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Why Letting Yourself Feel Broken is the Key to Feeling Whole

feel-broken

“Life always waits for some crisis to occur before revealing itself at its most brilliant.” ~Paul Coelho

I spent my 25th birthday crying alone at the foot of a mountain. While I had always found solace in spending time by myself, in that moment, I did not recognize my “self.”  Without my self, I had nothing.

I was utterly alone.

Three weeks earlier, a man was shot just feet away from my front door. My then-boyfriend and I performed CPR until an ambulance arrived, but the man had been killed on impact. The police left my home at 3 a.m.; at 7 a.m., I was headed to the airport for a family wedding.

There is no mourning at a wedding.

Forced to paste on a smile, I told myself and everyone around me that I was fine. Never mind the fact that I felt like all of the air had been sucked out of me. If you tell a lie enough times, you start to believe it yourself.

For weeks, I assured myself that I was strong enough to bear the heavy burden of witnessing a violent crime. I always identified as a strong, independent woman. I couldn’t let go of that, I felt, or I might not ever get it back.

But as the days passed, I started to realize that something was different. The girl who was known for her constant zest for life and naturally cheerful demeanor was replaced by a woman who was exhausted, short-tempered and—it took me weeks to realize—depressed.

When the truth finally broke free, I was overwhelmed. Sitting there, at the base of my favorite Phoenix mountain, all I could think was, “I am not okay.”

In that moment, I was not okay.

But the truth has a funny way of setting you free. Faced with a sensation that was completely foreign and extremely uncomfortable to me—the idea that I was more vulnerable than I wanted to believe—I finally saw a glimmer of light.

Only in honoring my emotions was I able to let them go.

After crying myself weak, I climbed that mountain. As I reached the top, I inhaled deeply and felt my breath for the first time in weeks. The tears that flowed at the top were entirely different: they were tears of gratitude.

The moment that I learned to allow myself to be “not okay” was a turning point in my adult life.

To allow yourself to feel is to allow yourself to really live.

Once I was able to look at my emotions honestly, I was able to look at my life honestly and to realize that I did, in fact, want to participate wholly in it. I appreciated life more deeply than ever before.

Months later, when my dear friend lost her dear friend, I shared my secret: “It’s okay to be not okay.” Amidst all of the sympathetic wishes and “it will get betters,” that message resonated most deeply. Her grief was okay.

Sometimes, people need permission to break. And it is from that broken place that they are finally able to become whole again.

Time and time again, when faced with some of life’s hardest moments, I have shared my secret: “It’s okay to be not okay.”

Accepting that simple truth has been exactly the remedy that allowed the people I love to move into a space where they are more than okay—they are thriving.

Photo by Alex Shapovalov

Avatar of Rachel Grayczyk

About Rachel Grayczyk

Rachel Grayczyk is a yoga teacher, an amateur happiness researcher, a traveler, and a student of life. Her mission is to spread a little brightness everywhere she goes.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • AJ Walton

    wow – powerful stuff Rachel. Though my circumstances were different, I came to a similar conclusion recently… Instead of trying to “keep it together” when we’re not okay and fight that constant battle, it’s much better to liberate ourselves by allowing ourselves to not be “okay”.

  • Shatter

    Thank you. Thank you so much.

  • http://everythingiswithin.com/blog/ Robert

    That’s really a very touching story Rachel. Unfortunately, our society always expects from us to put on masks and to show a bright smile no matter what.

    But, life is about eternal growth and those dark and sad moments oftentimes have the biggest potential for growth. And when those moments happened, they should be experienced and expressed fully. And if we feel like “crying it out”, it’s the only right and healthy thing to do – no matter what others may think.

    Under those circumstances you described it is the “ok thing to do” to be sad, to cry and to express your real feelings. Whatever we feel deep within is real and ok.

    If we can accept that and express it authentically, we are able to let go and to make space once again for happiness.

