“What other people think of me is none of my business.” (Wayne Dyer)
You know the drill. Your anxiety spikes and turns you into a basket-case just before a meeting with your boss. But you don’t want your girlfriend to think you’re a total nut job, so you explain to her just how high the stakes are and just how much is riding on this meeting.
Or maybe you’re an introvert who has spent a little too much time around a few too many people. But you get invited to a party and all your friends are there and you go — even though you secretly wished to just stay home and watch TV all night by yourself. You arrive at the party, and people mention you acting a little anti-social. You launch into a long explanation about how you’re just tired and have a lot on your mind.
Or you’re super stressed out about money or a relationship. A good friend sends you an email asking how you are, and you dump everything out to them. Then, realizing how much of a “Debbie Downer” you must sound like, you offer an apology of sorts saying, “This is very unusual for me to let things get me down like this.”
For some reason, we feel the need to justify our feelings to others. We’re afraid that they’re judging us for being emotional people, and, in reality, they probably are. We all do it; it’s hard not to — even if it is almost always a reflection and projection of how harshly we judge ourselves.
So, what are we to do? We could constantly monitor how we’re coming across to others, and explain every little thing we do to make sure no one judges us harshly. Of course, that’s impossible to do. You can’t control what someone else does, especially when it’s something they do in their minds.
Instead, we could give ourselves permission to feel our feelings. That’s something you can actually control. Moreover, when you do this, you put yourself in a position to actually learn from your emotions.
This is the journey I am on. I’ve been a very cerebral person for a very long time. But lately, I’ve begun to wonder why I feel so…emotionally stunted. I think it may be because I’ve felt the need to explain away my feelings — imposing some sort of rational basis for my emotional ups and downs, rather than simply accepting that I feel this way or that and asking myself probing questions about it.
So, here’s what I’ve been working on: Instead of pretending to feel okay — and explaining to the people around me why I might come across as if I’m not feeling okay — I’m trying to let myself feel what I’m feeling — even if I’m not feeling particularly okay at the moment. It is my hope that this will allow me to discover what I need to do in order to move past a not-so-okay feeling.
I’ve grown weary of pretending to be perfect. I’m going to let myself be human without offering an apology. I’m not perfect. I’m tired of hiding that. All that has ever done is damage my relationships with the people who matter most to me.
Of course, there are times when it makes sense to explain oneself. Someone may have misunderstood something. I may hurt someone accidentally. Explaining my actions (and the intent behind my actions) may bring clarity to confusion at times. The vast majority of the time, however, the only person who needs an explanation about me is me — so I can figure out what’s going on inside of me and work through it.
I can’t control what other people think of me. But I’m learning that if I can accept myself in this moment, I might discover what I need to do in order to actually feel better — instead of just trying to look better.
Photo Credit: Shlomit Wolf