“I can’t help the way I feel!” Remember saying that to yourself? Remember then apologizing in your mind for feeling the way you were feeling? But did it make you feel any better? Probably not, because you were judging, you were being critical. Being judged and criticized is painful, and even more harmful when it comes from yourself.
Feel your feelings, acknowledge them and accept them without judgement or guilt. They are feelings and feelings are natural. Accepting them allows you to take a look at why you feel that way. No one has a right to make you feel badly about yourself and that most importantly includes you. While feelings are what they are for that moment, they can and do change as you come closer to realizing the real truth behind them. Insecurities about yourself accept when the feelings are negative, but you have the power to change both the feelings and the insecurities. Feelings are real, but they are often not the truth, whether they come from within or from someone else.
While feelings are not necessarily good or bad, actions guided by them can be. Feelings may direct you to do harm, as a reaction of that self criticism mentioned before. Often those feelings leave you feeling “I had no other choice”. To act in a way that is harmful or hurtful to yourself or others, is making a choice- a choice to cause physical or emotional pain. Feelings have a direct impact on your life, so analyzing and redirecting them to make your life better is healthy and helpful.
So, how do you feel at this moment? Just feel a current emotion, but not any actions you may associate with it. Again remember, feeling and acting on the feeling are very different. “I feel like punching something” or “I feel like hurting myself” is not the feeling. Why do you want to do that? Keep asking until you get to the feeling that is causing this want for action. Take a deep breathe and answer the question to yourself. Even though “I feel sad is a feeling, keep asking why to uncover other related feelings. Remember, you may be “talking” to your biggest critic. If you “hear” in your thoughts, that there is something wrong with that feeling, dismiss it. You don’t need to take abuse from yourself. Repeat after me, “It is how I feel and for now I accept the feeling.” Once you hear your feelings without criticism, you can begin to accept them without criticism. Once you stop criticizing yourself, the feelings can change.
You probably have been having conversations with yourself for as long as you can remember. It is time to listen for negativity and stop that conversation. Again, repeat, “It is how I feel and for now and I accept the feeling.” Accepting means no shame, no guilt, no self inflicted name calling, no cutting, no drugs, no alcohol. None of that makes the feelings completely go away. Punishing yourself for the feelings, or taking something to make the feelings go away are not only temporary, they reinforce and possibly worsen the negativity of the feelings. You are telling yourself you have no other choice. You do have choices. Accept the feeling as a feeling, NOT as truth. Acknowledging feelings gives you a starting point to change them to the way you wish you could feel. Perhaps a first step is to feel good about yourself. Make it part of your new repetition, “This may be how I feel for now, but I intend to feel better about myself every day.” Share your efforts with someone you trust. Someone who has your best interests at heart, may have a perspective you have not considered.
You have had many feelings in your lifetime and they changed without you realizing it. You have the power to like yourself now.
- Acknowledge your feelings. (Just the feeling without any thoughts of action)
- Accept them without judgement. Tell yourself over and over, “It is how I feel and for now I accept the feeling.” Refrain from acting on your negative feelings at this time.
- Analyze them. What caused you to feel this way?
- Allow for the possibility that the belief behind the feeling is not true.
- Try on some different, more positive thoughts about yourself. “This may be how I feel for now, but I intend to feel better about myself every day.” Change the saying to your own words, and be specific about the feelings you have as well as the more positive ones that you intend to try on.
- Talk to someone you trust.
Change always takes time so be willing to take baby steps and repeat them daily. You may not be able to do this whole list all at once. That is OK. Do the steps patiently and continuously . You are worth it! Did that trigger you? If so, being unworthy is your first feeling to work on!
For Parents of Teens:
Carl E Pickhardt PhD, Author of Surviving (Your Child’s) Adolescence, published an article entitled “Adolescence and Emotion” in Psychology Today dated July 19, 2010 which this author found helpful.
For Teens and their Parents:
Psychcentral.com has coping skill activities entitled “Techniques for Teens: How to Cope with our Emotions” by Margarita Tatakovsk, MS Associate Editor. The article includes valuable strategies from Lisa M Schab’s book, “The Self-Esteem Workbook for Teens:Activities to Help You Build Your Confidence and Achieve our Goals.”