    What would not be the “ok thing to do”, would be to suppress our true feelings, o pretend we are strong, to meet the expectations of people around us… that’s what keeps us in a state of “not feeling ok” until we are ready to express what’s just part of our human nature (in this case: sadness and tears…)

  • GreatWhiteGoddess

    That was beautiful thank you. I’ve felt that way many times in my life, if I truly experienced the grief I was feeling, it would kill me guess what? It didn’t kill me, I experienced it and moved on and was fine.

  • danacain

    I have said for years that “It’s okay that it’s not okay.” Sometimes crappy, horrible things happen and in order to deal with them I have to be free to say “Wow, this totally stinks and I am hurting.” In those moments that I reach that breaking point and finally allowed myself to feel what I was feeling I was able to let the negative feelings pass through me and leave me instead of suppressing and letting them fester until I was overwhelmed with pain and fear.

  • http://www.developgoodhabits.com/ SJ Scott

    Rachel, Great personal story to put an important point out there. Grief, anger and sadness are important stages of dealing with our issues. When we try to mask these issues all it can do is leader to deeper and more dramatic issues.

    Only when you have gone low, can you raise up and begin rebuilding.

    SJ

  • Liz at Human Nature

    I think one of the most valuable things I heard when I was younger was ‘It’s OK to feel that way’. I forgot it subsequently, went through a really hard time, and then relearned it, but that just makes me all the more determined to let other people know, or remind them, that feeling emotions, even when they’re not happy jolly ones, is OK. It helps you accept those emotions, be patient with yourself, and then move through them. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Guest

    where is my post

  • Francesca

    Thank you for that post, Rachel. I have been going thru a lot of emotional stuff lately and this was exactly the message I needed to read today.

  • RachelGrayczyk

    Thank you so much for reading it! I can only hope that writing about my struggles might help others with theirs. :)

  • RachelGrayczyk

    Exactly! It takes a lot of courage to dive head first into painful feelings, but life is so much richer when we do!

  • RachelGrayczyk

    “Sometimes crappy, horrible things happen.” Maybe it is our resistance to that fact that makes it so easy to want to repress. But you’re right – crappy, horrible things happen and we simply have to acknowledge that in order to move on. I appreciate your post!

  • la

    Thank you for sharing your story… the words “are you ok?” have been resonating within me, and sometimes I answer with a loud “no!” Then I fell bad, but I know deep down it’s ok: no matter how I’m feeling.

  • RachelGrayczyk

    Thank you. This is a beautiful post. I am honestly grateful for every challenge because it gives me an opportunity to learn these lessons wholly. Grief, anger and sadness hurt, but they are beautiful and necessary emotions.

  • http://www.cloriskylie.com/ Cloris Kylie

    Robert, well said. Thank you, Rachel for an authentic and beautiful post!

  • RachelGrayczyk

    Thank you so much for reading it and responding. I think that it sometimes takes a lifetime to learn that lesson. I’m so grateful for a forum like this one so we can all learn together.

  • RachelGrayczyk

    I’m so glad that it helped. It seems those messages always come when we need them most, doesn’t it?

  • RachelGrayczyk

    Exactly! And it doesn’t have to be something as traumatic as the experience I wrote about here! There are many instances where I realize that the struggle to keep it together is creating more suffering than the event itself. It’s scary to face difficult emotions, but it’s also so freeing!

  • RachelGrayczyk

    Wow, thank you for this post. I agree that our society as a whole is much more comfortable with smiles than tears, but I have also learned that sometimes we place expectations on ourselves to “be strong” or “move on.” I’ve had to learn to be gentle with myself and allow myself the space to experience painful emotions. It’s been a hard lesson. Thank you so much for this. You’re right: Only if we accept our emotions and express them authentically can we let go and make space again for happiness.

  • RachelGrayczyk

    Exactly. At our very core, we know when we’re not okay. The most loving thing we can do is to acknowledge it.

  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    Really enjoyed this insightful post, Rachel – powerful indeed! It’s ok, not to be ok is a deep realization and insight. Sometimes it’s not the actual pain that we are experiencing that’s hurtful, it’s usually when we are running away from it. So instead of running away, if we can embrace and accept it, we can find our strength and solace in that space.

