I went through a rough patch a couple of weeks ago. Something really challenging happened that pushed a whole bunch of my buttons at once, pushing my mind and emotions into overdrive. I am so lucky that I have several wonderful friends who seem to love me no matter what, who are so very good at listening non-judgmentally and in the most satisfying of ways.
There was one friend in particular who I spoke to when I was at my most upset, the kind of friend you can say outrageous (and immature?) things to, those things that you don't really truly mean and would normally never say during a calmer moment. Those things that when you express them somehow make you feel so much better in the moment, even though you hear yourself as you say them and are fully aware that you might sound a little nuts. I suppose you could call it ranting, I imagine that other people use profanities when upset in the same way that my words make me feel better during a really good crazy-sounding rant.
Have you heard the term "crisis reveals character", or something along those lines? Whenever I get really upset about something, I secretly worry about my character. Is that upset, ranty person really me? The majority of the time I like to think I'm a pretty mature, together person with value to share with and serve people. But when I get upset by a really difficult (or particularly unfair) situation, I sometimes think or say things that I would never normally allow myself to think or say out loud. Thankfully I don't get so far gone that I rant on social media or in inappropriate situations, but I still say or think things that I wish I hadn't thought or said.
Have you ever gotten really upset and wished you could take what you said, or did, back? Haven't we all?
Once the recent situation had settled, the aforementioned friend and I chatted again and celebrated how well things had ultimately turned out. I thanked her for having been such a compassionate ear, and also apologized for my rather colorful description of the situation. As usual, once back to my usual "normal" self I felt a bit embarrassed by some of the things I'd said when I was upset.
"Forget it," she said. "You know how they say that crisis reveals character? I think that's such an unkind idea. When someone is really upset, they're not at their best, and they're not being who they really are the vast majority of the time. I know you and that wasn't really you, though I totally understood your reaction. I've been there many times!"
The idea left me with my mouth open. I'm so used to feeling bad about the way I sometimes act when I'm most upset, aka "at my worst". I'm used to thinking that that's secretly who I really am. What if it's not actually my true character, after all? What if the way to view yourself "at your worst" is with compassion and kindness?
I have another friend who says she refuses to "freeze frame" people at their worst, I love that idea too.
Obviously, if what you do or say in a crisis truly hurts another person, or causes significant damage to your life, you need to look at this carefully and get help with changing your response. But if you simply don't act "perfectly" and say or do some fairly harmless things that could potentially make you feel badly about yourself, it may be time to let go of any condemnation or shame and give yourself some grace.
After all, if a friend you loved went through a difficult situation and acted somewhat less than mature or graceful, wouldn't you give them grace, especially if you know them overall to be a lovely, good, kind, sane person?
Give that same grace to yourself. It's ok to be messy, in fact messy is probably normal and healthy. Just choose your safe venues for showing your "real self" wisely - nonjudgmental friends you can trust are priceless. If you don't have any of those handy, write out your very worst thoughts in a journal and you will feel much better. Write a letter and tear it into shreds. Just don't let yourself believe that your thoughts or actions at their worst represent your true value. They don't.
(Special note: if you'd like to work on changing your self image and your life in the New Year, consider joining my 2014 Live a Life You Love Clubs for women. Each group is led personally by me, we will work together on topics such as honoring who you really are and reconnecting with your life purpose and your dreams. For more information visit www.LiveaLifeYouLoveClub.com )
Dr. Susan Biali, M.D. is a medical doctor, health and happiness expert, life and health coach, professional speaker, flamenco dancer, and the author of Live a Life You Love: 7 Steps to a Healthier, Happier, More Passionate You, dedicated to helping people worldwide get healthy, find happiness and enjoy more meaningful lives that they love. Dr. Biali has been featured as an expert on the Today Show and the Ricki Lake Show as well as many other major media outlets, and is available for keynote presentations, workshops/retreats, media commentary, and private life and health coaching.
Copyright Dr. Susan Biali, M.D. 2013