12 February 2019

It's Okay for Women to Own (and Feel) Their Emotions

I grew up in a family that didn't really do "big emotions or feelings."

I did not have the tools or words to often express the ways I felt inside my body or mind. From the time I was little girl, I remembered sensing I was a person who felt things very deeply in her spirit. And sometimes, this left me floundering in my family and emotional life.

I did not know how to express why I felt anxious or was obsessively worrying about situations at different times in my life. Sometimes I didn't know how to name my feelings or emotions, I automatically assumed the way I was feeling was bad because I couldn't name it or did not understand it. 


Working through childhood wounds, sexual trauma, and the pain of a broken marriage, revealed to me I did not have the words to describe painful experiences from my life. My counselor had to help me teach me to learn to listen to my body and spirit to hear what was going on.

Before I continue further, I want to state I am NOT a trained psychologist or mental health clinician. I am merely speaking from my own life experience. I have come to better understand my ow story, and that is the perspective from which I share with you what I have learned along the way.

Early on with my counselor, I was given a sheet with eight basic emotions: anger, fear, pain, joy, passion, love, shame, and guilt. On this sheet, were included words to describe these emotions, as well as where you can feel them on your body.

I began to to practice taking inventory of my feelings and emotions. For example, if I was feeling anxious or restless about something that happened at work, I worked backwards and asked myself, "what happened at work that impacted how I am currently feeling right now?"

This practice began to change (and continues to change) my inner life. I used to assume because I was experiencing some big feelings or emotions, it meant they were bad or I would shame myself for feeling that way.

This is a lifelong journey for me. I don't do it perfectly and still have hiccups from time to time. But because I have learned how to name, own, and express my feelings and emotions, I am emotionally stronger and healthier.


Here are some of the ones I have found most helpful for me over the last few years:

  • Repeat "truth statements" when you feel flooded or overwhelmed
Sometimes it is hard to calm your brain down when your body feels flooded by cortisol. In moments when I feel like I am losing some control, I find deep, rhythmic breathing with truth statements to be very helpful. Some ones I use are: It is okay to feel your feelings or feelings are just telling me that something deeper is going on in my body.
  • Journal your feelings and emotions
You may or may not be the journal type of person. Personally, I am the type that finds a lot of relief in getting my words and thoughts out on paper.

My counselor encouraged me to start to journal using the emotions sheet I mentioned earlier as a way to get more in touch with my inner world. Scientific studies actually show frequent journaling can benefit your emotional health.
  • Be aware of what your triggers are
Triggers can be anything: a past memory, smells, sensations, touches, words that remind you of something, etc. They are powerful because they can take us back to another time we felt that same emotion.

Going to counseling and digging deep into my own work has illuminated what my own triggers are in life. I am more aware of triggers now than I have ever been. I have learned that if I try to stuff or not fully acknowledge things, they will grow and come out later in larger ways.
  • Ask for help if you need it
  Well-known research professor, Brene Brown, talks a lot about the power of someone else speaking truth when your "shame gremlins" are out and about in life. It can be very helpful to identify a friend or family member when you're feeling an emotion that overwhelms or scares you.

There is absolutely no shame in saying, "I need help. I cannot do this on my own. I need to find a good therapist or talk with my doctor about going on a medicine to take the edge off while I'm working through things."


You, like me, we are all a work in progress.

I have more tools on my toolbox now and more words to describe how I am feeling.
But I still have hiccups from time to time, and I am always learning more about myself.

It is sad to me that women still experience shame for a lot of different things in our world today.

Let's commit to stop shaming ourselves (or others) for the ways we feel. 

Becoming more self-aware and emotionally healthy are one of the best gifts we as women can give ourselves.


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