    Your story reflects this message so well even in spite of our desire not to want to be in a broken or vulnerable place. We fight against it as does our society. We often don’t want to shed light on our broken parts which is the source of all of our wisdom and growth.

    Thank you.

  • Fiona

    Thank you for your post, Rachel. It came at a good time for me. I have been struggling with a lot of heartache this year, and I am working hard on allowing myself to just sit with my feelings and allow them to be instead of burrowing into one of the many coping mechanisms that have failed to serve me well over the years in terms of real healing. I think we often put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be happy, even when we’re not. These days, I am coming to see that it is better to strive for wholeness than happiness by embracing all those jagged, broken parts of myself . . . especially because I suspect that more authentic happiness and peace tend to flow naturally from wholeness, anyway. Your post was a friendly nudge to stay on this path. Thank you again.

  • Katherine

    This is great, Rachel.. thank you so much for sharing!!

  • lv2terp

    Thank you for this valuable reminder, to give ourselves permission to not be okay, and to accept what we are feeling. That is definitely challenging, but so therapeutic!! What a great message! :)

  • Kathy www.yinyangmother.com

    Great message Rachel – we have to allow ourselves to experience the full gamut of emotions and understand that out of loss comes gain. Our life is the sum total of all the emotions we’ve allowed ourselves to feel through all the experiences we’ve had – joy and sadness have to sit side by side if we are to feel underlying contentment.

  • RachelGrayczyk

    Thank you for taking the time to read it! I’m so glad that it helped! Your response really resonated with me. It IS better to embrace all those jagged, broken edges (and there’s a lot of them), so that we can eventually just find peace, instead of striving for anything at all. :)

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for this. I am almost 50, and have lived through child abuse and neglect, illness and great loss, I have never truly allowed myself to feel broken. After leaving an abusive relationship 6 months ago, I feel more broken than ever, but still try and pretend all is ok. It is not. For some reason, I have been thinking the last week how tired I am of pretending. Then I read this post. I fear what I will feel, but I now more fear what will happen if I don’t feel it. Thank you again.

  • RachelGrayczyk

    You said it better than I did. Thank you!

  • Rachel Grayczyk

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I, too, have faced a lot more struggles than the one I wrote about here. I know exactly how hard it is to face painful emotions, but I promise you that once you do (and sometimes it takes weeks or months or years!), you’ll finally feel free, which is even better than feeling okay.

  • RachelGrayczyk

    Thank you for taking the time to read it. I’m so happy to see that this message resonated with so many people.

  • RachelGrayczyk

    Thank you!

  • RachelGrayczyk

    I agree with you entirely! It was my inability to honor my emotions that became too heavy of a burden to carry. Once I faced those feelings head on, I was finally able to move on. It was a painful lesson, but a beautiful lesson that I’ve relied on time and time again. Thanks for your post!

  • loraly3271

    Hi Rachael, Do you know of any books written on this subject? I feel so sad and empty, angry and unhappy with my life. I feel very alone and unhappy with every aspect of my life. I cry quite a bit and there seems no end to the sadness. I fight my emotions and feel very frustrated.

  • Lucy Chen

    This is so powerful! Rachel! And so true! I’ve shared it across all my social media platforms!

  • Jenna

    I love this article. I wish I could know what to do next though. See, I’m really good at letting myself break and feel… But I don’t know how to move on and keep from going over the same process again and again. Like I’m one rejection away from a crisis… I feel like I’m never free.

  • Parselmouth

    This is such a potent message and one that really needs to be acknowledged. So often when we look for help, the overall message is one of overcoming and moving on and letting go, and that’s all well and good, but sometimes we need to sit with the difficult feelings and give them time to process and unwind at their own pace. Honor them and allow them. Only then can we reach that place where moving past them is a possibility. As long as we guard against wallowing in it and keep in mind that ‘this too will pass’ we will eventually emerged cleansed and ready to put our selves back together.

