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Why We Need to Stop Judging Our Feelings

Sad woman

Your emotions are meant to fluctuate, just like your blood pressure is meant to fluctuate. It’s a system that’s supposed to move back and forth, between happy and unhappy. That’s how the system guides you through the world.” ~Daniel Gilbert

As a highly sensitive person I experience emotions very deeply, though it’s not usually obvious to others that I’m having such strong internal reactions.

For those not familiar with this trait, high sensitivity is not a defect or a personality flaw; it simply means that you experience sensory and emotional input more strongly than non-sensitive people.

Of course, this is not to say that humans are really that bipolar in terms of their emotional and physical experiences; sensitivity is a spectrum, and I’ve found myself leaning to the more sensitive side.

High sensitivity has wonderful benefits: it facilitates deep insightfulness, fosters a drive for authenticity and creative expression, and enriches the sensory experiences of life. It’s a double-edged sword, however, because just as the positive aspects are magnified, so to are the negative aspects.

Just like with most aspects of life, this is a delicate balancing act, because it can be difficult not to become overwhelmed by emotion, whether positive or negative.

Embodying this trait throughout my life has been a challenge: I’m always super aware of my environment (both external and internal), and processing that information on a deep level pretty much all the time.

This causes me to have a preference for quiet environments (yet I live in New York City!), and also to need lots of alone time to recharge. This is not to say I’m a hermit or that I hate people; quite the contrary: I crave authentic connection and love engaging deeply with others.

It’s been crucial to learn to accept this trait, to pinpoint my needs without feeling guilty for them, and to have the courage to express those needs to my loved ones.

One of the most beneficial things I’ve been learning is the importance of non-judgment. For every high there is a low, and the only thing making a low “bad” is that we judge it as so.

Everyone experiences a full range of emotions, and a highly sensitive person will feel it even more intensely. However, fluctuating emotions are part of life. They’re not something to be avoided at all costs, as I believed I should be able to do in order to achieve an imagined and unattainable level of perfection, which didn’t include messy emotions that only get in the way.

When I feel “negative” emotions such as anxiety, anger, and sadness, I berate myself for succumbing to such “bad” feelings and feel the need to make them go away as soon as possible. Needless to say, this reaction does little to alleviate the distress caused by these emotions, and usually only exacerbates them.

What I’ve realized is that it isn’t the emotions themselves causing me to suffer—it’s my judgment of those emotions and my desire to rid myself of them.

When I am unable to make the feelings go away, it feeds my anxiety and I retreat even deeper into myself instead of allowing the emotional wave to pass and expressing my feelings to others.

Judgments are thoughts about emotions. Emotions are simply fleeting currents that come and go and provide a compass for us to fully feel and address whatever issues may be under the surface.

Though thoughts and emotions are related, they’re different things, and we can learn to manage both of those experiences.

In order to do this, I practice mindfulness exercises in which I simply allow my thoughts to stream and recognize that these thoughts don’t define me unless I give them that power; I’m the one in control of my experiences.

I also allow myself to fully feel my emotion, without judgment, sometimes naming them as they pop up if that helps.

Self-understanding and a connection with our intuition are essential for strengthening our emotional intelligence, and this is an instance in which high sensitivity is a major benefit, because it’s highly conducive to deep introspection.

I continually practice being mindful of my thoughts and how they cause emotions so that I can catch any spirals before they snowball.

This act alone has had tremendous benefits for my overall well-being, as well as my ability to manage, and most importantly, accept, all the emotions that come with being human.

A recent experience of unrequited love has demonstrated to me how far I’ve come in terms of riding the emotional waves without added layers of judgment and criticism.

At my gym, I met a very attractive man with beautiful chin-length blond hair, deep expressive blue eyes, and a sweet disposition.

I developed a little crush and tried my hardest to be more open, but also to accept that I do get shy and I’m slow to warm up to new people.

I didn’t judge myself negatively for it, but rather was proud of myself for my efforts to maintain eye contact, smile, and initiate conversation.

Unfortunately, as I was beginning to think the feeling might be mutual and trying to work up the courage to ask for a date, I saw him with another girl who frequents the same gym. It was obvious they had something going on.

