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Tiny Wisdom: Your Feelings Are Real and Valid

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“Feelings are real and legitimate.” -Unknown

One of the most frustrating things in the world is feeling something painful and having other people tell you that you shouldn’t be upset.

That it’s no big deal that relationship didn’t work out, or that opportunity didn’t pan out—that it’s all in your head, so you should let it go, suck it up, and move on.

A while back, a friend of mine got fired from a new job after her first day. We were out in a group when she got the call, and several of us watched her emotions slowly build to gut-wrenching tears.

Naturally, everyone wanted to console her, but that quickly turned into a rapid fire succession of reminders that it really was no big deal—no one died—and she shouldn’t feel so crushed.

I understand it can be helpful to put things in perspective, and I know there were good intentions behind those words, but I found myself wondering if it ever helps to tell someone that they should be feeling something else.

No matter what someone else thinks about our circumstances and how we should respond, our feelings are not imagined.

If you’re mourning a loss of any kind, you don’t have to pretend you’re not hurt. Know that your feelings are real and valid.

If you’re missing the way things were, you don’t have to pretend you're not sad. Know that your feelings are real and valid.

If you’ve been betrayed, disrespected, or violated in any way, you don’t have to pretend you’re not angry. Know that your feelings are real and valid.

We are only human, and we are going to have times when we feel wounded, sometimes over events that would challenge anyone’s sense of composure, and sometimes over things that may seem insignificant to everyone but us.

In those moments, we may feel an overwhelming surge of emotion without really knowing the words to express it. Maybe the key is to simply feel it, without stressing about whether that’s right or wrong, and then give ourselves some time to understand what’s going on in our heads and our hearts.

We can either judge our emotions, telling ourselves we should be stronger, or accept them for what they are, and then allow ourselves space to recognize what we can think and do to feel stronger.

Photo by The Wandering Angel

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest bookTiny Buddha's Gratitude Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for purchase. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram..

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  • My feelings that this blog should have Google’s +1 button on it for me to share my enjoyment in reading it are truly valid.

  • Rick

    Love this. Thank you for posting it.

  • Wonderful post.  I recently had someone I thought was a close friend react strangely, and I believe, inappropriately, in several situations, so we’re taking a break from our friendship for a while.

    Among other things that carried a lasting sting, I had confided in her my surprise that the Penn State molestation scandal stirred up a lot of pain and buried feelings in me, which I was attempting to acknowledge, honor, and work through (I’ve personally experienced molestation and rape).  Later, she chided me for “getting all worked up” about “people and situations that have nothing to do with you.” 

    While this is logically true, on the surface, and I myself was a bit puzzled as to why this triggered me so strongly, I don’t want to either squelch or wallow in “out of place” feelings, but explore them and let them go.  Sadly, it’s become clear that particular friendship was not a safe place to do so.

  • Nice article.

    Emotions are our friends. They serve an important role, among other things thery are a messenger from our subconscious.  Whenever I see people giving advice to “ignore emotions” or to control emotions, I cringe. Its a waste of energy to try suppress something natural like emotions.  Its much better to understand why you have the emotions – learn the message – and then make a plan for dealing with any issue that is related.

    Lori, if its appropriate, I can write a piece and go into more detail for you on this.

  • This needs to be broadcast far and wide, particularly to men, who are told from the time they’re in diapers that showing any sort of emotion in the face of difficulty or setback is wrong. The sight of a man crying in public invokes more general revulsion than a pile of untended dog droppings.

  • Yeah, I recently went through something major and it is amazing the many different ways in which people try to be “helpful” and tell you what you should be doing or feeling instead of giving you the space to be who you are and feel what you feel.

  • I grew up being told not to feel what I was feeling, which caused me to reject or bury my emotions until I did not know what I was feeling. I could barely distinguish between happy and sad.

    My emotions are valuable tools that provide important information about my situation and behavior. For example, when my gut feeling tells me something is wrong, it usually is. I must pay attention to my feelings to live a happy and healthy life.

