Owning My Emotions
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Health and Wellness

Owning My Emotions

How replacing repression with expression set me free.

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Owning My Emotions
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In classic Capricorn fashion, I'm an expert at repressing my emotions. I've been a high achiever from a young age and while my teachers, parents and coaches had high expectations of me, I had even higher expectations of myself. I spent most of my childhood pushing any anger, sadness or hurt deep inside and channeling them into self-hate and perfectionism. This redirection manifested into depression, severe anxiety and body image issues that I still struggle with as a young adult. I have an intense fear of vulnerability and, at one point in my life, went three years without crying. To this day, I still feel my throat close up when I try to vocalize my emotions, even to the people who love me best.

It took years of therapy for me to understand something that has since revolutionized my life: owning my emotions.

It works like this: I'm really nervous about writing this article. It makes me feel exposed and vulnerable and I'm uncomfortable with that. I worry that people will view me differently after learning that I've struggled with my mental health.

Above is what I'm feeling, and I'm stating it of my own volition and on my own terms. I'm taking back control over my emotions by acknowledging and expressing them rather than trying to ignore or avoid them.

You can't turn your feelings off... believe me, I've tried. Even if you ignore them, they're not going to disappear. I can tell myself otherwise, but the truth is that my hands still shake when I have to give a presentation. I still experience dressing room distress. I will never be comfortable with conflict or confrontation. I can't control my emotions, but I can control how I handle them.

Ownership is a two-step process. First, you have to identify what you're feeling and why. Pinpointing what you're feeling is important - are you actually angry, are you just frustrated or are you hurt? Maybe it's all three. It's important to recognize your response because having a clear understanding of your emotional state makes it easier to communicate with others. Step two is expressing your feelings in a constructive way. Learning to communicate isn't easy for those of us who are masters at repression and internalization, but you can start with something small, like, "Being late to work makes me anxious," and work your way up to, "I become frustrated when you don't meet me on time for carpool." Open communication of one's emotions can also prevent resentment, hostility or misunderstandings between two parties. For instance, when meeting up with a friend in the evening, I might let them know, "I'm irritable because I had a really long day," so that they're aware of where I'm coming from and don't assume I'm upset because of something they said or did.

I try to express how I'm feeling in stressful situations, mainly for my own sake. I might begin a job interview or a class presentation with, "Wow, I'm really nervous." That open admission of fear diffuses some of my anxiety, especially because most people are understanding and respond kindly. Honesty is disarming; it causes people to lower their guard and creates a more open connection between you and your audience. More than anything, it just helps to release that emotion and then continue on with your life rather than keeping it shoved inside.

In a world that values stoicism, confidence and strength, I've always been afraid of appearing weak or overemotional. But what I've learned is that knowing your own feelings and learning how to communicate them takes tremendous self-awareness and courage. It's the bravest thing you can do! Talk about your feelings. Let yourself be raw and experience everything fully. Cry hard and cry often. I'm in tears at least three times a week, and I refuse to be embarrassed about that because I know that crying is GOOD for me.

I own my emotions. They don't own me.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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