“When we become completely free of the need to judge we will also become completely free from the fear of being judged.” – Henri Nouwen
Dear reader, I have had a rather average day. My emotions have largely consisted of guilt, fear and insecurity. I feel lethargic and exhausted and frustrated at myself for reasons I don’t even understand. Perhaps it’s last night’s wine lingering in my bloodstream. Or maybe it’s the product of a bad night’s sleep. Whatever it is, I know it will pass.
Thing is, this line of logical reasoning doesn’t make me feel any better at the time. The rational side of my brain knows I will feel better tomorrow, but the emotions continue to bubble away under the surface, fears festering and insecurities multiplying like misbehaving cells.
And as I’ve been wallowing in this weird, unhealthy, unproductive state, I make it worse by chastising myself for feeling this way. “You’re being pathetic,” I tell myself. And then I feel guilty for said pathetic-ness. And the vicious cycle continues.
Throughout this jumble of emotions, I keep coming back to one particular line that most self-help and motivational gurus repeat like a mantra: “Let go of feelings that no longer serve you.”
I think this line is intended to have a calming, empowering effect. As if a metaphorical flick of the hand can wash away years of negative thought patterns.
When I am feeling strong, I find it easy to live life by this concept. But when I am feeling weak, I find it incredibly difficult. I think of those self-help gurus, living their zen lives, chowing down on kale while I burrow further into my duvet of despair and binge on chocolate.
How do they do it? How do they rise above the negativity?
Do you also struggle to let go of feelings that no longer serve you?
We are surrounded by positive affirmations and life advice, but sometimes words can only go so far. What I needed today was some practical tools to dig myself out of the negativity I had created for myself. Less talk, more action.
It took me until late afternoon to stop wallowing and start doing. First step: I went for a walk. Almost immediately after leaving the house, the simple process of putting one foot in front of the other helped to soothe my busy mind.
As I walked, I thought about the way I handled bad days. I realised that I wasted a lot of energy obsessing about what I thought I should be doing, rather than trying to understand my current feelings.
When you are climbing a hill, there is no point wishing you were already at the top – that doesn’t help you get there any faster. You need to concentrate on doing the best you can as you climb.
Perhaps I interpreted the saying ‘let go of feelings that no longer serve you’ too literally. I would find myself fighting against my negative thoughts, rather than seeking to understand them. ‘Letting go’ should be a gentle process, not an exhausting battle.
I realise now that I have been trying to solve my problems backwards. I have been trying to come up with solutions without fully understanding the causes of my distress.
In order to let go of feelings that no longer serve me, I need to first make peace with them. I need to see them as a part of me, not my enemy. They are never going to go away completely, so trying to banish them from my mind will only leave me feeling like a failure.
Instead, I must gently acknowledge my fears and flaws. It is in accepting my weaknesses that I will be able to truly let them go.
I write this in the hope that there are many of you out there who feel the same way. Do you have bad days where you feel inadequate or afraid? Do you occasionally act out of a place of fear and insecurity and therefore fail to bring the best version of yourself to the table?
So much of the content we read about other people’s lives is carefully crafted – we see their best snippets, an edited version of their realities.
But beneath every social media profile is a real person, with real thoughts and fears under the surface. I wish more people talked about the challenges they faced – there is a strange sense of hope in knowing that even the most outwardly confident people have difficult moments.
I raise a metaphorical glass to any of you out there who may stumble across this piece of writing when you’re having a bad day. Be gentle on yourself. Go for a walk. Listen to your thoughts without judgement or hostility. They will pass.
But most of all, seek to understand why it is you feel this way. Sit with your thoughts. Allow yourself to be weak for a little while so you can come back even stronger.
Tomorrow is a new day.