responded to her and said, of course, she would feel anxious and offered some tricks for reducing that anxiety, including acknowledging your feelings, remembering the power of AND, seeing the big picture, etc. Later that day, she said, “Thanks for your tips. It went well, but I still felt anxious the whole time.”
Oh my, did I relate to this client. She was doing #allthethings. She was practicing self-care, trying to be loyal to herself, and being kind, yet her anxiety was still there. Because she only had one measure of success–feeling good all the time. I responded to her by saying, “The truth is I would be more worried about you if you didn’t feel anxious. You were hosting a big event, it is human to feel anxious. The goal is not to let the anxiety run the show. And when we don’t acknowledge the anxiety, thats when it runs the show.”
I keep thinking about that conversation and our world these days. I know for me and those I speak with it is hard to find any moments of peace. So much is coming at us daily; so much change and uncertainty. We have all collectively lived on high alert for the past few months, and there doesn’t seem to be any relief in sight. In fact, health experts are telling us it is going to get worse before it gets better.
The truth is we are going to be anxious, overwhelmed, heartbroken, outraged, moody, uneasy, powerless, and depressed. You aren’t doing anything wrong if you feel that way. Many of us have been trained that when we feel those ‘negative’ emotions, we need to hack ourselves out of it to get to a place of feeling better. And if we can’t hack our way into happiness, then we convince ourselves, we aren’t strong enough, confident enough, or mindful enough. Because if we were strong, confident, or mindful, we could hack our way out of feeling so sad, angry, afraid, or ashamed. We have been brainwashed that successful people can overcome their negative emotions.
The irony is in an alternate universe; if my client woke up feeling anxious but then meditated, took deep belly breaths, did an hour of yoga, and her anxiety disappeared, she would wonder what was wrong. She wouldn’t trust it. If she headed into the meeting feeling excited and optimistic about the event, she would be freaked out. We SAY we want to be content, hopeful, and happy all the time, but we don’t trust those feelings either.
It reminds me of the Jerry Seinfeld bit where he describes our desire to go out and how excited we are to go out—and then when we are out—-we can’t wait to go home. We are chasing our tails. Pushing, hacking, struggling to be anywhere but where we are. This struggle doesn’t mean we are broken. It means we are human.
Our Monger and our BFF will keep us on an endless search for ‘right.’ They both have strong opinions about what ‘right’ is. But the truth is wherever you go there you are. YOU are with you all the time. So what if we spent less time hacking ourselves. What if we spent less time thinking we were broken. What if we accepted that we will feel outraged, worthless, overjoyed, and hopeless. That there is nothing wrong with us if we are full of messy feelings.
And more importantly, what if we are concentrating on the wrong thing. What if we realized that accepting ourselves and all our messy feelings and learning how to befriend ourselves will take a lifetime of work. It isn’t about reading one blog and thinking “oh right, I need to be accepting all my emotions.” And so we add ‘accepting all emotions’ as a hack. THAT becomes the new thing we will do to feel better. But I encourage you to take it one step further, it isn’t about the hacks. it is reminding ourselves over and over and over that building self-loyalty might be the goal but it is a goal we will never reach. We will be actively working on building self-loyalty for the rest of our lives. And THAT process of working on building self-loyalty, that is where the beauty happens. It isn’t about hacking ourselves or fixing ourselves; it is about accepting ourselves, and we will need to be reminded of that fact repeatedly, just like my client did. You aren’t doing anything wrong. You are just being human. And your job on this planet is to be as curious and kind as possible.