Blooming When Empty: How to Have Joy For Others When It Feels Impossible
For many women, the holidays are a time of excitement, engagements, first Christmases and baby stockings. But for every woman rejoicing, there is often another who is depressed, alone, or feeling unsure about what the future has for her.
How can we learn to be real in our struggles, but also genuinely rejoice for others? Especially if a friend has something that we feel unable to attain (a husband, pregnancy, etc)?
The holiday season typically kicks up a lot of feelings. These emotions range from joy to dread; hope to disappointment; gratitude to sadness; elation to longing. Just when you thought you hit your stride and things were moving along swimmingly, the holidays often have a way of sprinkling in surprising feelings that aren’t necessarily festive.
Comparing ourselves to other people can be tricky business, especially during times of the year when happiness is an unspoken expectation. It can be difficult to feel blue particularly when it seems like so many people around us are jovial and are chock-full of things to look forward to. Take heart, you are not alone. We all struggle in different ways, at various periods in our lives. The holidays tend to underscore that which we have and the very things we long to have.
How can we be authentic in our personal struggles and simultaneously be joyous for someone else?
Having a sense of your own emotional state of mind can do wonders for connecting with others. When we have a handle on what we are feeling and perhaps where the feelings stem from, we can more gracefully navigate our moods and interactions. Take your emotional temperature and be honest with yourself about all the feelings that bubble up. This process ultimately yields insight that helps pave the way for authenticity in relationships.
If you are having a rough go of it, there might be a bit of relief in sharing your heartache with a loved one. For example, if your best friend just had a baby and you’ve been struggling to get pregnant, she might be relishing her newfound maternal role whereas you might be wishing you could be celebrating this life-changing event too. If the relationship is a solid one, this chasm might soften with a welcome conversation about what’s on your mind. “I’m so happy for you, but I am also struggling with your good news because I wish I had it too. I am having a hard time believing I will ever get pregnant. I’m sharing this because I love you and want to be open with you.”
Take heart, you are not alone.
Attempt to have compassion for your experience. If you are feeling lonely, envious, anxious or depressed, it helps to embrace the feelings rather than attempt to stave them off. Judging your challenging feelings only makes matter worse. When we cultivate self-compassion we benefit enormously. Being kind to yourself is especially important during difficult times.
Though it can be difficult to be genuinely happy for someone when they are experiencing joy and you are not, try to keep in mind that things aren’t static — life is ever-changing — you will eventually feel differently than you do now. You are not alone in your struggle. Embracing hopefulness can help our hearts turn toward experiences on the horizon that might bring joy.
Your painful feelings can co-exist with other people’s feelings of joy. If you acknowledge your experience, you are better able to contextualize and normalize the feelings that you have during times of struggle. That, more than anything, will open your heart to feelings different than your own.
How do you process hard feelings around the holidays?
Image via Auste Skrupskyte