    What I have discovered is the important distinction between feelings and truth. When I’m feeling sad it may appear as if there is no hope, but this is not necessarily true.

    My emotions give me information and allow me to process complicated situations. They do not, however, define my past, current, and future experience.

    I may feel fear when my fears are unlikely to come true. This doesn’t mean I shouldn’t feel fear, only that I have the option to recognize the difference between fear and truth.

    My emotions are simply feelings, and when I can recognize and express them in a healthy way, they help me live and grow.

    Chrysta

  • Anonymous

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. I feel like as we grow older we feel like we have to become more rational and less emotional, like emotions are invalid and silly and have no place in our “adult” lives. This is not healthy. Regardless of the situation, you can’t help the way you feel. And belittling yours or others emotions doesn’t get you anywhere. No emotion is a “wrong” emotion. Even if we know we’ll feel better in a couple weeks, days, or even hours, it does not change the way we feel in that moment. And the only thing worse than feeling all the pain of a troubling emotion at a hard time is not having the ability to feel anything at all.

  • YES!!! This is an absolutely wonderful reminder that self-expression is valid, allowed, and legitimate. Thanks for this!

  • This could not have come to me at a better time. Thank you.

  • Robert C

    Hi Lori,

    Once again I truly appreciate the thoughtful manner in which you write.
    Suppression of feelings is probably one of the biggest problems we face in western society, and causes so much pain and dysfunction.
    The interesting thing about emotions is that if you allow yourself to experience them fully as they come up, they usually release quickly and easily. However there is such a stigma for doing so ( especially for men).
    The most wonderful gift we can give our friends and loved ones is to be present for them in times of need, and conversely for ourselves to take time out to be completely ok with whatever we are feeling.

    Being in Australia, I look forward to receiving you posts first thing every morning. Always a wonderful way to start the day!

    Robert

  • Gentle_Eve

    Emotions and feelings are meant to move! when we suppress them or tell ourselves we shouldn’t be feeling this way, not only does this cause more pain in the future but it can also cause physical suffering/illnesses. Resisting feelings cause them to come back up at a later time. Maybe even be more stronger and worse which then can lead to actions which could not only harm ourselves but other as well. DROP THE STORY BEHIND YOUR PAIN AND FEEL YOUR FEELINGS WHOLLY AND GIVE YOURSELF COMPASSION. It was pass sooner this way. <3

  • nectar

    Hi fellow TB’s 🙂 I just wondered if anyone has any advice they could give on how to “observe” ones emotions without getting bogged down by them. I do suffer with anxiety and depression but have often been told to simply “feel and observe” the negative emotions as they arise…what exactly does this mean? As i so often dont quite know what is going on, I just feel agitated and low…would be so grateful for any help and advice 🙂 Thanks again Lori for another wonderfully inspiring article…best wishes x

  • Catmcwong

    I think we should teach this to children in elementary school. So many problems arise from not being ‘allowed’ or not allowing ourselves to feel what we are feeling. I always find that the more I fully tune in to my real feelings and allow them to be, the quicker they pass and I can move on. Sometimes this is easier said than done though and often the message from outside is ‘suck it up, it could be worse’.

  • Mark

    I find that the law of attraction material can be very harmful to our emotional health….. the idea of what you feel attracts more of what you feel is simply not true.  Denying what you feel attracts more of it, until your lesson is learned..  Letting the emotions flow without judgement allows you to move forward, let go, and move into and attracting creativity and greater happiness

  • Jess

    Thank you for this post. I’ve only recently started paying attention to my feelings. I’ve lived most of my life pretending my feelings were what others told me they should be. I have times when they are overwhelming, but other times when it is a blessing to know that they are truley my feelings and mine alone. I’ve also found out what a powerful feeling it is to realize that I alone am in control of my emotions. I find your blog incredibly insightful and I read often.

