You’re in charge of how you feel

Retain your power.

Last week we talked about how to process and allow painful emotions. It’s easy to think that external circumstances like other people, things, outcomes, and events, cause us to feel a certain way. What really causes us to feel a certain way is how we think about those external circumstances. 

Do you know why circumstances don’t cause our feelings? Because two different people could experience the exact same circumstance, but depending on how each of them thinks about the circumstance, their thoughts will create their feelings and they’ll feel differently depending on what they’re thinking. So it’s not the circumstance. It’s our thoughts.

For example, one person gets cut off while driving. She could immediately get angry and vengeful and try to cut that other person off because she’s thinking, “This person is a jerk! How dare he do that to me. I’ll show him!” And sometimes this anger can start a spiral of negative thoughts and emotions for the rest of the day.

Another person who gets cut off while driving could feel some annoyance but then get over it easily because he’s thinking, “Yikes! I know how it feels to be in a rush like that and I’ve done that type of thing before without meaning to.” Some initial annoyance, but pretty quickly letting it go and not letting it ruin his day.

Same circumstance, but different thoughts, which create different feelings–and ultimately, different results. 

When we let other people have so much control over our feelings, we’re giving our power away to them. We’re saying, “How you’re behaving/what you’re saying/what’s happening ‘out there’ is determining how I feel, so I have no control over my feelings.”

But we do have control. That control is in our thoughts. Our thoughts are where our power lies.

Most of the time, we make other people’s words and actions mean something about us and we think we have to protect ourselves from something, protect our egos. 

For example, when a colleague offers another way of doing something than what we suggested, we might get defensive because we might think, “He doesn’t respect my opinion.” Then we may feel angry and defensive because we made it mean something about ourselves–usually something related to “I’m not good enough.” Then we proceed to act in a certain way that deteriorates our relationship with that colleague. 

What if instead we thought, “He could be offering a more efficient way to do it. Let’s see if it can work”? That thought will create a totally different feeling. We didn’t make our colleague’s words/actions mean anything about ourselves. We didn’t take it personally or need to defend ourselves. This other thought might create the feeling of “curiosity” or “openness,” which leads us to collaborate with that colleague in a cooperative way. 

Two different outcomes because of two different thoughts–but the circumstances were the same. 

When we take responsibility for our feelings, we stop giving our power away to other people and situations. We are in charge of how we think and feel. 

Your turn: What are you making someone’s words or actions mean about yourself? What if their words or actions don’t have to mean anything about you? Are you open to becoming more aware of the thoughts you’re thinking and how they’re creating your feelings? What are the three most frequent emotions you feel during a typical day? What are the thoughts creating those emotions?

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You’re thinking your feelings

Feel instead.

The title of this post may seem a bit confusing. “What do you mean, I’m thinking my feelings?”

Many people use the phrase, “I feel like. . .” and they get this mixed up with how they’re feeling. When people say, “I feel like. . .” it’s actually a thought, not a feeling. 

When asked “How do you feel about it?” or when people are wanting to express their feelings but they’re actually expressing their thoughts, they may say:

“I feel like it’s unfair to them” – The thought is “It’s unfair to them” and the feeling might be “indignant” or “upset” or “frustrated” when someone thinks something is unfair.

“I feel like he disrespected me” – The thought is “He disrespected me” and the feeling might be “hurt” or “angry.” Some people might say the feeling is “disrespected” but go further than that. Is “disrespected” a feeling? What do you feel when you feel “disrespected”? It might be more like “angry” or “vengeful” or “hurt.”

“I feel like it’s been so long since I’ve seen you” – The thought is “It’s been so long since I’ve seen you” and the feeling might be “sad” or “hurt” when someone has been absent for a while, or “relieved” to see someone again after a long absence.

“I feel like it’s not working out” – The thought is “It’s not working out” and the feeling might be “disappointed” or “defeated” or “hopeless.”

“I feel like I’m doing a good job” – The thought is “I’m doing a good job” and the feeling might be “satisfied” or “competent” or “celebratory.”

Feelings and emotions are vibrations in our body. We can describe them in single words–as in the examples above–though we can feel different emotions at the same time. Feelings and emotions come from the thoughts we think.

And what we’re feeling will drive our actions or inactions. 

And our actions or inactions are what create the results we get in our lives. 

Therefore, we can be more engaged with our lives when we know what we’re thinking and feeling. 

It’s important to understand how we’re feeling because we experience life through our feelings. 

And what we feel comes from what we think about our life. What do you want to purposely think about your life so you can live a fulfilled and meaningful life? 

Your turn: How can you become more aware of your feelings? What is it like to actually feel the feelings in your body?  

If you’re open to it, try this self-inquiry: “When I’m feeling _____ (choose an emotion), where do I feel this emotion in my body? Does it stay still or does it move around? What color is it? Is it heavy, light, diffuse, solid? Is it hot, cold, warm? Can I be with this emotion and allow it instead of resisting, reacting to, or avoiding it? What happens when I allow it to be there and really feel it?”

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Why you’re behaving that way

Our feelings fuel us.

Everything we do in our life is because we want to feel a certain way. Everything we want in our life is because of a feeling–the feeling that we think we’ll have in getting it or the feeling we think we’ll avoid in not getting it. This is really good to know. 

And if we know that our feelings are caused by our thoughts and that what we do in our life is in order to feel better, wouldn’t it be important to know what you’re thinking? 

We’ve already talked about circumstances, which are the facts that happen in our lives and which we usually don’t have control over. We’ve also talked about how we think about those circumstances creates our feelings. It’s not the circumstances that create our feelings.

Our feelings are also important because they drive all of our actions. Feelings are the fuel for our actions. So when someone asks me, “Why am I not taking action?” It’s because of the way they feel. Or if they’re taking an action they don’t want to be taking, it’s because of the way they feel. So our feelings are driving our actions. And then our actions are always going to create the results we get–sometimes they’re results we want or results we don’t want in our life. Our actions create our results.

But our actions stem from our feelings and our feelings come from our thoughts. So if we want different results, ultimately, we need to think different thoughts.

So sometimes the reason why we don’t take a certain action is to avoid a feeling we think will happen after taking that action. This can look like declining a big opportunity because we’re feeling doubt and thinking something along the lines of, “I might fail and I don’t want to feel the dejection of failure.” 

Other times, we feel a certain way and because we feel that way, we either take or don’t take action. This can look like feeling nervous because we’re thinking, “I don’t want to look stupid in front of everyone,” so we don’t offer our opinion in a meeting. Or we feel hurt because we’re thinking, “He should want to spend more time with me,” which causes us to disconnect from our partner, which is an action that doesn’t serve us or our relationships–it’s actually the opposite of what we want here.

When we have results in our lives that we don’t want, it’s good to be aware that it’s our actions that are creating them. And where do our actions come from? The way we’re feeling. And where does the way we’re feeling come from? The way we’re thinking about our circumstances. 

To create different results, we need to think different thoughts.

Your turn: What feelings are fueling your actions? What actions are you taking when you experience those feelings? And what results are your actions creating for you? Do you like the results you’re getting?

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Work with me: Want to see how self-care is transformative and can help create a more meaningful life in which you start committing to yourself and show up the way you want? I can show you how. I offer first-time seekers a complimentary 45-minute exploratory session. Sign up here.