“Your feelings are real. They are valid. They matter.” I don’t know if I learned this phrase somewhere or taught it to myself but in 2016, it became a vital and daily mantra.
How many times have you been called emotional? To settle down? That you’re overreacting? How many times have you been the one saying this, to yourself?
The old addage that we ourselves are our worst critics rings painfully true when it comes to embracing our feelings, facing our demons, admitting our weaknesses. Why do we do this? Maybe someone in your life neglected or marginalized your feelings. Maybe you’ve been repeatedly exposed to the idea that as a man you cannot express your feelings for fear of repercussion or mockery. It could just be that we don’t want to admit them to ourselves. It only takes one reason to stifle you, but it doesn’t matter.
What matters is what you choose and how you choose to express yourself. It may alarm you, you may not be ready to share these feelings with anyone else and that’s okay. Embracing a feeling or an emotion does not always require an audience, it could be a personal acceptance of what is happening to you and how it makes you feel. Sometimes feeling means creation, a work of art, a piece of writing, doddering around on an old guitar, the keyboard sitting in your closet. You could watch a television show that you know will make you cry, if only for the tipping point that you needed to break that barrier. You could visit an art or history exhibition that particularly interests you for inspiration.
Your feelings are you. They make you who you are. They guide you. They shape your personality, your morals. Embrace them, treasure them, even the difficult ones. Especially the difficult ones. Recovery from grief, recovery from trauma, these things take time and an allowance to let go. To leave yourself open to how these experiences have made you feel. Take joy and pride in the glorious, magical emotions in life too. Fall in love! Be vulnerable! Take chances! Do not allow anyone, including yourself to quiet the natural hum that shapes the unique rhythm of who you are.
Personally, I have found a greater mental and physical health in embracing the rollercoaster. The bottling and subsequent storage of emotions over time began to affect my health, personal relationships and the bond I previously enjoyed with myself. I lost my identity for some time because I was unable to appreciate the every day nuances that made me a person. Life just seems a bit easier when you push it away, put it off, minimize your own thoughts as an overreaction. Through better understanding of my feelings and why I was experiencing those, I found catharsis. I was able to cry again, to laugh with my entire body, to state my opinions without fear, to love someone and to allow them to love me, to realize that anyone that trivializes you for your true self is not worth explaining yourself to. You can learn from them or use them as motivation to do something more. You can release old grudges or pain from your past with them. You can allow every fiber of your being to become electric with joy or with sadness, if only for the purpose of experiencing the full range of human existence. Your feelings are real, they are valid, they matter. You Matter.