It was a day like any other. The clouds were floating by like candy floss being spun onto a wooden stick. The wind was building up outside. People passing by the window zipped up their coats so as not to feel the chill of the wind moving through their bodies. The wind felt as bitter as the icy snow starting to fall from the skies. It was winter and yet it wasn’t unusual to experience these weather conditions in the spring too. After all, I live in the UK, we see it all here. I was pleased that I was inside today, all cosy and warm. I had my favourite Angora cardigan on, the softness and texture enveloped me in a comfortable glow of happiness. From the outside, all was well. On the inside, I was falling apart. And I didn’t know what to do.
It all started with the way that I had ‘abandoned’ myself over the years. I wasn’t aware of what I was doing.
I was caught in endless blaming others and then myself for how I felt. I lied when others asked me how I was and I generally felt like I was a character in a play, pretending to be someone that I wasn’t.
I felt like an imposter in my World.
It all changed when the pain was just too much to not be ‘me’ and it all started with three words that you hear every day.
“How are you?”
Most people that I know, when they see you tend to ask you the same question. What would you say is your response when anyone asks you that question? It could be one of several options:
- “I’m ok, you?”
- “I’m fine, how are you?”
- Or perhaps you just nod or smile and try to carry on with what you are occupied with?
Why do we do that?
- Is it an attempt to hold each other at a distance for fear of letting someone too ‘close’?
- Or if we answered with ‘honesty’ do we think that the other person will ‘reject’ us by cutting short the conversation and physically moving away from us?
- Perhaps we don’t want to be seen as ‘weak’ and not good at what we do?
- Or maybe we just don’t know how we are, maybe it’s just too ‘confusing’ and we don’t have an answer? If you want to discover more with the first three steps to tapping into what or how you ‘feel’, then click here.
- Do you think it makes you a more ‘likeable’ person?
- Or maybe you think that people don’t care and they don’t want to be burdened or see your feelings as ‘negative’?
- Or do you think that you do it to ‘fit in’?
What would it be like to ‘honestly’ say how you were feeling? Does that scare you? If so, why? Are you afraid of what others will think of you? There is a myriad of answers and all of them are valid, you may have your own take on this?
You might ask, how can all of these revelations of ‘putting other’s needs first’ and putting my feelings last all come from the question, “how are you?”. Before I answer let me ask you to count how many people you meet in your day to day life. And out of all of those people, how many of them would answer that question ‘honestly’ about how they were ‘really feeling’? If I were to have a guess, I would say fewer than 5 and it is perhaps closer to the 1-2 figure mark. Why do you think that is?
I used to be a, “I’m fine, how are you?” person.
If I could deflect away from how I really felt and get them talking about themselves with me as a listener, all the better. I was proficient at deflecting attention away from myself.
I’d spend seconds, minutes even hours ‘being there’ for other people. Listening, using open body language, and asking questions to further my understanding of how it ‘felt’ for them. I was a master at putting others first. It does come naturally to me to listen, to help others feel at ease and to create that space for the other person to feel ‘safe’ around me. I wouldn’t do what I do today if I didn’t enjoy ‘creating safety’ and helping others to manoeuvre their way through challenges in their life.
Little did I realise how much disregarding my feelings was affecting me. By putting other’s needs before mine, I was ‘abandoning’ who I was. I wasn’t listening to my own feelings because it was easier to listen to others. My conditioned, childhood beliefs had taught me that ‘other’s needs’ are more important than my own, so I put others first despite feeling like I wasn’t at ‘my best’.
It made me feel unheard, disregarded, insecure, belittled, unwanted and alone. But, I didn’t blame these people for making me feel this way, I was in a state of ‘being emotionally overdrawn’, or 'in the red'.
I was giving so much away because I didn’t know how to receive from others. I didn’t realise that the way to ‘feel better’ was to fill up my ‘emotional bank account’.
Matt Kahn explains it like this. We all have an emotional bank account, much like a financial bank account. When we withdraw from our emotional bank account, much like withdrawing money, our ‘emotional savings’ drop. Now if we are constantly replenishing our emotional bank account then this is not a problem, much like we would deposit money into a bank consistently. There is more than enough to circulate both emotions and money to others. Emotions being anything from listening to another person, helping someone out, being honest about how we feel and express our needs without attachments or expectations.