Although it felt like I had been punched hard in the gut to see them together, in the past a situation like this would have also made me spiral into a deep hole of self-hatred. I would have criticized myself for being too shy, for failing, for missing an opportunity, and for allowing another woman to snatch up my crush.

These thoughts would then fuel intense regret, anxiety, fear, despair, and anger—which are emotions in response to thoughts, not in response to the actual situation. Then I’d criticize myself for allowing these feelings to get so out of control, and the vicious cycle would progress ad infinitum.

But that isn’t what happened this time.

Instead, I allowed myself to completely feel every emotion that came with this experience, not with thoughts about the experience.

A twinge of sadness, a pang of despair, loneliness, frustration, jealousy, defeat, embarrassment, desire, anxiety, lust, and anger all passed through me in waves every time I saw them together or felt how much I still liked him and wished I could have had a chance with him.

Without the layer of judgmental thoughts, these feelings became manageable. I’ve also developed a sense of gratitude for all the things I feel, because this is what it means to be human, and vulnerability is a beautiful thing that can connect us directly with our inner selves.

We hurt because we love, so hurt is a sign that you’ve let love in.

I’ve used this experience to learn more about myself, and I’m thankful that it can help facilitate my continued emotional intelligence training.

As I began to praise myself for my efforts rather than only criticizing myself for failing and letting my emotions consume me, I began to cultivate self-love as well. Since love for others stems from love for self, I found that this not only diminished anger toward myself, but naturally flows outward to others.

Compassion for others begins with compassion for ourselves, and high sensitivity facilitates this process.

I’ve also learned that how we react to events is far more important than what actually happens to us.

Unrequited love is usually seen as a negative thing, and it truly does hurt, but it’s also a window to deeper understanding and compassion. For that reason, I’m grateful to have had this experience, even though it’s painful.

Pain has a purpose. It shines light on the most important issues we must face, as well as our biggest opportunities for growth and learning. True, my crush doesn’t reciprocate my feelings, but I still have a loving family, I still love myself, and I love being alive to have all these experiences.

When I think about it like this, I’m grateful, and I’ve learned to love myself throughout all the fleeting emotional experiences that ultimately don’t define me anyway.

We just have to ride the waves and recognize that our thoughts are not always an accurate depiction of reality, our emotions are fleeting, and it’s completely okay to feel the entire spectrum of them.

We are human, and as the perfectly imperfect beings that we are, feeling the spectrum is what we are here to do.

Profile photo of Jacqueline Handman

About Jacqueline Handman

Jacqueline is a native New Yorker, graduate of Hunter College, and a passionate writer who enjoys using the creative process as a means of self-expression, self-reflection, and occasionally self-mockery (a good laugh can do wonders for the soul). She hopes to help others in their own journeys of enlightenment and personal growth. Visit her at Whispers That Echo.

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  • Arpit Zala

    Thank you very much Jacqueline Handma, I can’t express the feeling that how I am feeling right now. I have habit of excessive thinking and self criticism even while reading I was so engaged with my deeds of self judgement. I am really thankful to people like you who share their thoughts in such a way that others can easily read and understand about what is real and what is illusory. I have so much to say but in simple words I would say God Bless you and Keep reading, writing and inspiring others.

  • You’re article confirms that it’s okay to be me, just the way I am, with all my emotions. My newly found intention is to treat each emotion as a guest leaving out the good/bad judgement factor. You’re inspiring and a wonderful writer. I look forward to reading more of your work. Namaste.

  • purna

    Hi Jacqueline,

    I really appreciate your writing and insights.
    I have struggled with this a lot.
    I judged and shame myself when feeling pain or weak and it makes me suffer even more.
    You have brought an awareness to me.
    Your writing has made my day complete as I had more AHA moments.
    Keep being mindful and sharing it with us.

  • Jackie Ann

    Thank you so much. I’m glad that you liked the article and found it useful. Your support is much appreciated.

  • Jackie Ann

    Thank you so much for your response and for reading. Your support is much appreciated. I’m glad you found insight from this article.

