The pressures of being "good" when you feel like shit
So you feel like crap, have shit to do, and are required to do it in a smiley manner so you don’t offend, alarm, or negatively impact others around you. Fuck. How?
Well, I see you! I’ve been blocked for what feels like an eternity, trying to get out of my own way, and peering down the long corridor of despair at the grand scheme, which proves tremendously overwhelming.
In an effort to police myself, I reached out to a friend demanding she discipline me with a topic to write about and holding me to my self-imposed editing deadline. She bestowed upon me the topic you witness before you: “The pressures of being ‘good’ when you feel like shit.” With a hard eyeroll and quick glance over my shoulder to see if she happened to travel the 3 hour distance between our residences, to eavesdrop on the conversation I literally just hung up the phone from. I resolved to knowing that the topic was my problem and the problem was my topic. Had I been so completely blocked that the key to freedom had been staring me down two beats from my breath the whole time?!? Yes. And so, we find ourselves here in this isolating vortex, together.
Welcome, step in, and let’s explore our problem hand in hand.
What is it that makes us feel bad? As I was exploring this idea, I made a list of all the current, acute complaints plaguing my existence, and while I could sit there validate and justify every last one of them as well as convince a Hollywood producer to make a blockbuster film about each one separately, I know deep down that it wasn’t these factual feelings regarding my reality, but something much simpler than that. It came down to 3 key words:
Before diving deep into the philosophical vortex of these three culprits, I must make note and concession that physical pain often times contributes to this discussion and it is a beast of burden. Chronic disease is quite a contender, of which I’ve had quite a run with myself as well as closely spectating the struggle of loved ones dealing with it. So while chronic physical limitations are very tangible factors, likely there are ways to tweak and refine our way of managing them. Very simply taking better care of ourselves, eating healthier, giving up things that make the condition worse, or seeking the correct medical attention, etc. We could cover a whole other segment on this particular topic alone, however, I digress, but wanted at least to give light to a known contributor of our topic at hand. Highlighting how we deal with challenges that are out of our control are what make the difference.
Moving right along, let’s take charge of that which we can control… comparison, expectation, and attachment. Our three main foes for purposes of this focus.
Comparison. There are so many avenues we have this day in age for comparison. The opportunity for comparison lies within the parameters of that which we are exposed to, and with the rapid expansion of technology, not only television, internet, social media, photoshop and filters, but science and all its new ways of unnaturally staying “young,” we’ve become fraught with overstimulation of new and various standards. Not to mention many of which are unrealistic and even unnecessary. Yet the consumption of this information, voluntarily or involuntarily, has riddled our minds with insecurity and a deflation of our own self-worth. Leaving us to focus on implementing benchmarks on our personal evolution that may not even be aligned with what it is we want to achieve in our own lives. The overstimulation and comparison can take us out of our own line of sight. It takes our eyes off of our own prize and onto someone else’s prize and then we are mindlessly left trying to achieve someone else’s dream leaving our very own in the dust! So that’s that on comparison, maybe you hadn’t even realized how much comparison was playing a role in your feeling shitty. And truthfully as much as I have been aware that comparison has poisoned many a dreams of my own, as I write this right now, I hadn’t taken into consideration the depth at which comparison has steered me off course and distanced me from that which I hold true in my own heart.
If that wasn’t heavy enough, let’s dive straight into Expectations. The things about expectations is that… well, they’ll fuck you right up! Why? Because often times, we don’t realize how concrete we make these expectations. We set them up and work towards that one thing without the malleability of knowing that all things shift and within our movement towards that one thing, or many things, we as individuals evolve and so do all the many factors contributing to that experience. As we are moving towards our concrete expectation, we get so fixated and focused on that, that we have a tendency to forget the evolution of all other things happening around us. Without factoring the inevitable constant change of all things, when we finally come up for air, we find that there has been movement and we don’t know how to handle the required adaptation, so we fall apart. Setting something so much in stone, within an environment of constant change, is like building a sand castle in the eye of a hurricane. It’s almost as if expectations innately set us up for failure. Perhaps there is a level at which we could set expectations and not have them be the downfall of all that we aspire to, but if you’re an extremist like me and are still with me on this ride, I’m willing to bet you need this harsh reminder as much as I do!
Lastly of the three barbarians is Attachment. Now this is a sticky subject literally and figuratively, what we attach to, why we attach, the necessity of attachment. Attachment is similar to expectations in the light that we make our attachments concrete and may leave little room for malleability. Holding fast to an idea, a condition, an image of ourselves, putting a choke hold on it, and subsequently creating our identity around this idea we lovingly smother. We make this idea an extension of ourselves and as such, if said thing were to fall away or cause disrupt in our lives, it wreaks havoc on the total being, leaving us with little hope of existing without it. We fail to see the true reality of our identity, that which is, as we are, just being, is perfect and good enough. All these superfluous things we’ve draw into our existence as humans are elaborate accessories to our experience, they are not creating the actuality of that which we are. We attach because it gives us perceived meaning, purpose, or value. All of which is due to a seeking outside of ourselves rather than looking inward to realize that everything we actually need is already residing within us; and a surrendering to giving up the collection of trinkets, be it ideas or materials things, we’ve outwardly accumulated to give a tangible meaning to our identity. Attachments are safety blankets, blinders, and distractions, torn between evoking a feeling of security and an offering of limitation or possible imprisonment.
