A woman walking by a wall of art

A question came up yesterday as I ate my third chocolate chip cookie in a row. Are you being kind to yourself during this time?

It was obvious at that point through the stress-eating I was partaking in that I was not OK. Instead of doing something about the welling up of emotions, I was holding my feelings back and keeping my problems in. Instead of meeting my needs the healthy way, (and, as an Enneagram 7 I would argue, the hard way) I was loading up on sugar to fill the space left from avoiding processing hard things.

In this moment, it was really easy to come down on myself with an expectation of self-control. However, in the vein of full transparency, I had just completed a month of restricting myself to not eating sugar. Self-control was not the root issue.

I sat in the reality of what I had just done while the remains of cookie number three slid down my throat. Reaching a guilty finger out to pause the book on tape I was half-listening to, I dropped the veil of delusion. It wasn’t a craving. It was a cover-up.

I dropped the veil of delusion. It wasn’t a craving. It was a cover-up.

One of my least favorite things to do is to admit that I’m not OK. Throughout the years, I’ve established a pretty thorough grounding of my identity and helped myself to as much personal development as I could get my hands on. Yet, it doesn’t matter how many Brené Brown books I’ve annotated or reflective journaling sessions I’ve participated in. If I avoid processing the place my spirit has landed, then I will stagnate and actively try to repress the honesty of, “I’m not OK.”

I’m not the only one who suffers here. And you know what? There is zero shame in this space, only the gratitude that waits in exhaling and letting your shoulders fall, inhaling into the space between your eyebrows and blowing the hot air of pride through lips of surrender.

I realized that I needed to bring myself into the reality of my present. I had been living like a cartoon character, limbs tied to balloon figures of all the things I hadn’t let go of or acknowledged. Bright, shiny, mylar creations shifting hauntingly on their ropes over my shoulders. I found shade under an olive tree, put the cookies down and brought out my scissors.

Over the course of the next few days, here are the things that helped me let go and ultimately process why I had so many feelings:

  • Journaling a list of all the changes I had experienced over the past few months
  • Crying at my desk at work
  • Not feeling guilty about requesting “me” time, which looked like a closed door and a book on tape
  • Calling to schedule an appointment I’d been putting off
  • Prayerfully considering putting up boundaries in one of my friendships
  • Communicating my thankfulness for thoughtfulness I saw in my coworkers and friends
  • Considering what would happen if I just said “no” to a leadership opportunity 
  • Giving myself permission to pause half marathon training to fully resolve an injury
  • Being honest about who and what I needed to forgive
  • Taking a nap
  • Drinking more water
  • Having hard conversations I didn’t even want to step foot into
  • Showing up at work with a spirit of playfulness instead of expectation
  • Quitting trying to “do it all” while feeling the weight of unhealthy avoidance

That last one is key. It allowed me to insert little moments of grace into my day, which is sometimes something as small as ordering dinner for one night even though I’d promised myself I would cook more. I’m learning that being kind to myself isn’t giving in to what I want because what I want is easy and chaos-free. Like a horse clopping through Central Park wearing blinders, the issues are still there. I just pretend that I can’t see them.

I’m learning that being kind to myself isn’t giving in to what I want because what I want is easy and chaos-free.

I’m also learning that the hard stuff is worth it. When I avoid processing or being honest about what I’m going through, I cheat myself out of experiencing the beauty of what my closest friends are in my life for—to offer support and comfort and to love me through every season. Letting them in and asking for their wisdom is a growing experience for our friendships.

I miss those opportunities if I’m absorbed in the depths of avoidance. Kindness is an extension of love into my relationships and to myself. Extend the invitation and let them help.

I need to call out the inner monologue of fear that feeds on the fantasy of negative outcomes. The more I avoid what’s necessary and refuse to process the changes in my life, the deeper I travel into a black hole of denial, telling myself I’m OK instead of reminding myself it’s OK to be afraid. 

The more I avoid what’s necessary and refuse to process the changes in my life, the deeper I travel into a black hole of denial.

A mantra I’ve used in seasons like this is stolen from the song “Not Today” by Hillsong: “Fear is a liar running out of breath.”

The sturdier my blinders, the more I’ve fed into fear. The fear of the unknown will always be there to keep you from living your biggest and best life. It’s time to move past it. Falsified fear cannot and will not be the thing that keeps me from unpacking my feelings and traversing the landscape of change and all that comes with it.

I invite you to partake in as many points of that list as you feel called to. Even just doodling out a list of the changes you’ve experienced in the past three months can be enough. If anything, it’s a great place to start.

Is it difficult for you to process hard emotions? How can you acknowledge and not deny those feelings?

Image via Martha Galvan, Darling Issue No. 16

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