  • Jackie Ann

    Thank you so much for your kind response. I’m so glad you liked the article and your support is much appreciated.

  • Jess Ritchie

    Wow! This article is wonderful, it resonates so much with me. Thank u for having the courage, insight, and ability, to write this article. I appreciate it and am inspired by your work.

  • Jackie Ann

    Thank you so much for your kind response and support! It is much appreciated! I’m very happy that you found this post useful and inspiring! Thanks for reading!

  • Michal Shushan

    Wow Jackie – this spoke directly to my soul. I am going through a similar process as you are and having someone else write the conscious mindfulness that is needed with sensitivity is so comforting.

    It is often that our greatest gifts also give us our greatest challenges. However, once we overcome these challenges and learn self-awareness, that is when we take full grip of our gifts

  • Dean

    I’ve the same trait as you couldn’t agree more thanks so much and keep share more amazing posts like this please! thanks alot.

  • Amber

    Thank you so much for writing this. I’m in my mid 30’s and have felt like something was wrong with me almost my entire life for feeling this way. I even get looks at work because I prefer to actually do my job rather than socialize or gossip at the latest happy hour. The unrequited love section really spoke to me too. I’m going to print out this article and re-read it every time I feel like I didn’t “try” hard enough to get some guys attention.

  • Jackie Ann

    Thanks you for reading and for your kind, thoughtful words. Your support is much appreciated!

  • Jackie Ann

    Thank you for your kind response!

  • Jackie Ann

    Thank you for reading and responding! Learning about the high sensitivity trait was life changing for me. I’m so happy you could relate to this and that it can help you. I totally understand what you said and hey, if some guy can’t see how awesome we are, it’s his loss right? 😉

  • Miesha

    Excellent post, thank you for sharing.

  • Jackie Ann

    Thank you!…
    & You’re welcome 😉

  • Mahesh Agarwal Kumar

    Hey jacqueline!it’s hard to believe that the guy found someone else rather than you;)!!You look beautiful!What a wonderful article,I have heard ,emotions are drop of water in a river,and our consciousness is sitting besides the bank of the river flowing with emotions!Just watch the emotions flow,without attaching to it!

  • Jackie Ann

    Thank you for the kind words. Yes, that is a great metaphor.

  • Jackie,

    Thank you for opening up in your article.

    Looks as though, this guy missed out on a pretty amazing person.

    Take care,

    Joel

  • Jackie Ann

    Thank you for reading! & this is very kind of you to say!

  • Andy Bowker

    Hey, I can relate to this, as a highly sensitive person myself. I have struggled greatly with confidence when it comes to women, and it can be hard to face the emotions I feel over this. But I am going to do my best, however painful it may get .. The only way out is in, as they say 🙂

  • Jackie Ann

    Thank you so much for reading and responding. I’m glad that you could relate to the article. If you haven’t done so already, I highly recommend books by Elaine Aron about High Sensitivity. Best of luck to you!

  • Andy Bowker

    Yeah I’ve read her book in the past, thank you 🙂

  • Tina

    I absolutely love that last paragraph about our thoughts not being an accurate depiction of reality! It’s so true bc we tend to analyze our thoughts more too often and then start to believe it. Thank you for this article, it personally helped me a lot!

  • Jackie Ann

    I’m glad you liked it and found it helpful! Thank you for reading and for your response!

  • Nidhi Pandya

    Thank you Jacqueline for the post. I had faced a similar experience and was just trying not to feel the negative feelings,pushing them away .it doesn’t help .I was able to relate to what you have mentioned in the article and will try to be more open to feelings and allow myself to let them pass.Thanks again…

  • Jackie Ann

    Your welcome! And thank you for your kind response. I appreciate you reading and taking the time to respond. I’m glad the article was able to help you cope with a challenging situation.

  • nox

    hy jac i seriously need held t been too long but my problem i love d father of my son too much i cant just let go it been 8 months not seeing each other and now he hardly call even reply on my watsapp i am too scared that i might
    lose him forever what to do

  • Stephanie

    What is the differnce between an hsp and a empath?