“No one can make you feel bad without your permission.”
This is a variation of a famous quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, and something that I need to remind myself of on occasion.
I used to be a sponge: I would adopt the emotions or strong feelings of others as if they were my own. “Feel bad? Oh, poor baby. Let me share your pain.”
Or I’d feel guilty that I felt happy when someone else was upset or angry. “It would be selfish of me to feel so great when someone else is fuming.” Funny thing is, the end result was always the same: I’d start to feel bad myself. Yet I never truly made the connection that I was the “sponge.” I thought I was empathic, supposedly an admirable trait.
I know my mom taught me to share but somehow I don’t think this is what she had in mind!
As I began to realize that I didn’t have to take on others’ feelings, I also began to recognize that my feelings belonged to me. And the greatest revelation was that I was entitled to feel them, no matter what.
And then I learned even more. No one could manipulate me to assume his or her feelings. And I realized that it is not my job to try to fix someone else’s feelings or feel guilty if I don’t.
I have found a sense of empowerment from these realizations. I have discovered greater freedom and release from the false sense of responsibility that I had to keep everyone happy. (So much for “If Mamma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!”)
Does this mean that I have a sunny attitude every day? Heavens, no! I experience the full range of emotions—and gloriously they’re all my own. The difference now is that I lay claim only to my own feelings, no one else’s. And that is a wonderful gift I give myself, every day.
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