Your Feelings Are Your Friends

By: Bethany Sluiter, MA LPC

“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are” – Brene Brown

In a world of highlight reels and carefully cropped photos shared on social media, it’s important that we remember who we truly are, and actively pursue sharing our true selves with the world. Living in a way that promotes authenticity helps us to tune into the world around us, experience the present moment, and cultivate depth in relationships.

One way that we can do this is by expressing authentic emotions. While it might sound simple, many of us don’t share how we truly feel. We’ve all been in a situation where we decide it’s “easier” or “better” to go with the flow than to express our discomfort or to name how hurt we feel. However, have you ever thought about how this might impact you?

Studies show that emotional suppression can lead to impaired social relationships, and may even have physiological consequences, similar to how stress affects the body. Holding back how you’re feeling displays an untrue version of yourself; over time, this can create a wall between the you and your loved one which widens as you continue holding in your feelings, making it more difficult for you to love and be loved well. Over time, this wall can grow so high that you can’t access the people on the other side, and you can lose sight of the needs and wants of the person right in front of you: you. 

Emotions can be scary when they’re uncharted. When you haven’t traversed the depths of your own pain, anger, or sadness, it can feel overwhelming and unmanageable. Maybe you’ve learned that some feelings are acceptable while others aren’t. Maybe you’ve had a bad experience with someone else’s uncontrollable feelings. In our society we like to distract ourselves from our feelings because we’ve learned that some feelings are socially unacceptable; however, the truth is that all feelings are valid, and are necessary to feel.

 What can be done to combat the devastating effects of holding back feelings? Where do you begin on the path of accepting your emotions and living authentically?

 Start by exploring why you’ve been holding back how you feel. Have you been afraid to tell the truth for fear that you’d hurt someone’s feelings? Are you fearful of inciting conflict?  These fears that may have served and protected you at some point in your life may not be so useful to you now. Chances are that you’d be more able to talk to your loved one about their hurt feelings if you felt comfortable with your own feelings. You can take steps to let go of these fears by allowing yourself to sit with how you’re feeling rather than trying to run from it. Practice making space for your emotions by turning toward them, rather than away from them, and get to know your feelings. Over time, you will find that your feelings become familiar, and are no longer your enemy.

Your emotions are your friends. They are important messengers that alert you to your lived experience.  When you are happy, the experience is favorable and probably safe. Anger and sadness may be alerting you to the fact that you have a need that is not being met, or a boundary that is being violated. When we learn to tune into our emotions rather than tuning them out, we find that they help us to better understand the ways that we are experiencing the world on a deeper level.

Emotions help us to ground ourselves in the here and now, to center us in our identities, and to walk down the path toward wholeness and authenticity. When you are able to be true to how and what you feel, you may find that decisions in life more naturally align themselves, and you are able live in a way that embraces who you truly are.