I haven’t been feeling great for the last seven or so days. A combination of life stressors (I’m not fishing for sympathy here – we all have them) have left me feeling at first anxious, and now down. Sad, for lack of a better word. I haven’t slept properly in a week, and right now I’m sitting on my bed with tired and hurting eyes trying to get my thoughts onto paper.
Thank god it’s raining out. At least I don’t have to feel guilt – on top of feeling down – for still being in my nightie at 1pm. Yet the thought persists that I just don’t want to feel this way. I want to feel like myself. And I want to be like the people I see on my Facebook feed. A little voice, a thought, in my head tells me to get up – that it’s simply not OK to feel sad.
Until another thought hits me. It hits me slowly, but it hits me.
What does ‘I want to feel like myself’ actually mean? Like all of us, I’m a complex being and feel different ways, all of the time. A lot of the time I feel content (this state I enjoy the most). Sometimes I feel happy and excited. Sometimes I feel angry (this I enjoy the least). Some days I’m anxious and unfortunately, sometimes I’m just down.
What kind of odd creature would I be if I was smiling and happy all of the time? Would I even be human? Or at the very least, an authentic human?
It’s hard for me – and all of us – to remember during our down periods that it is actually OK to feel sad. That we don’t have to magically ‘snap’ ourselves out of it. That being sad is a normal and unavoidable part of being human. That we actually probably wouldn’t get a whole lot done if were in a permanent state of excited happiness. That it is during our down and sad periods that we are more likely to be reflective, to put thought into who we are, what we want from life, and what needs to be changed.
That if we wait it out and learn to use our down times to our advantage, they will eventually pass of their own accord, as part of the natural ebb and flow of life. I personally feel that the ‘happiness industry’ has got it wrong with the flogging of the idea that we should all be on a permanent ‘striving for happiness’ mission – the idea that it is not OK to simply accept that at times we feel like shit.
Make no mistake here – I’m not talking about sadness that goes beyond normal mood fluctuations, or sadness that lingers for no apparent reason. Depression is a very real thing and should be treated seriously. If sadness persists for more than two weeks, with no apparent reason or end or sight, help from a professional should obviously be sought.
What I am talking about is finding acceptance in the fact that it is not biologically possible to feel happy all of the time. And that thinking that there is something wrong with us if we don’t feel happy at any given moment will likely just make us feel worse. It’s about accepting that with self-care, our sadness should pass of its own accord.
Here’s why it is OK to be sad sometimes:
(I’m going to write post-it note reminders to myself)
We can’t be happy all of the time. And if we try to make ourselves falsely happy when there is a legitimate reason for our sadness, we will be doing ourselves a disservice. To put on a brave face, to smile in the face of adversity is one thing. We can do these things whilst still acknowledging that there is a reason for our sadness, and setting about doing what needs to be done (if anything) to fix the situation.
I don’t know about you, but I can easily spot a person who is not being their authentic self. A person who thinks ‘keeping up appearances’ is more important than allowing themselves the full spectrum of emotions that us humans have at our disposal.
Here’s the deal: suppressed emotions are NEVER a good thing. Sadness can only be suppressed for so long before it resurfaces. And when it resurfaces there is a very good chance it will be a lot worse than mere sadness – it may resurface as full-blown depression or scathing anger. Much better, when possible, to feel it… do what needs to be done… then let it pass.
How often do you listen to your mood? It’s not always an easy thing to do, but it’s something I’m slowly getting better at. If I’m feeling down or anxious it’s usually an indication that some area of my life is out of balance. Instead of ignoring the mood, or trying to ‘change’ or ‘fix’ it, I’ve learned to check in with myself and ask myself why I feel as I do.
It may take a little soul-searching, but an answer will usually come to me within a few minutes. If I can do something about whatever it is that is making me sad, I do. If I can’t, at least I know that in all likelihood I won’t still be feeling the same way a month from now.
Rather than suppressing or ignoring our sadness (or any other ‘negative’ mood) we should let it guide us. We should teach ourselves to be brave enough to tune in and listen to our feelings. And we should then use what we find to our best advantage.
If we persist in forcing ourselves to be happy, to fix or change what we are feeling because it’s uncomfortable, or because we feel that we have to live up to or compete with other people and their standards, we truly won’t be living an authentic life. And in my book, there is truly nothing more important than living a life that is authentic to us.
Do you feel pressure to be, or act, a certain way? Or are you OK with feeling down at times? Please, tell me in the comments.
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