So often, we live our lives expecting to feel a certain way. When we inevitably don’t, we question our actions, and often punish ourselves for feeling that emotion.
I’m angry about this ‘small’ thing; I must be overreacting. I’m too anxious to speak up; I’m a coward. I feel nervous about this interview; I can’t do it.
However, there’s something to be said for taking meaningful action regardless of how you feel. Repeating the mantra in the title (‘I don’t have to feel X’. I just have to do it’ takes the pressure off me to feel a certain way. I can choose my actions based on all the information I have, not just emotions — and I can avoid shaming myself for those feelings, since I took the valued action regardless.
Here’s some examples:
As I continue to cut compulsions out, and work on living towards my values, anxiety and depression are no longer a constantly deepening hole in my life. Great! I’m cured!
Not exactly. I’m realising that a lack of unhappiness doesn’t equate with feeling happiness. Unless you know how to cultivate that, it’s easy to fall back on old habits, and be stuck in the same old rut.
Do I know how to be happy? Honestly, I’m not sure. But ultimately, I really want to learn how to act from a place of gratitude, and/or curiousity. Not fear or wanting to avoid discomfort. I’d like to move towards this mindset and see where it gets me.
I want to give love and affection to friends to make their day a little nicer, not to avoid feeling alone.
I want to eat because I care for and am grateful for my body and the energy it gives me. Not to get away from some emotion, or to punish myself.
I want to learn things because the world is interesting. Not so I seem more interesting.
Sometimes I do these things already, or at least I hope I do. But it’s far too easy to act in a way that is all about reducing discomfort, instead of showing appreciation for the life I have now.
I’d like to spend as much time cultivating emotions like gratitude and compassion, as I did for anxiety, anger and depression. They say it takes ten thousand hours to be a master at something, so I’ve got a lot of gratitude to get through 😉
My habitual response to discomfort is to run, avoid, or to distract from the problem with something. Examples:
- Feel anxious about work, or imposter syndrome –immediately want to leave my job and find somewhere else.
- Feel tired or stressed: nap my problems away or watch YouTube videos until I feel better.
- Get annoyed at a friend or situation: complain or vent about it instead of taking any action to fix it.
- Know I should write a blog post, but I don’t feel inspired so I don’t wanna: avoid it. (admittedly I’ve been steadily writing my novel as well, but I am hardly trying to fit blogging in either)
My journey in cutting out compulsions has gotten pretty far, but I must fill my time with useful things, or I’ll start relapsing. It is in incremental steps so far, as I mentioned in my previous post about small wins: committing to the tiniest action as often as I can. Writing a paragraph, playing one scale on guitar, putting on my exercise clothes. It’s working well so far, as the act of starting usually propels me into doing more.
However, ironically, a discomfort I need to move towards is feeling like I’m ‘not doing well enough’ at moving towards discomfort! I tend to put myself down, and sometimes the struggle towards doing more comes from a feeling of inadequacy and unhappiness with my life, rather than just wanting to do more things I like.
But I’m doing fine. And I can act, and do things I value, and love myself — regardless of the discomfort that brings.