  • Parselmouth

    There are loads of great articles here on Tiny Buddha that will help with all aspects of the pain you are experiencing. I would recommend you to read as many of them as you can. Go on the forums, talk about the things that are troubling you and find the help you need. It has helped me a lot recently.

  • RachelGrayczyk

    I’m so sorry to hear you’re going through such a hard time. I haven’t
    personally read any books on the subject, but I agree with Parselmouth that tinybuddha is a great resource. I also study yoga, which suggests a lot of techniques
    for letting emotions rise, noting them, and letting them go. Finally, might I suggest writing out? This study
    (http://apt.rcpsych.org/content/11/5/338.full) suggests that writing
    about traumatic, stressful or emotional events has an extremely
    therapeutic effect. I hope this helps!

  • Ash

    “It’s Ok not to be Ok”. Beautifully put. Thanks for a wonderful article.

    Have you explored mindfulness? I’ve found it very useful to step into the role of the silent witness that watches the highs and the lows with equal dispassion. It helps me recognise that the ebbs and the flows of life are both essential – something I find society to be very unwilling to acknowledge.

    I agree that you only really get to appreciate the most brilliant aspects of life after moments of utter darkness.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Ash

    Oh and I love the photo by the way. It’s fantastic. Is that you?

  • GreatWhiteGoddess

    It’s liberating to stand in your own truth. You can do it! Get a great counselor. xo

  • Sonny

    That really made sense to me Rachel. I am currently facing probably the most difficult time of my life. And I realized a while back that we need to enter the dark tunnel to come out the other end to the bright sunshine. If we keep telling ourselves that we are okay and refuse to enter the tunnel, we are denying ourselves a chance to that sunlight.
    Yes, its okay to be not okay. I am not okay right now, but I am okay with it.

  • Maria Fernanda G

    This was a great reminder, beautiful reading. It seems obvious but we constantly block our feelings to try and keep our cool not realizing we’re achieving everything but that. This should be a daily motto for most people, I’ve been working on it for the past few month /this year and it has done wonders with my outlook on life as well as my emotional balance. I would say to anyone the same thing, it’s ok to not be ok from time to time.
    <3 thanks for this.

  • Stan

    Beautifully written, Rachel … and such wisdom from someone just turning 25. I’m 67 (tomorrow, actually) and it has taken me all these many years to fully embrace, and love my life … the easy parts and the difficult parts … the happy moments and the sad moments. I loved your little bio at the bottom … “amateur happiness researcher”, etc. Thanks for the birthday gift.

  • Prana

    Poignant picture to go with the title. Also, well written!

  • RachelGrayczyk

    Thank you!

  • RachelGrayczyk

    Wow, Stan. Thank you for the kind words. Even in just my twenty-some years, life has sent its share of challenges my way. It’s nice to be able to look back and know that each challenge truly was an opportunity for growth. I always have to remind myself of that when new challenges arise. Thanks for the encouragement!

  • RachelGrayczyk

    Thank you! I agree that this should be a daily motto! It’s strange how even after we have learned a lesson (and written about it!), we sometimes still need to be reminded. I’m glad to be the reminder. :)

  • RachelGrayczyk

    That’s beautiful, Sonny! I’ve been so touched by people like you responding to this message. It takes a good deal of courage to face the darker side of life, but it really adds so much depth to our experience. :)

  • RachelGrayczyk

    I am a HUGE proponent of mindfulness! I study and teach yoga, so I have that mindfulness practice at my disposal, but I also make an effort to practice mindfulness in my every day routine. I agree that it does wonders at calming the mind! That same effort to notice your feelings (without judgment!) that is essential to a mindfulness practice translates to allowing yourself to feel emotions of every sort (without judgment!) in every day life. So powerful. Thanks for the post!

  • RachelGrayczyk

    The photo at the top of the article IS a really neat photo, but it’s not me!

  • RachelGrayczyk

    Thank you! I agree completely!

  • RachelGrayczyk

    Jenna, I’m so sorry to hear you’re going through such a hard time. This forum is a really great resource for reminders that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it also includes lots of practical tips for finding your way. Keep reading and just have faith that you’re exactly where you need to be right now.