  • Gentle_Eve

    LOL If my dad yelled at me or something I would start to cry. He would say, “I’ll give you something to cry about!” But i already had a reason! That guy sucks. haha

  • Andrea

    Great post Lori! We are humans and we cannot bury our feelings away. It’s about learning to embrace whatever emotions surface. I have an issue with people telling me how to feel. They are not in my shoes. It’s as if they do not accept that part of me and it does not make me feel safe to express myself wholeheartedly. Thank you for sharing your words of wisdom.

  • raian

    this is exactly what i needed to hear to justify my reaction feelings to what most family members have done to me.

    how do i deal with some family members who have disregarded my feelings
    completely and continue to do so? and at the same time, they keep doing wrong to
    me. 🙁

    when i express my reaction as anger, sadness, hurt, etc., they deem my feelings as a wrongdoing and will blame me for not being so-called “family.” 🙁

    another example is when i don’t attend some family parties, especially my nephew and niece’s because the so-called family members are there. i don’t attend because i’m still highly angered and still trying to grasp hold of it. also i don’t want any tension at the party and ruining the atmosphere.

    yet, when people ask why i am not there, other family members will say, “he’s busy with something else.” lately, i heard someone tell another that i “was with some friends.” 🙁 it’s all so bad that i’ve already spent the last 2 Christmas by my lone self.
    the family likes to cover up the negatives of what transpired to me because they don’t want to deal with it and they want to pretend everything is okay in their eyes and in the eyes of other people looking in.

  • Yes, I totally agree with that .. LOA material is like religion, albeit not quite so harmful – if you take it too literally without having your thinking cap on, it can make things worse. 

  • Love this post .. it’s so good to have a successful website which is so real. 

  • Anonymous

    Perfect! Exactly what I needed to hear right now. I’ve been dealing with some tough stuff in my life lately & have tried to “stay strong” as much as possible because that’s what has been engrained in me my entire life. Usually it’s my mom trying to be helpful in her own way & I realize now that she has never liked seeing me hurt, but after some time of ignoring things I eventually end up breaking down. Seems like everything falls together when I let things “just be” & allow myself to feel what I feel in that moment.

    Thank you for posting!

  • Acknowledging feelings is so important and people do mean well when they try to help us feel better by giving us another perspective.  Perhaps a little ‘I’m sorry you’re hurting’ would go a long way to give the support we need.

  • Everyone is different of course and different things will work for different people .. but personally, I would highly recommend reading Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now. And also writing things down has worked for me – writing down how you feel and what thoughts you are having – even if they are supposedly ‘bad’ things. And to accept negative feelings as much as you are able to, and not judge yourself for having them .. best wishes to you. 

  • nectar

    Thats so funny u should suggest that book Andy as i read it years ago and only today did i decide to start reading it again! how weird! 🙂 i love ur suggestion to not judge myself when i feel down as often one negative thought leads on to another and uv reminded me that i must use my CBT forms more often to write down my thoughts and feelings as they happen. Thank you so much for your kind help and advice, best wishes x

  • Hutchinson Greg

    I disagree, feelings are ‘not’ facts. After suffering depression I realised that everyone deals with what life throws at them differently but there certainly is a difference to what’s in your head versus what life is and what you learn from it.

  • Thanks for the reminder Greg! I actually asked my tech person to add this for me, and I forgot to follow up. (I’m pretty slow with tech side of things!)

  • You’re most welcome. =)

  • That’s unfortunate she responded that way. I think the sign of a strong friendship is that it is safe to explore complex feelings like this. I visited your site. How wonderful that you’ve provided support and resources for other rape survivors.

  • I would love that Andrew! I have many times felt emotions I didn’t fully understand, and then recognized that there was likely something subconscious at play. I think it’s so important to not judge emotions, but rather be open to learning from them.

  • I know what you mean. I went through phases when I was completely emotionally numb, and I realize in retrospect it was far worse than any pain I ever felt.

  • You’re most welcome!

