I love this quote by Joan Rivers. I have to say I don’t think of Joan often when looking for inspirational quotes 😜, but this one came through my feed and I was like, “Damn – that’s good!”
The reason I think this quote is so. damn, good. is because it states a deep truth about how we can feel better and use our time more meaningfully during the rest of the life we have on this planet.
So many of us waste time indulging in negative emotions and waiting for things to get better – and we do it a lot of the time.
The reality is life has some freakin’ hard moments – because that’s how life IS. And those hard moments sometimes fall like rain. And sometimes they only happen like a lunar eclipse. But if we wait for it to get “easier” before we feel better, we’re going to be feeling shitty a lot more of the time than we need to.
We can’t wait for the boss to get nicer – or for them to get fired. For the partner to be more understanding. The partner to even exist. The partner to leave and ask for the divorce we’re too afraid to ask for. The bank account to be more full. The tummy to get flatter. The tummy to get bigger and have a baby arrive. The kid to grow up and finally move out. The kid to need you again. The weather to be perfect. The vacation time to triple.
Shit does not get “better.” Shit just happens. It just IS.
So what is one to do?
YOU can get better – you can get better at managing your thoughts. You can let your brain evolve. Which helps you manage your emotions. Which helps you create the reality you want to feel and experience.
This does not mean that by evolving you’ll never feel bad. But it does mean you are at less risk for feeling negative emotions that have no purpose for you.
Here’s the key: we can’t be afraid to feel hard things.
When we’re afraid to feel hard things, we spend time feeling self-pity and blaming everybody. We worry all the time and doubt ourselves. We even hate people – and there aren’t many feelings more awful than hate, especially when we direct it at ourselves.
You’ll know you’re feeling “unnecessary” negative feelings when the things you feel don’t get you anywhere. They keep you stuck. Or they spiral you round and round. They help you make an excuse for why you can’t go out into the world and bring your gifts to share with the other humans who totally need you.
And here’s the kicker: the reason why we indulge in the familiar negative emotion is because we’re afraid of feeling any kind of new negative emotion! But it’s still negative emotion. So when you’re not afraid of feeling bad, you can move through a negative emotion more efficiently. Crazy, right?!
It’s all a part of the yin and yang of life – in the yin yang symbol, it’s not like 80% is light and love – 1/2 is light and 1/2 is dark (just like in this caffeinated version to the right;) You need the contrast to fully experience being human. You can’t see light if there was no darkness to contrast it. Falling in love wouldn’t be so sweet if we always felt that good.
So – if you’re going to be human and feel bad feelings, at least let them be ones you are choosing or consciously aware of, and not ones that take over you and keep you from getting out there in the world.
You also might as well learn to be with those hard feelings. That way you can at least keep evolving and moving forward in your life. When you learn to manage your thoughts, your negative emotions don’t stall you out.
It requires courage to accept the reality that life doesn’t get much easier. But there is so much possibility in also accepting that you have control over how you think about it – and how you feel about it.
And guess what? That affects the reality that you experience. And isn’t that what you want to change anyway? How you are experiencing life?
You might be saying, “But Ana, my life is sooooo super shitty. It’s totally legit shitty.”
Think about self-loathing and pity and blame and hate.
It doesn’t feel good even if you feel justified in it.
Even if you feel like you have a reason, who cares what the reason is?
If it feels terrible, you could be using up that 50% of negative emotion you’re going to feel anyway (because you’re human) on something that pursues a goal for you, that creates something, that makes a contribution to your life, that doesn’t have a net negative consequence to it.
For example, I was feeling shitty about my overworking in the medical field, my father dying, my mother having abused me, getting divorced at 35, having cancer TWICE…I could list more things. I could have wallowed in self-pity about it and wished life would just back the fuck off for a bit. Which I did do in a proper way with wine and boxes of pizza for awhile.
But after allowing my period of self-compassion (vs self-pity), I got it together and used that energy to create a new career for myself – and voilà, Freedom Junkie was born. And so many other awesome things because I let go of wanting to wait for life to get easier. Or for my negative feelings to go away.
I did this by managing my thoughts and not letting them spiral me. I did this by not indulging in how hard it was to feel bad – I just felt the hard feelings, didn’t create story around them, and then was free of them.
If I hadn’t managed my thoughts, I could have been stuck in that place of self-pity for years…I had all the reasons laid out in front of me. I had the justification, but it felt shitty – so who cares that I had good reason? It was time for a change.
Of course, because I am human and in a body on this planet, I felt crappy again at some point, but because of different circumstances. The cool thing is, the more you do this, the more you know you’ve got this! You can more effectively be with hard emotions, which allow them to move more quickly through you, and then you can turn your thoughts around and keep moving forward in life.
You can do this too. We ALL can.
Try these two quick tips to make the hard feelings a smidge more manageable:
1) Don’t create story around your negative feelings. Remind yourself that as humans, we suffer sometimes, and it’s part of life. As Buddha said to a woman mourning the death of her son and wishing for the pain to stop, “Go into the village and find someone who has not experienced the loss of a loved one. Bring them back here.” She was never able to find someone. Which was the point. Being human comes with a lot of hard things – AND a lot of amazing things. Don’t let the hard things keep you from opening up to the beautiful things. Practice self-compassion about life as a human. This shit is hard! And beautiful.
2) When a negative feeling comes up, don’t push it away and don’t dive deeply into it letting it spiral you. Instead, feel it in your body. Stay out of your head, and describe it to yourself in terms of sensations (chest gets tight, face gets flushed, head feels pressure, etc). When we don’t add story to our negative feelings, studies have shown they pass through us in an average of 90 seconds. It doesn’t mean they won’t come back (usually because we start having thoughts about them again), but they can pass relatively quickly. Staying in your body instead of you head can help this happen more efficiently.
Trying to describe the details for how to manage your thoughts in an email would take me forevs. So keep an eye out for a video series I’ll send you where I go into how you can do this in a systematic way.
You’ve got this. And you’re not alone. Don’t ever forget that!
Want to work 1:1 with me to get this thought-work shizzle mastered and start turning your life around towards where you want it to be? Click here to schedule a free strategy session, and let’s jam about what’s possible.