We’ve all gone through rough patches at some point in our lives. Sometimes, it feels like bad days, setbacks, disappointments, and failures are in some sort of partnership or agreement to happen one after another, doesn’t it?
During times like these, stress, worry, dissatisfaction, and anxiety take the front seat immediately, replacing motivation, creativity, and confidence. But that's not the issue. Instead, the issue is what we say to ourselves when we feel that way.
How many times did you say to yourself that you have to be stronger? That you should stop crying? That you should be grateful for everything else you have in your life? That no one should know that you’re not feeling okay? We’ve all been there and done that!
But the real question to ask is, “is it okay not to be okay?” Let’s discuss this in-depth.
The Short Answer
Always. It’s always okay not to be okay – regardless of the reason you feel that way. No questions asked! You’re allowed to fall apart whenever you need to – it’s actually a prerequisite to going back to being yourself all over again. It’s perfectly normal, expected, and the essence of human nature to go through times when we’re not okay.
Why It’s Okay Not to Be Okay
Life will always surprise you – there’s no denying that. But sometimes, those surprises aren’t exactly how you wanted things to turn out, right?
True, but the thing is, you're really not alone. Everyone around you is probably also facing a struggle of some kind, and everyone has their own issues to work through, too. So what we're trying to say is: you're not wrong to be feeling what you're feeling – because everyone is struggling in their own way.
In fact, if you're not feeling okay, it means you have emotions, and your feelings and emotions will always be valid and authentic – just as real as they are to you. So if you're not okay, don't be afraid to say it!
After all, when you’re sick, you go ahead and take medicine to feel better, right? Well, not feeling well–emotionally–is also a form of sickness, and there’s no medicine to take. But there’s a solution, and it’s to feel whatever it is that’s happening inside of you and show up for your emotional experiences instead of pushing them under the rug!
The reality of the matter is that expressing your emotions is not only important but also healthy, while trying to shove your emotions deep, deep down can actually harm you both physically and mentally and puts your brain in a fight-or-flight mode.
So, while you think that pushing your emotions out of the way will make you feel better or even forget about them and make them disappear, you’re only really delaying your explosion and adding fuel to the fire while, instead, you should be sitting with your negative emotions and confronting them.
With that being said, it’s time for you to face the fact that if you want to truly let your feelings go, you must both feel the feeling of not being okay, and express how you feel, to be able to let your sentiments go in a healthy way.
Let yourself feel what it wants to feel, be true to yourself, and acknowledge that it’s perfectly fine for life to push you over the edge of your limits from time to time. It’s vital for your emotional growth!
Emotional Expression: A Simple How-To
Before we move on to the next point, we want to be very clear about how you can express your emotions to ensure that you’re doing so in a productive manner. More often than not, how you express yourself is what makes all the difference in whether you end up feeling better or worse.
Sometimes, we tend to assume that expressing our emotions means walking around slamming doors, screaming into a pillow, walking around with angry facial expressions, or even complaining and gossiping about what you're feeling all the time, but that's from reality.
Expressing your emotions doesn't even have to involve other people if you don't prefer that to happen. It can be entirely internal! It can actually be quite as simple as training yourself to tell your brain that, "I'm really upset, and that's OK."
In doing so, you literally take away from the power of our feelings, and its grip over your wellbeing gets reduced over time. Along with that, you’ll start seeing situations more clearly, empowering you to make decisions easily and rationally since your anxiety will also vanish.
So, again, at the end of the day, emotional expression isn't about walking telling everyone that you aren't feeling okay but rather about your own acknowledgment of your emotions – because after all, you're wired to feel them, just like any other human being.
Debunking Myths About Mental Strength
Since you’re reading this blog post, you’ve probably really asked yourself whether it’s okay not to be okay at one point or another. And while that question is perfectly fine, what’s not fine is the number of myths surrounding mental strength that lead countless people to ask themselves the same question you did.
Most likely, you won’t remember who exactly made you believe that you should be strong all the time, that you shouldn’t cry in public, that you should be grateful for everything you have that others don’t, and similar other beliefs. But you do remember their words.
“Look on the bright side!”
“Happiness is a choice!”
“Suck it up!”
“Focus on the good things in your life.”
“Get over it.”
“It could be so much worse — be grateful.”
But did you ever stop for a second to ask why?
Why should a person not be able to embrace that they’re feeling weak during a phase of their lives? Why should they not be able to say that they’re not feeling okay out of fear of disapproval from others?
Why is it okay to show off if you’re happy with your soulmate but not when you’re upset? Why is it okay to laugh out loud but not cry out loud? Why can positive feelings be expressed but negative emotions have to be buried away?
Such myths are genuinely what makes admitting that you're not okay a challenging situation, to the extent that it's sometimes hard to even admit it to yourself – not others. It's really all about the shame that surrounds the idea of not being okay and that if we admit to being in pain, we're "weak", "inadequate", or "doing it wrong", but that's all fallacious.
It's quite saddening, actually, that we're at a point where we have to ask whether it's OK not to be OK because of how we've been raised, conditioned, and wired to believe that positivity is the only normal we should accept. But now, we run to let go of that narrative and create our own.
Whenever you fall into these traps of thoughts, remember that mental strength doesn't mean always having to think positively and pretend that your feelings don't exist and that forcing yourself into positive thinking can threaten your happiness if you keep your emotions shoved for too long, as we were just discussing. There's a reason that's called toxic positivity.
So, no, feelings and emotions are complex, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution or recipe to how you should deal with them to put an end to one’s ongoing pursuit of happiness.
It's perfectly OK not to be positive all the time, to accept that it's fine to feel low and bad when life takes dark turns and to understand that it's OK to not be happy for every single moment of your life. Likewise, feeling pain, uncertainty, grief, anger, loneliness, and anything else is OK.
Emotion of any kind is not a weakness – emotions and feelings make you human!
When it really comes down to it, remember that although you don’t feel okay right now and that it feels like you no longer have control over your life, your feelings are temporary. And that’s the beauty of life! As much as it’ll throw some stumbling blocks every now and then, it's also so dynamic to the point where you won’t have time to get stuck in a loop in one phase.
But while yes, it’s impermanent, you need to honour your emotional experience. So our one piece of advice would be to flow with your emotions. Let them come, let them go, and embrace both negative and positive emotions while they last – they’re the door to a lot of learning about yourself.
Don't suppress any emotions or bottle them up because suppressing your feelings is suppressing yourself in the process. Take a break when you need to, leave situations that you don't feel comfortable being in, change your mind if that'll help bring you peace, and don't be hard on yourself.
It’s okay not to be okay, and it’s also okay to dispel how you feel and enter it fully. In other words, feel your feelings and show up for them! And most importantly, take care of yourself the best way you know how. It’s okay.