  • You’re most welcome! I would second what Andy wrote about The Power of Now. That’s the book that had the strongest impact on me. If you’re not already, I would also suggest adopting some type of mindfulness practice, like meditation or yoga. Even just practicing deep breathing can be very helpful. I find that when I slow down my thoughts, it’s a lot easier to observe my emotions instead of getting swept away by them.

  • You’re most welcome. I’m so glad you find the site helpful! I’ve also struggled when my feelings have been overwhelming. It’s helped me to remind myself how many times I’ve felt overwhelming feelings, and how many times they’ve passed.

  • You’re most welcome Andrea! I’m with you–I want to address, not suppress my feelings, and I appreciate when the people around me support that.

  • Great!

    I’ll get something to you in a a week or so.

    Andrew

  • Hi Andrew,

    Would you mind sending it on March 10th actually? I have roughly 50 posts in the queue at the moment, so I’m temporarily holding off on accepting new ones until March. I will look forward to reading it then! =)

    Lori

  • I couldn’t agree with you more! I think it would be wonderful if we taught emotional intelligence from a young age and considered that a priority.

  • I agree with you there Mark. That’s one of the main reasons I’ve never been a big fan of the law of attraction. I also dislike that it suggests thinking positively as a means to an end (attracting what you want).

  • You’re most welcome! I think sometimes it feels kind to try to talk someone out of hurting, but we need to feel our pain in order to move beyond it. The only way out is through!

  • Thanks so much Andy. =)

  • Yes absolutely! I think oftentimes we just want to have our feelings acknowledged. It’s not always about fixing things. Sometimes it’s just about facing them, no matter how uncomfortable that might feel.

  • I agree with you there–that feelings aren’t facts. There have been many times in my life when I felt down on myself, but that didn’t mean there was anything wrong with me. Nonetheless, I really felt that way–and as soon as I accepted it I was able to work through it. My feelings about myself did not reflect the reality of who I was, but they were quite real nonetheless!

  • You are most welcome!

  • I know what you mean Scot. Crying is a healthy thing. I’ve read that it helps us release harmful chemicals that build up in our body. We all need that release from time to time. Its unfortunate men are often taught to stuff their feelings down.

  • You read my mind again Lori. I am experiencing exactly what you wrote. I am feeling the pain of breaking up and some people asked me to move on. I decide to accept what I feel and I do not go to them anymore for advice. 

  • Anne-Sophie Reinhardt

    I think that when other people tell you, you shouldn’t react in a specific way, they don’t want to be mean, they just don’t know how to handle the situation. It is not easy to see someone cry without trying to console them. 
    I buried my emotions for a very long time because I did not want to appear weak in front of others, which caused a lot of mental problems. Now, I embrace my feelings, whether good or bad. I know that every emotion has its reason and I no longer try to fight it. 

  • Got it.

  • Jennifer T.

    “…sometimes over things that may seem insignificant to everyone but us” “Know that your feelings are real and valid”
    Thank you for the validation…someone knew I needed this Tiny Wisdom today.

  • Ah… emotions. You know I love em’! Which is quite ironic considering someone once suggested I had a “disease of the emotions.”

    I often suggest to others that emotions are neither good or bad, they’re just emotions. Feel them. It really is like telling someone they shouldn’t be shivering when standing outside in the freezing cold… which we just did at my office due to a fire alarm. LOL

    But in situations like the one you described, I think it’s important or at least meaningful for someone like yourself to bring up the idea or support that its valid to feel a certain way… wait, I mean not a “certain” way, but just a way. OK, not sure if that even made sense.

    Others offer support in the best way they know how, even if it doesn’t help the situation much. It’s usually just a response to feeling uncomfortable. Like “don’t cry because it makes me feel uncomfortable and I don’t know what to do so I’ll tell some story about how you’ll be better off…” 

    I learned in, well… rehab in group that when someone starts to break down, don’t come in and save them. We feel uncomfortable with someone else showing their emotions so openly so we want to swoop in, change the subject or deflect the focus off of them. In essence, robbing them of their right to feel the emotion and work through it.

