The other day, I took my kids to the park. In order to get a bit of exercise myself, I opted to do laps around its perimeter rather than just sit on the bench. As I walked and kept one eye on my children, I devoted the rest of my mental energy to naming the different feelings I’d had over the past few days, and why.
This may seem like a rather strange, self-involved thing to do. But lately I’ve noticed something about myself.
I don’t know how I feel.
As a kid, I remember believing that I needed to get out of the way so the adults could have their important discussions. As I grew, I learned to care about others and put them ahead of myself (a good thing, but it needs to be held in balance). I entered a helping profession, and my mind was filled with my clients and all their stuff. I became a mom, and was quickly consumed by my children and all their stuff.
In the meantime, however, I forgot about all my own stuff.
Why is this a problem, you might ask?
Because un-dealt with stuff has a way of boiling over at the drop of a hat, in ways that can harm yourself or the people you love. You bump your head, and explode in tears. Your kid spills his milk, and you nearly take his head off with your words. Someone says something offensive to you, and you’re despondent for days. (Please tell me I’m not the only one!)
There’s a lot of talk these days about self-care. That’s important too, but right now I’m talking about something else: self-awareness. Self-awareness is what allows us to recognize and name our feelings. Going one step further, we identify the cause or trigger behind the feelings.
This is as simple as:
- I feel lonely when I take the kids to the park by myself.
- I feel anxious when my children are sick.
- I feel joyful when we go out for ice cream as a family.
After becoming aware of how we feel and what is causing it, the next step is to take ownership of and responsibility for our feelings.
Ownership: These feelings are mine. Others are not experiencing them in the same way as me. And other people may not have a clue how I’m feeling, unless I tell them.
Responsibility: My feelings are not the fault of other people. There are things in my power that I can do, in order to deal with my own feelings.
This can look like:
- I’m going to ask the neighbour if she would like to come to the park with us and hang out.
- I’m going to stock the house with the supplies I need in case children get sick, and ask for help or emotional support from other people when they are sick.
- It’s been a rough week. Maybe we should do something fun together and get some joy back.
As a mom, and as a human being in general, caring for others is essential. But when you are so others-focused that you are not dealing with your own emotions, and taking steps to deal with them, your ability to help people will be severely limited. You have feelings, your feelings have causes, and these things are worthy enough to be dealt with. For your family’s sake, and your own!
Can you relate? How are you feeling today? (Do you even know?)