Sunday was a hard day for me. The honest reason why? My football team lost in the first round of the playoffs on Saturday. After what had been an extremely promising season, the best one I’ve seen in my lifetime, the Buffalo Bills gave up a 16-0 lead and lost in overtime by a field goal in Wild Card weekend. And y’all, I wish I was kidding, but I literally felt depressed the whole next day. I didn’t get out of bed until 1:30 pm, and I just felt deflated and exhausted until I fell asleep again at 8:30 that night.
I felt like I was being such a drama queen. Like come on, Amanda, it’s just football. There’s always next year.
You may be thinking the same thing right now. That I’m overexaggerating or overreacting. But I’ve realized it doesn’t matter. Because my sadness, as ridiculous and silly it may seem, is valid.
So I thought this would be as good a time as ever to remind everyone that your emotions are valid. I don’t care what they are, but they’re valid.
Even the emotions that feel silly or like you’re overreacting. Those are valid. Even the emotions that aren’t exactly what you expected them to be. Valid. Even the emotions that suck so bad and you wish you weren’t feeling them. Yea, those are valid too.
I used to have this weird mindset about grief and sadness. Like I wasn’t allowed to be upset or suffer, because it could always be worse, or someone had always been dealt a crappier set of cards than I had. “It was silly to cry over a C on a test, because there were children starving in Africa” - that kind of mentality.
I remember the first time I ever saw a counselor, it was about some drama with a friend. It seemed so petty and small to me which was why I had put off talking to anyone about it for so long. And I told her that in the session and she encouraged me to squash that kind of thinking. “If it’s affecting your life and your mood, it’s important,” she said. “If it matters to you, then it matters. Period.”
That was a really great wake up call that I needed. It was a realization that trying to maintain a positive lifestyle doesn’t mean eliminating all negative emotions. I can feel sadness and still look on the bright side at the end of the day. Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive.
Another lesson I had to learn came almost two years ago. And this was more about allowing space for everyone’s emotions, not just my own. And this one stung.
I was going through a tragedy, the details of which aren’t important here, but it consumed my life. It was a low point, and I remember the first time I went out after everything happened. I went to go see a show by myself, but I found some of my friends there and we were all catching up.
One of the people I was talking with was filling me in on her recent break up. Turns out this had been the first time she’d really been out since that had happened to her because she was really struggling with it. But rather than being an empathetic friend, I immediately jumped to judgement. I nodded and listened politely, but my inner monologue was something like this: “How dare she complain about something as trivial as a breakup to me? I’m dealing with a loss? A real tragedy? Doesn’t she know? Her pain is nothing like my situation. My grief is bigger.”
Looking back on that gut reaction, I’m ashamed. After all, who am I to evaluate what she was going through? It wasn’t like I had a monopoly on grieving. I was focused on me and missed out on an opportunity to be an empathetic friend.
It’s ironic, because not 8 months later, I was going through a breakup of my own. A breakup that really broke me. I was genuinely grieving a lost relationship, and I finally started to understand how painful that could be. I remember feeling regret about that encounter that had happened months earlier. And for that matter, any encounter where I didn’t consider heartbreak an adequate cause for my friends being upset in the past.
So let me say this now, I’m sorry if I’ve ever discredited your emotions. If I’ve ever skipped over your sadness because I simply didn’t understand it. I’m sorry if I decided your grief wasn’t worth the trouble.
Emotions aren’t quantitative things. And the way you feel isn’t up for discussion or debate. It is your truth and that is enough.
I’m working on judging less. I’m trying to stop judging other people’s journeys when they look different than mine, and I’m also trying to judge my own emotions less. So I stayed in bed most of the day on Sunday because I was sad about a football game. I’m not going to judge that. That is what I needed to do.
That’s how I felt, therefore, that reaction is valid. Plain and simple.
Your emotions and reactions are always valid, too. No matter what.
When did we decide it was okay to be hard on ourselves simply because we feel things? When did it become okay to try and stop ourselves from crying to appear “tough”? Or stifle our joy because we didn’t want to rub it in other people’s faces? When did we decide to live within the limits of other’s expectations just because it seems like a safer place to exist?
I’m not sure when we decided to do all that, but can today be the day we decide to stop?
The second we start limiting our emotions is when we become a little less true to our nature. So I encourage you to embrace the vulnerabilities that are hidden in your full range of feeling. Enjoy the experience of all your emotions. Because they’re all valid. And they’re all what make up the beautiful, complex, and wonderful person that you are.