    Wow am I grateful for the ability to be present and learn from life today.

    “When we identify where we’re hurting and why, whether it’s something physical or emotional, we have the power to understand its cause and do something about it. But that means we have to be willing to let go of all the drama, comfort, and maybe even pride that accompany a sad story to make way for a better one.” – Lori Deschene 🙂

  • Hi Raian,

    I’m so sorry to hear about the way your family members have treated you–and also that you’ve spent the holidays alone. I’m a big proponent of trying to mend fences with family members, but that only works if all people involved are willing to do their part. If they aren’t willing to acknowledge what happened to you, and honor your feelings about it, then perhaps it’s best to accept that about them, and then do some soul searching to figure out what you want to do with that knowledge.

    That might mean spending less time around them. It might mean setting boundaries in those relationships. It all depends on what you feel you are able to do. Regardless, it might help to talk to other people about the things that happened to you before, whether that’s a friend or a professional.

    Incidentally, you may find this post helpful:

    http://tinybuddha.com/blog/how-to-maintain-a-relationship-with-a-loved-one-who-has-hurt-you/

    Much love,
    Lori

  • I’m glad this helped! Sometimes it takes a while to let go and move on. I think if we’re able to embrace our feelings, it actually makes everything much easier in the long run, because when we move on, we will actually be moving on, not just telling ourselves we are.

  • You’re most welcome Jennifer!

  • I think you hit the nail on the head about other people’s discomfort–and about wanting to save people. I know that for me personally, I heal most effectively when I am able to first hurt, and then save myself.

  • Thanks =)

  • I know what you mean Anne-Sophie. I think most often people really mean well. We just want to see the people we love feeling better, and sometimes it seems logical to just talk them out of hurting! I’ve been there before.

  • Anonymous

    Great post Lori. Somedays it feels like you are living my life (only you are younger!)

    Wow, reading through the myriad of comments to-date, I realize just how damaging others can be to our psyche.  Who the hell has the right to say what or how we “should” feel, as if it they know us better than we know ourselves?  And yet, we allow other people to have power over us (it starts so incidiously when our parents tell us from an early age what and how to feel as in “you should feel happy, don’t cry – there’s nothing to cry about”.)  We spend our first years being indoctrinated to feel/think/be as our parents wanted us to be, the next years trying to appease others (boyfriends/girlfriends/spouse) and working to feel as they tell us we need to be, then (if we are lucky) we finally “wake up!” and realize that we have ALWAYS been just fine exactly as we are. Our feelings are legitimate, sane, and true! 

    I wrote a blog post called Recovery from Childhood: A lifelong Journey http://caroldekkers.wordpress.com/2012/01/24/recovering-from-childhood-a-lifetime-journey/  – I’d be interested in your comments.

    Meanwhile, continue to grow, feel and be just the way you are.

    Happy weekend,
    Carol

  • Hi Carol,

    Someone else had written that their father used to say “Quit crying or I’ll give you something to cry about,” and I hadn’t thought about that phrase in years. It’s so true, that many of us were taught to push down our feelings when we were younger, as if avoiding emotion was the same as being well-behaved–and then we often carry that belief and approval-seeking instinct into our adult relationships. I know I did.

    Thank you for the link to your blog! Heading over to read now…

    Happy weekend to you as well,
    Lori

  • Tracy

    As always, this came at just the right time. A friend recently lost his job at a company he’d been at for over twenty years. He’s depressed as would be expected and doesn’t think he’s going to find another job in our industry. My first instinct was to comfort and say that of course something would turn up in no time. But then I hesitated because I realized that wasn’t necessarily true nor was that acknowledging the fears that he had expressed. If I want other people to respect my feelings, I need to remember to do the same for other people.

  • Wonderful post and wonderful comments!  Thank you Lori and everyone.  

