When you’re struggling with sadness, part of your feelings may involve experiencing a lot of distress and shame about how sad you feel.
You probably won’t even realize it’s happening, but you’ll feel like “I shouldn’t be this sad” and that “my sadness is a weakness.”
It shouldn’t always feel like it’s just you.
When you acknowledge your sadness, you can actually perceive how you’re tunneling yourself into more gloom. Then you could do a much better job of accepting your sadness as it is, as the Bohemian-Austrian poet and novelist Rainer Maria Rilke reminds in the masterpiece Letters to a Young Poet (1929):
How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races – the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses. Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are only princesses waiting for us to act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.
So you must not be frightened if a sadness rises before you larger than any you’ve ever seen, if an anxiety like light and cloud shadows moves over your hands and everything that you do. You must realize that something has happened to you; that life has not forgotten you; it holds you in its hands and will not let you fall. Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any miseries, or any depressions? For after all, you do not know what work these conditions are doing inside you.
Thinking through “What am I sad about?” can help you get happier
Try to redirect the blame from yourself and recognize that sadness is a natural and reasonable response to the miseries of the world—some of them personal, some collective.
Yes, believing in yourself in the face of self-doubt can be challenging. But the extent of sadness isn’t immutable.
You can trigger a vast shift in how you feel by dropping self-criticism and embracing a more kind, non-judgmental relationship with yourself. Sadness isn’t a state of sin.
- Change “I can’t do this” to “this will be a challenge for me; it’s normal to feel anxious.
- Accept “I hate this” with “this is a tough situation to handle, and I’m doing my best.”
- Persuade yourself to substitute “I hate myself” with “I’m overwhelmed with low self-esteem at the moment, and I need to cheer myself as I would a friend.”
- Instead of repenting, “I can’t believe it slipped my mind again,” let yourself off by acknowledging, “it’s difficult to balance so many things. Perhaps I need to let go of some of them.”
Idea for Impact: Befriending your feelings and not identifying with these feelings as your self can affirm not only who you are but also what you believe you can be. Even when you feel disturbed because you’re falling back into past patterns, bear in mind that simply being aware that you’ve retreated into going over the past is a precursor of growth. Self-awareness can pave the way to a great leap forward in your personal transformation.
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