20 December 2012, 13:35
Sometimes, terrible things happen. People let us down. We are disappointed. We get rejected, left behind, or forgotten about. No matter who you are, & no matter how wonderful you are, we don’t always get it right on the first try. It happens to every single one of us.
You could have planned for every possible eventuality, & still fall flat. You might have all the resources in the world, but still have the rug pulled out from under you.
As much as we may wish it were the case, & as much work & effort as we may put in to cultivating our dreams, life is not all love & sequins all the time.
So, now that we’ve established that stumbles, setbacks & consternation are totally unavoidable, let’s look at how to get through it.
Stop. Put your phone down. Don’t tell anyone straight away. I know it’s tempting to want to get it off your chest, but just wait.
Most people, bless ‘em, upon hearing bad news, will rush to tell you about the silver lining. There’s a silver lining to everything, it’s true, but going straight there can be detrimental.
We can’t immediately gloss over everything that goes bad. For example, when you break up with someone, a lot of people will advise you to go on the rebound.
“It’s the only way to get over it!”, they’ll exclaim excitedly.
Sure, this might help for a moment. But as soon as you’re alone again, all those feelings you tried to block out will just come crashing back in. So don’t try to rush through the “badness” of it all. Just sit with it, as uncomfortable as it may be.
Allow yourself to feel your feelings. Breathe them in & out, & don’t judge or berate yourself. It’s totally okay to feel bad, sad, disappointed, or sick. When you start to guilt-trip yourself about your feelings, you do yourself an enormous disservice. Know that it is perfectly normal & okay to have an emotional response to whatever has happened.
Don’t push your feelings away. Just accept them. Sometimes it helps to say to yourself (either in your head or out loud), “Yes, I feel sad/angry/lost/hopeless! Yes, I do! I accept this.” This might make you feel silly, but it can really help take some of the pressure off.
This stage, by the way, of just allowing yourself to feel your feelings, can take a while. Depending on the severity of the situation, these feelings can exist for as little as half an hour or for as long as several months. Sometimes our sadness comes & goes in huge waves, sometimes it just lingers around like a bad pong. All sadness is different.
Let me tell you about the last time something like this happened to me.
All of my initial responses were physical. First, I felt like my legs were going to give out underneath me. My breathing got really short & shallow, I thought I might throw up, & then I thought I might cry.
None of those things happened, though. I walked home, my body trembling almost imperceptibly. I spent the night on the couch, feeling numb. I didn’t really want to talk about it. I didn’t want to rush to the problem-solving part. I knew I just had to sit with my feelings.
Hours later, when we went to bed, I was ready to talk. My husband & I lay there in the dark, brainstorming what to do next. I woke up the next morning feeling a little sad, but by then, I could see that it wasn’t the end of the world.
I needed a day to just feel those feelings, to wallow in them & get a bit morbid. If you rush through this step, the darkness can sneak up on you again & threaten to swallow you whole. Feel it until it starts to go away.
Once you’ve been sitting with your feelings for a while, you can tell someone else. But be smart about it. Don’t tell the person who believes the worst of everyone, or the cynic. Don’t tell the person who will blame or point fingers. Tell someone who is clever & kind & above all, loves you.
If no one in your life fits this bill right now, sometimes it’s better to keep it to yourself. We all have a tendency to be extremely hard on ourselves, & when it comes to something like this, it’s better to sit alone with your feelings than have someone make you feel even worse.
Having said that, if something truly traumatic has happened, an impartial third party — like a counsellor or therapist — can be an absolute blessing, & finding one you like should be very high on your list of priorities.
Get really thankful. We talk about being grateful all the time on this blog, because it really IS one of the best ways to flip your mood. But if you want a different perspective on it, make like Marie Forleo says, & “Put down the shit sandwich.” (Ha!)
A little bit of perspective will shake you out of your doldrums with the quickness. Okay, so maybe that thing wasn’t a huge hit, or your BFF let you down, but truly, that isn’t the worst thing that could happen.
Get out some hot pink paper & your Swarovski crystal-encrusted pen — oh, & if you don’t have these, I suggest getting them! — & begin to make a list of the things in your life that are awesome. Be specific. My dog’s multi-coloured whiskers. The first track on Rihanna’s new album. The fact that glitter exists. Do this until you feel your mood start to lift. It probably won’t take as long as you think.
If you find that putting pen to paper & writing a list of things to be thankful for just isn’t doing the trick, bring out the big guns: get a bit Byron Katie on it, & do The Work.
Oh, & for a foolproof endorphin boost, throw on your sneakers, hit the gym & sweat it out. It’s guaranteed to shake your mood loose!
Come up with a new plan.
Trust me, it’s normal & perfectly acceptable & okay to mope around for a couple of days. You might not be smiling as much as you regularly would. But you’ll find that taking action is one of the fastest ways to make the heartache subside.
This will happen quite naturally. The human brain loves to solve problems: it is what it does best. Once the feelings of grief start to lift, your mind will begin to tick over with ideas.
It will start to spit questions at you. ‘Why can’t we do it this way?’, it will ask. ‘What about this? Or that?’
Sometimes, when we have a goal, we get so fixated on it that we completely blind ourselves to the fact that there are other ways of doing things. There are so many roads that can get us to that same end point.
Soon, you will realise that there are a million & one ways to deal with your problem… & you might even discover that this problem you have is actually a blessing in disguise.
Allow this experience to make you better.
Maybe the person you love told you they could never be with you. Maybe you just found out you can never have a baby. Maybe you got turned down for your dream job, or someone you were counting on has disappointed you.
Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter what it is that has you feeling this way. What matters is how you respond to it.
Don’t stumble over something that is behind you. (Click to tweet!)
No matter what has happened to you, & no matter how badly disenchanted, let down or sad you may feel, you are still incredible. You still have so much to give. You will always be a shining star, a brilliant diamond. Baby, you’re a firework, & this won’t stop you.
This is a minor blip, a teeny tiny road-bump. This moment doesn’t define you. These hurdles & hindrances can only ever serve to make you so much stronger. They can only ever show you exactly how much of a bad bitch you really are!
You will rise from this, becoming even more fierce, even more fabulous, & a hundred times more ferocious.
The world is waiting for you to storm on in & claim what is yours.
Get it, girl!
Images by Miles Aldridge.