  • You’re most welcome. =)

  • That’s awesome you were able to step back and form that conclusion Tracy. I think we tend to feel more comforted by things that sound true than things we know are only intended to make us feel better (i.e.e: something will turn up in no time). I’m glad my post was helpful to you. =)

  • Dream2slack

    I felt just that over the weekend! Had a really nasty encounter on the street when a random stranger commented that I was so fat. I naturally ran to my other half and burst into tears as I recalled the event to him. Naturally as a man, he asked why I had allowed a random guy affect me so much ad that I shouldn’t be. Thank you for this post as I realized despite everything, I am entitled to feel the way I do as it was a hurtful experience and I had to express that. It brought a lot of encouragement to me and allowed me to reaffirm my feelings.

  • I can understand why that would be hurtful! Harsh words can hurt, even when they come from a stranger. I think it’s because we all want love, and on some level, we all have fears related to our worth. When people put us down, it triggers something inside us–even the most confident people.

  • Hi Nectar
    I’d agree that using your CBT froms will help, but also, regarding ‘how’ to observe emotions rather than get attached to them, I’ve found it helpful to sit in meditation and literally ‘feel’ the emotion. For me it was usually fear/anxiety.  So I would ask myself, where do I feel this? (for me it was in my chest area).  Where are the ‘edges’ of the feeling?  Where is it not?  I would focus on the physical sensations – NOT by thinking about them, or judging them, or generating stories abut them (eg oh not again, I’ll never be free of this, why does this happen to me, my breathing is all wrong etc etc etc :-)), but by literally feeling them.and naming them (oh that’s anxiety.  Full stop! ) I would usually notice an incease in the sensation, and then decrease.  After dong this consistently for about two weeks the sensation went completely – I still get anxious of course but the constant tightness is no longer there.  I’d suggest not trying this if you are really distressed – be kind to yourself.

  • Jagstate

    This article is so true. I am the one I my family that helps evryone. The one everyone goes to. Bit when I am feeling down about something. Is all I hear from my friends is how good I have it and to let it go. I have realized that I stuffed my feelings for so long I now feel anger and resentment. I am basically a happy person who is thankful for what I have and know I have good health etc. But why can’t anyone acknowledge my feelings Thanks for the article

  • You’re most welcome. I think it helps a great deal just to have our feelings acknowledged–even more than it helps to have someone “fix” our problems.

  • Pingback: Good to know… | Just Jess…()

  • caroldekkers

     Except when it came to our “new” speaker of the house whose tears (he is male and married) evoked authenticity and empathy.  Men who are authentic, unfortunately, are forced into compliance as tough males or are treated as effeminate (a negative connotation).   We need to support authenticity in our youth and our male population, after all isn’t being individual and expressing oneself what it means to be “American”?

  • Mantikos

    Feelings are a real thing and caused by something but they are still not truth. I get that you don’t want to be dismissed for having feelings but I don’t have to agree with whatever pity party you want to hold for yourself. If you’re a beautiful person you shouldn’t feel ugly, etc.

  • Justin Lehman

    Dman you are really good with your feelings cus I sometimes feel that I am the most passionate person I know, which I know is a naive assumption to make but I think it’s because I just express them more than anyone I know. I think it can be bad because the power is real and I’m not so good at controlling “my powers”. My feelings are so strong and real it can often take over my mental logic more than I want to believe. ADHD is bullshit. Superheroes get found out and put on the X-Men. Reality categorizes you with some form of mental (in)stability that differs from the norm. What can I do to control my feelings more so society excepts me more? So that I can control my feelings and fit in? (TBH besides close friends, I want to fit in so i can make money, cus that’s what rules the world apperently. Bout it, besides that, my life is mine to live and noone elses)

  • Justin Lehman

    ADHD is bullshit. I think it more than often shows a sense of higher intelligence, one that came be so in tuned to feelings than the “norm”. There’s something magical about it.