The other night I was having a Moment. An email I looked at in the evening sent me into a spiral of comparison trap and hopelessness, as my brain struggled to find clarity in the sea of thoughts and ideas. I struggled to put words into sentences.
I felt my throat closing up, and a heaviness in my chest. My eyes filled with hot tears and I began to sob.
If anyone had seen me they might have asked
Are you ok? Why are you crying? What’s wrong?
Like the way you talk to your kids when they cry.
Use your words. Tell me what’s wrong so I can fix it.
I was glad nobody was there to ask, because I didn’t know why I was crying. I didn’t have words.
There was nothing “wrong.” Nothing that needed to be fixed. In that moment, I wasn’t ok, and I was.
I didn’t need or want to attach a story to my tears.
My thoughts told me I was a waste of space, that I was destined to fail, that I’m an imposter, a fraud.
I didn’t want to reinforce those thoughts.
So I sat in my chair, cuddled under a cozy blanket, and wept. I held space for the emotion to be there. Breathing into it, without judging it, without attaching to a story about it, I let it run its course through me, until it stopped.
I held space for myself to stay with the anger and fear that were present and to touch whatever rawness was beneath them.
It’s not always easy to do this, but the more I can do it for myself the more I can do it for clients.
We Must End Shane Around Emotions
Our collective cultural shame around feeling grief, sadness, healthy anger — anything “negative” — warns us that sharing these feelings is wrong or bad.
I wanted to share this in the moment, but I feared that people would think I’m not qualified to help them because I am dealing with my own shit.
Of course I know this is not true. In fact, my personal experience is that I gravitate towards leaders and mentors who are willing to be real. Those who cling to their relentless positivity don’t come across as authentic.
It’s because I can hold space for myself and be with what comes up that I can hold space for my clients.
People who are relentlessly positive are often suppressing their emotions; they’re unwilling to look at their shit.
We need to be able to talk about these issues openly, to normalize them.
Feeling Not OK is Necessary
One of the bright lights of the pandemic is that I’m hearing more people talk more openly about mental health and therapy, and to acknowledge more openly when they are not ok.
Certainly during these times it is ok not to be ok. Not only is it ok, it is expected. Perhaps even necessary.
And this is not just a special accommodation for the pandemic. You have the right not to be ok at any time and for any reason. You don’t even need a reason.
You are allowed to feel what you feel. You are allowed to cry.
It’s ok not to be ok. In fact, it’s necessary. This is the path to healing.