For years, I thought feeling low/down/bad was somehow…bad. That I was doing something wrong because I didn’t feel good.
I thought I was supposed to feel good, better, happy — all of the time. If I fell into a low moment? I should be able to rebound back into happy. Immediately.
Cue positive thinking, “I can” mantras, and rainbow sprinkles.
“I am awesome. I can do this!”
And…going that route left me feeling like a fraud. Clearly I was failing even more: I couldn’t even do positive thinking right.
This cycle of feeling low and then self-flagellation for feeling low went on and on. I knew it didn’t work (I couldn’t jump from sad to happy in one go; it took me time!) — yet I kept trying.
I was in for another level of trying when I hit parenthood. Now not only did I have myself but also three small people who had feelings too! And happy we should all be, all of the time (or at least 98%). Because if they weren’t happy, then I couldn’t be happy.
Life has a way of getting in our faces to get our attention when we’re missing a lesson. For me? One of my biggies has been learning that we all feel the range of emotions and feelings (surprise, surprise), none are good or bad, and they are a rather amazing resource: our own internal GPS system pointing us in the direction to go (or not). And moving from one emotion/feeling to another (like sad to happy)? It takes time and happens in baby steps. We’re not supposed to (or meant to) take the leap — the distance is huge. Instead, we walk ourselves to a better feeling spot one step at a time (I keep this emotional guidance scale around to help me remember). Perhaps literally by taking a walk. Or maybe a nap or phoning a friend. Or whatever might help us take a step back and slow the brain’s spinning thoughts so we can redirect ourselves and try on a different perspective.
On the kid end? Life’s poke in the ribs has been loud and clear: Not your job to make them happy, Robin. NOT YOUR JOB. Your job is to love them, to hold their immense potential in mind, and to be the best role model you can be. When they are feeling low? Don’t steal the lesson I’m offering to them; let them experience it and focus instead on how to handle the discomfort you feel and clear your head regarding your worry about them feeling low. You’re no good to them when you’re feeling wadded up. Get your head and heart in line — then you can be most useful to them as they learn to sort through and determine next steps. They can do this. So can you.
One step at a time is the quickest way to get to feeling better.
One step at a time for you, Robin, and one step at a time for them.