However, if our ‘emotional bank account’ is depleted and we have negative equity or are ‘in the red’, then we begin to feel resentful of others, we judge and blame others and ourselves, we don’t feel heard, our own health suffers from illness and/or exhaustion and we ‘abandon’ ourselves. In essence, we don’t feel ‘good enough’ and we ‘reject’ who we are. Does any of this sound familiar?
It began for me by becoming aware of what I was doing. And not by blaming and shaming myself, just simply noticing how it felt for me. It wasn’t a reason to beat myself up with self-judgments or attempt to distract myself by comfort eating or impulsive shopping buys. It was as if I was observing myself and noticing my feelings without action.
It didn’t feel ‘right’ for me anymore, to be ‘inauthentic’ and to lie about how I truly felt.
If someone asked, I might say, “My life couldn’t get much worse right now” or “pretty cra**y”, but I would say it in a melodic way rather than a mood that would match the feeling. By being ‘authentic’ it then allowed others to be their authentic selves with me, I took the first step to drop my mask and they followed suit. It also allowed 'real' connection to develop.
Have you ever had the experience when someone shared a particularly challenging part of his or her life with you? Did it create a closer bond or more distancing between you?
The belief is ‘if I share my pain’ with someone they won’t want to know me or they’ll hurt me. I know that I have experienced that in the past and I am not saying it is easy when you first start. It is pretty scary. But the rewards are worth it. Your World changes.
So, how to start? This is not about trying to manipulate your feelings into getting what you want because that method doesn’t work. Believe me, I’ve tried that! The first step is:
- Becoming aware of how you feel.
That means simply feeling a sensation in your body, what is it like? Is it like a tingling or a deep emptiness or a contraction? Feel that sensation and how it moves through your body.
- You are safe to feel.
As you are feeling, know that you are ‘safe’. Some of us don’t feel safe, we feel that we might be weak, or be rejected or not hold it together or a myriad of different possibilities. But if each feeling isn’t ‘safe’ to feel and if that were true, we would not survive from one feeling to the next one. Knowing that feelings are fluid and come and go, sometimes within seconds or minutes. A feeling is not fixed unless you allow it to be, more about this on a later blog. You wouldn’t be here today having survived all of the feelings that you’ve already been through in your life. We have all had different experiences and we have all felt the same feelings.
- Nurture yourself with time.
Allow all feelings to be acknowledged and expressed equally. Each feeling is a bookmark, a clue that our body is sending us to teach us how to value ourselves exactly as we are. Whatever you express and accept on the inside, will not be ‘vomited’ out onto another person. For example, becoming angry with another person is a sign that anger is not an acceptable feeling to express. Nobody knows what’s happening on the inside unless you tell them.
- Take on chance on living authentically, as you truly are.
Take a risk and tell someone how you really feel, instead of pretending that all is ok. Most people will ‘sense’ that there is a lack of integrity, through the energy you are transmitting, this happens despite how much control you think you may have over your words and actions. If you say you are fine and you’re not, others will sense a mismatch, especially empathic people who are particularly attuned to sensing other people’s feelings. Some might not be able to put their finger on why it doesn’t ‘feel right’ but it will be a sense that something isn’t quite matching up. Your inner energy and outer words aren’t in alignment.
I am eternally grateful for everything that Matt Kahn has taught me. I have seen myself grow immensely. I accept how I feel even though it might not always seem ‘comfortable’ and I know that I always grow more after pain and it now takes much less time to navigate through my feelings. I get to a place of loving myself much quicker. It used to take me days and weeks to feel at ease with my feelings.
I am also so genuinely grateful to share my life with friends who allow me to be who I am and I allow them to be who they are. I lead with love, as much as I can, because I know that in doing so that I show up exactly as I am. I couldn’t be anyone else. And neither could you. I am not perfect and I make mistakes but essentially we are all made from the same stuff, and that is love.
What do you have to lose by trying something different?
You never know how your life can change for the better. You are powerful beyond belief and all it takes is for you to take the first leap into authentically living.
Stand out from the masses, be you. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.