How are you feeling?

the best AND worst question in the history of ever

I hear that dreaded question and immediately clam up. I think, “Should I answer honestly and open up a can of worms or should I say, ‘I’m swell,’ and move on?” Being open and vulnerable with your feelings is no easy feat, but the more often we allow ourselves to share our heart with others, the easier it will get.

I’m an introverted perfectionist.
Which means, I hold really high standards for myself and the people around me. I tend to keep my feelings under lock and key, because I’m fearful of what people might think if they saw the real me, imperfections and all. But the truth is, people love seeing imperfections, because it puts to rest the lie they’ve been believing that someone else has it all together and they don’t. We need vulnerability and openness in our friendships and relationships, because it paves the way for deepened trust and community.

Each time we choose to invite people into our journey by being vulnerable and honest, we allow for more authentic relationships built on truth. If we don’t divulge our true thoughts and feelings to others, our relationships remain surface-level without any true depth or foundation. It’s easy to put up a facade of what we think people want to see of us, when in reality, people want all the imperfect, not-so-pretty details. So here we go, let’s dig deep…

EMOTIONS VS. FEELINGS

It’s okay and vitally important to admit our imperfections and struggles of the heart. However, it is important to know the difference between our FEELINGS and EMOTIONS.
EMOTIONS are lower level responses that occur in our subcortical regions of the brain, meaning they elicit both physical and instinctual responses in our bodies. These responses often trigger the release of various neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, etc.) in our body that allow us to experience trust, joy, fear, disgust, anger, anticipation, sadness, and surprise.
FEELINGS, however, are a response to an emotion. We see a bear, we experience the emotion of fear, so we feel terror and a deep sense of impending doom. Growing up, I was always told feelings are fleeting, but I’m starting to realize they are more lasting than emotions. Yes, FEELINGS can be deceiving. They can make you question your self-worth and criticize your actions, but that does not mean that feelings aren’t worthy of being expressed. Oftentimes our FEELINGS are a reactionary response to an EMOTION we are experiencing, so if we dig a little deeper, we can find the root of the issue and treat it appropriately.

EXAMPLE: When I get angry or disappointed with a situation or person, I may feel bitter, discontent, or restless as a result.
But my FEELINGS out of a response to anger are not as important to understanding my heart as are my underlying EMOTIONS. These EMOTIONS come from a place of being ANGRY and DISAPPOINTED, but they often surface with defensive speech and bitterness of heart. Be careful not to confuse the two, because FEELINGS are reactionary to the EMOTIONS we experience.

So, this begs the question…

HOW ARE YOU FEELING?

I challenge you to ask this question more frequently and with intention. The people we love and do life with deserve to be heard and validated. But this challenge is twofold. When asked this question ourselves, we need to answer it honestly and earnestly. Not with curt responses like, “I’m okay,” or “Pretty good.” We can’t assume that everything and everyone around us is just peachy if we aren’t asking simple questions of the heart. We need to look outside ourselves every once in a while and open our eyes to the joy, hurt, pain, fear, and burdens of those around us.

So whatever you may be trudging through: job changes, moving, loss, difficult diagnoses, marital qualms, financial burdens, new family additions…be sympathetic to those around you too! Know that your trials are not yours to bear alone. Be vulnerable and share your heart with the people you love and significant fruit could come from it.

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