When It's Okay to Not Be Okay
We must unlearn old behaviors of suppressing our emotions.
Posted July 5, 2019 | Reviewed by Devon Frye
The answer to this title is simple: always.
We have a tendency to consistently try to make ourselves or others “feel better.” We are driven by compassion and empathy, but these two can often be misdirected and instead, we project our idea of “okay” onto ourselves and other people.
What would it look like for us to simply feel whatever it is that’s coming up for us? When we are sick, we know to take medicine to feel better. But what if we are emotionally sick or in pain? There is no medicine to take. There is no concrete action that is always available to us. But often, seeking out a solution to our pain will simply cause us to put off the inevitable process of feeling our feelings.
All of the articles I have written have the same underlying truths behind them: That we must show up for all of our emotional experiences, no matter how painful they are, or they are destined to continue manifesting in our lives in different ways. That it is normal, expected, and human nature to have times when we are not okay. That we judge and shame ourselves more harshly than anyone else does for our emotional experiences.
If I go through a break-up with a significant other and refuse to allow myself to feel that pain, I am likely to cause harm to the next person I date or sabotage my relationship with them. Instead, actively processing and allowing ourselves to show up for our emotions is what heals all wounds.
Is this comfortable? Absolutely not. Is it vital for emotional growth? Without a doubt.
How often do we respond to the question “How are you?” with a simple, “I’m fine,” or even, “Not great but I know this too shall pass—so I’m fine.” But are you really?
In the fall of 2015, I was in one of the most emotionally dark places of my life. I had gone through a painful breakup, tried to rebound with multiple male friends, and found myself empty and alone.
I didn't start to truly heal until I sought out a therapist. I had previously told myself that I didn't need a therapist because I literally am one, but I had dug myself into such a deep hole of emotional despair and I didn't know how to climb out. I had made myself at home there; I hung up curtains.
This therapist emphasized the importance of allowing myself to feel—of sharing openly at 12-step meetings that I wasn't okay and that I was scared and lost, of reaching out and telling people about my pain, and of writing my truth instead of stifling it. It was only then that I not only started to heal, but I began a journey of emotional growth that I didn't know I needed or was capable of.
We must start to shed the shame that surrounds not being okay. We must let go of the notion that if we are feeling pain of any kind, we are weak or doing something wrong.
If this describes you, you are not alone in your dysfunctional ways of thinking and feeling. It’s how most of us have been raised, conditioned, and told is "normal." Normal is fine, but healthy is a different story.
How can we learn to let go of the narrative that we must run from or distract ourselves from our feelings in order to be okay again? Those feelings aren’t going to go away—not now, not ever.
There are definitely actions you can take to release yourself of emotional pain or self-centeredness, but most of those actions have an element of focusing on yourself before you start focusing on others.
Let’s look at yoga as an example. The practice of yoga teaches us that pain is impermanent, down to a physical level, and emphasizes the importance of leaning into the discomfort of a pose in order to release the hold that it has on us.
Yoga doesn't ask that we wallow and feed our pain in order to walk through it. Instead, it conveys the concept that the only way out is through, not around. Yoga promotes intentions such as non-judgment, self-compassion, loving-kindness, and surrender. It does not perpetuate the maladjusted behavior patterns like control, self-will, or being “stronger” than anyone else in the room.
The focus is on you, and you alone—but by being present with others on the same journey, we wind up with a significantly more profound connection to everyone else in the class. Try bringing some of the principles of yoga off of this page or your mat and into your life. It's not easy, but it's worth it.
Yes, it will pass. Yes, it is impermanent. But you can honor your emotional experience by being present for it, not by distracting yourself or avoiding it with every fiber of your being. Just for today, show up for whatever you're feeling.