  • RachelGrayczyk

    Thank you! Sometimes it’s the simple truths that hit us hardest!

  • loraly3271

    Thank you for your response Rachel, I read the article that you provided the link for and I am going to follow the suggestions and do some writing. I will also read some of the articles on the tinybuddha. I allowed myself to feel a lot of emotions today and let some other people know how I have been feeling. Several people reached out to me and I felt the first real connections with others that I have felt in a long time. I feel lighter and very grateful.

  • loraly3271

    Thank you for your response and compassion,
    Parselmouth. Please also see my comment posted above in response to Rachel’s post. I will follow your suggestions as well and read some articles and check out the forums.

  • KLB

    Oh my, yes we put pressure on ourselves to always be happy, be positive. OK, I do anyway. And then all I can see is my perceived flaws and I’ve spent my entire adult life ( this is many, many years) working to “heal” and fix myself thinking that wold lead to fining the inner peace. This really resonated with me, too. This is good. Think I’ll just rest now.

  • alyssa

    im going through this now. The process of acknowledging that my inner child self isn’t ok/doesn’t feel ok. i really appreciate and value people who respect feelings, so thank you so much. I just wish i could make some kind of since of it all – vunerable emotions can be so much to take care of/understand/accept sometimes. any advice on how to care for something that’s from the past?

  • Susan Lofgren

    <3 learning this at the ripe old age of 54! Words of wisdom……

  • David

    I Love this post and I’m a guy! :)

  • Idimmu Lalassu

    Stupid…. witnessing a violent crime isn’t suffering, enduring one is…. you act like you world ended when someone else’s just did….. its kind of selfish, besides…. there is no serenity in being broken. There is no light in being broken, it is suffering and pain. It’s the loss of hope and the acceptance of failure. It is dark, it is cold, it is lonely. It is a void that sucks the life out of you and people around you and it is a curse that may never lift. I hate when people say how bad it was for them to “witness” an event like that….. “oh no they got killed or raped or hurt, how painful for me to witness that!” What about them? They suffered. They felt real pain. And you would compare that? You would only selfishly think of youreself? I may be a terrible person, but at least I admit it. I hate people because of reasons like these. Everyone is so selfish! Most people who are generous end up being people who have suffered…. but anyone who hasnt? No. The psychology of man/humans is disgusting. I’ve seen many studies and witnessed it in action how people will ignore others because “its a hassle” or “they are only concerned about themselves” I applaud youre attempt to help the person who was shot, but you saying you’re broken Iis an insult to those who are, to those who have felt great pain, to the man who was shot. When someone dies youre mourn for them, not yourself! I thought Buddha’s teachings showed that? Selflessness to the fullest. Now this comment will get lots of heat…. my hope is that some will listen, I doubt any will and im sure I’ll be considered the bad guy. But im used to it, and I wont see the replies anyways…. every now and then I like to be selfless, this is one of those times though it won’t be recognized as such. All I ask is for my message to be at least considered before being criticized harshly. When someone needs help, dont wait for others to help, dont pass them by, dont assume their position with out hearing their side, and take everything with a grain of salt, And never put youre pain above anyone else’s. I know the last one is hard, but it’s easy too. It’s simple, dont compare pain, and im not talking about refusing to empathize or sympathize with someone…. im talking about not ignoring someone else’s pain just because you have some….. and that it should be considered that an event caused someone else more pain then youreself. Now, I’m sure some things I’ve said are hypocritical….. and I know that. But it’s the best I can word it and the best I can do to encourage others to be good people…. I know that I’m quite the terrible person and I have my reasons for it. But people should be better, and if they become better then mabey the world will be just slightly better. If not, then we’ll im still a bad person either way and then youll join me….. the only difference is that I will admit it if you choose to deny it, and I will have tried to be good.

  • Elle_2298

    Thank you! I me across this after googling ‘i feel broken’ and i’m not ok, i tell everyone it is but i need to let go. Im starting to realise this but not really there yet. That one statement hits me though.
    Thanks