Now that we’ve illuminated the existential crutches we’ve allowed to cast a shadow on our light, what do we do about it? How do we get that cold, wet blanket to incinerate and breath life back into the fire of our vitality? What I have deduced from my own experience, both professional and being a perpetual lab rat for my own behavioral investigations, is that a lot of times when we feel like crap, it’s energy that is displaced, doesn’t know where to go, or just hanging out in a crevice redirecting all other energies. Energy that needs an outlet, a focus, or simply just to be seen/heard.
Here are seven tried and true suggestions you may want to give a shot:
1. Don’t fake it... stifling emotions means pushing them deep down into your system to calcify, fester and create the perfect environment for blocked energies, dissonance, and disease. I looked for research to back up my suggestion and let me tell you, there is no shortage of it. In my overwhelm of abundance, I decided to do my own research. So I asked myself, how do I feel when I stifle my emotions. Answer: terrible! And after over 3 decades in this body and on this planet, what I also know to be true, is that even the smallest amount of emotion that get stifled away builds to an eventual fever pitch and unleashes its havoc on our physical body. Alternatively, to test my hypothesis, I asked myself how to I feel when I release emotion, for example, by laughing or crying. Answer: great! Albeit that feeling might not come as readily with crying as it does with laughing, but I’m certain that after a good cry, I feel the release and the expansion in my personal space to gain a sense of freedom.
So, journal, talk, get different perspectives outside of your own, it may help you see something about yourself or the situation that couldn’t be seen from where you are standing. Honor the emotions. The emotions want to be seen and acknowledged, because they are great teachers and they offer quite a bit of information when we let them fully expose themselves, as well as an outlet of energy.
2. Ok, maybe fake it, a little... The reality is we have to get through a day, work, taking care of family, running errands, etc., so sometimes you have to fake it. Research has shown that smiling changes your mood even if you don’t mean it. Simply moving the muscles in your face to form a smile sends a message to your brain that activates the areas which respond to positivity. So when you have to, shelf the issue or the feelings to come back to later. Sounds impossible, yes, however there is hope, by being very present and creating focused attention on right now and what it is you have to be doing. Then go back and take those feelings off the shelf and work with them… Don’t forget or avoid this step, because… see #1!
3. Practice mindfulness… …the key to being very present. When we feel shitty it’s likely that our mind is all over the place doing what it does, analyzing, processing, justifying, rationalizing, gah! I’m tired just from writing all the things our monkey mind is capable of... but if we focus on a singular task, it can set the overwhelm at bay, if not but for a moment. By narrowing our focus, we can start to make small accomplishments, possibly even big ones. With accomplishment comes reward in the form of endorphins, the happy hormones our brains release to make us feel good… and isn’t that the exact remedy we are looking for? The more mindfulness we practice, the stronger and more consistent the response becomes over time without the effort. I think that’s a whole lot of reason in just a few sentences to stay present!
4. Go outside… research shows… do you want to punch me yet for all the research talk? But is that not what a lot of people need to believe in something… it seems blind faith, personal experimentation, and subsequent implementation has gone out the window, much with thinking for ourselves… but I seriously digress and will curb this topic for another time. In all seriousness, research does show the benefits of being out in nature. In my opinion, namely, removing ourselves from the unnatural frequencies of electronics, the broadcast of radio, news, the illusion of Hollywood, the chaos of politics and opinions, cold concrete walls, sterile, curated environments, and the list goes on. Nothing is more in tune with our human frequencies than nature, because, well, we are nature. Get out there and bathe in the frequencies of your base existence. Dance in the forest, swim in the ocean, breath in mountain air. Restore your body with the essence of your true mother, Earth!
5. Move your body… It’s no mystery when we move our body it feels better and when our body feels better our mental state feels better. Our physical bodies are energy, our thoughts are energy, our emotions are energy; energy moves. It changes and it shifts. When we don’t move our bodies, energy can get stuck. We can free up blocked energy by stretching our muscles, getting our blood flowing, and encouraging endorphin release and new brain activity. However you do you, move your booty; run, walk, yoga it out, dance, play a sport, throw some weights around, just shift the inertia.
6. Create something… draw, paint, cook, clean out a closet and create more space. We are creators, regardless of what it is we are creating. We need to create and sometimes we don’t even realize that creative energy is locked up. Even if you have disillusions of being an awful artist, writer, cook, whatever the story is you are telling yourself, just create. You can burn your masterpiece once you’ve produced it, but get that pent up creative energy O.U.T. out! Even cleaning out your closet, not only creates space, but our external world can be reflective of our internal world and by releasing the shackles of what you see around you, you may release some internal confinement. Let that creativity flow!
Lastly… and ultimately…
7. Know that no matter what... everything is always going to be ok… There is an innate economics to this life and as humans we are highly adaptable. We ebb, we flow, we constantly evolve. So when all else fails trust that the only constant is change and change is the predecessor to homeostasis. This too shall pass.