I was an angry child. Not all the time. Just when my feelings weren’t being acknowledged or considered, which was a lot. I got a very clear message: My feelings didn’t matter. (Incidentally, this is what started my writing “career” at a very young age.)
Here’s how that message, that my feelings didn’t matter, manifested itself in my behavior over the years. Every time I received the message that my feelings didn’t matter or weren’t valid, whether from my dad, a boyfriend, a boss, my ex-husband, etc., I shut down a little more. Eventually I stopped trying to explain myself. Eventually I stopped mentioning my feelings at all. Eventually I began doubting the validity of my own feelings. Eventually I stuffed my feelings down far enough so I could ignore them. And that ultimately is how I lost myself and my way almost a decade ago.
I’ve worked hard to reclaim my feelings. If I don’t honor my feelings, I can’t expect anyone else to respect them either. Even though I have made good progress on the feelings front, I was reminded recently that the angry little girl is alive and well. Frankly, I'm glad.
Last week I shared a post on Facebook that elicited a somewhat rude and disrespectful response from a friend. In a flash, I was enraged and then immediately shut down. I felt bullied into burying both my feelings and my voice. My response to my friend’s comment implied as much.
The incident continued to work in my subconscious overnight and I awoke with a new clarity in the morning …
I am entitled to feel how I feel in any given moment or situation. Period. The feelings are mine. No one needs to agree with them; you just need to accept them. If someone wants to have a conversation to better understand my feelings, I welcome it. But if the goal is to prove my feelings wrong or to change my mind about how I feel, don't waste your breath.
I understand there are those who rely solely on quantifiable, verifiable facts and stats. I don't work that way. When it comes to facts vs. feelings, I will always err on the side of trusting my feelings.
In my experience, feelings are an incredible source of insight and information. I might not have come to the clarity I did if I hadn’t paid attention to my anger. That anger told me a boundary had been crossed—not just by my friend but also by me. Although I was angry at the friend’s comment, I was also angry at myself for allowing someone to shut me down.
Here’s the other thing I know about feelings: They are an excellent compass. By paying attention to my feelings, I always know whether or not I am on the right path or have taken the next right step. I knew I needed to follow up again to my friend’s comment on Facebook—not from a place of anger but from a place of peace. So I did. I spoke my peace. And I will continue to do so.