How I learned to say STFU when my brain tells me I am worthless

I have passion and I would like to think that I’m capable of feeling love. But how? I could have been suicidal only a few years ago.
 
I thought about what must I write about. I know I want to talk about things that are currently happening and the mutual feelings that a lot of my friends and I experience during this maddening time. I wonder if everyone’s been feeling the same way but we are just too afraid to accept it as it is and let it be acknowledged by others.
 
Perhaps we’ve been making up this narrative on social media that we are always happy, everything is fine and that we are content. At the end of the day, this is what social media is great for and this nature has been exploited by so many, myself included. However, I do think its time that I try to unlearn this function of escaping from shame, the shame of having raw feelings.
 
As I am writing this I realised I am writing about some principles that I have always stuck to since I was a kid. These had helped me navigate the world that feels very much against every nuance of who I am and this is very likely to be something that I will consistently explore on my blog.
 
Since I am aware of the fact that what we feel and think in the presence has a lot to do with our past, I want to draw from my experiences and the rules that I have come up with which has helped me get over my suicidal ideations. I hope that this will help you in some ways or at least be an entertaining read.
 
Being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)
 
I want to start with a question that we’d hear every day, “How are you?”. A very common response would be “I’m fine, thanks.” and then we quickly bounce back the same question to the other person.
 
Most definitely they’d have a similar answer, and then the conversation would often move on to the weather or about COVID, or it might just die right in front of us.
 
Not everybody is comfortable sharing how their feelings and maybe they are not sure how they are feeling, and that’s ok.
 
Ever since I found out that I am a highly sensitive person (click here for a quick guide about HSPs. If you are too, becoming aware of these characteristics will help you become better equipped with different life situations), I started really finding values in feelings and hoping to share them with people that I’m closest with.
 
HSP often process feelings deeply and has the tendency to put themselves in other people’s shoes and experience how they feel in their own ways. I want to break the stigma of being sensitive in this regard, The reason has twofold. First, in my opinion, it has led me to live a more authentic life – a life where I try to accept things as they are and tell them with honesty. Secondly, most often when the person you’re talking to is truly paying attention, it creates a unique connection and bond that nothing can quite compare. Both of these things lead to contentment for me.
 
So, instead of brushing the question off as one of those things that people ask out of formality, I will respond with “I feel good and bad at the same time at this very moment.” it is okay to not know exactly but it is very important to be aware of feelings and emotions when they arise.
 
Trauma & Feelings
 
Fast forward to when I graduated from my fine art course a few years back, I had a similar major trigger response from experiencing similar feelings but in a way that I didn’t expect.
 
Going to an art university in London was great. I had a great time learning how to define art for myself and also understanding myself in general with people that embraced me.
 
But I was terribly lost when I graduated. I was not equipped in any way to adapt to society. I didn’t know how I could market myself in order to get a job, let alone becoming an artist. I didn’t know what I was meant to do and how to achieve these goals that everyone are trying to archive. Getting married, buying cars and houses just seemed so unrealistic to achieve.
 
Nobody in my life knew remotely what I should be doing or what advice to give – not my course mates, not my family, not anyone that I know was in the creative industry. I felt like studying art was a stupid decision, especially when most of my friends studied business, economics, finance and they knew exactly what they were going to do with their lives and they have guarantees. Again, I had no tools to adapt and there was no help.
 
To a varying degree, I still have these trigger responses here and there. Especially having just returned to making art and not having any friends who do what I do.
 
Now I am aware that this trauma will never go away and I could so easily just fall in the spiral of ‘I am nothing in this world and that no matter what I do, or how hard I work, I am not going to succeed.’ My subconscious mind would tell me this sometimes. Though, ever since I heard the saying ‘feelings aren’t facts’, my life has taken a turn.
 
There is a big difference between trauma and feelings though. The bullying and not having a support system, these are things I would classify as trauma, however, the disorienting and frustration I had from not having my future planned for me is a feeling and this feeling will pass. These passing feelings don’t change the fact that I think the art I create is good, that I have perspectives on things, that I am not afraid or apologetic letting people know my thoughts and feelings, and that I am a person of integrity and authenticity who works every day to improve myself.
 
Even though life has been a bit of a mechanical bull trying as hard as it could to throw me off into the abyss of financial ruins, identity crisis, and substance abuse, I’m still trying my hardest to hold tightly onto the leash.
 
The Need for Self-Validation
 
I am, descried by my friends, a worrier. I worry about money. I worry about my family and friends. I worry that people would stop caring about me because I don’t socialise as much as I would like to and I am not that cool in general. I worry that I will get forgotten by the world. I worry about saying worry too many times in this paragraph.
 
Though, what I don’t worry about, is not being able to face my worries and my darkness. It is life-changing to be mindful of our feelings and to acknowledge that these feelings are temporal, not eternal.
 
I feel extremely vulnerable sharing my personal experiences on the internet and I know that the shame of feeling judged is just a temporal feeling that prevents me from achieving self-validation in the most honest and truthful way.
 
This is not meant to prove to others that we have achieved a higher moral ground, that’d be the last thing we want as it falls in the category of external validations. But instead, the validation I think would make our lives better is internal and intrinsic. I see it as a lifeboat or a leash as I mentioned, keeping us afloat from feeling ashamed and in control with the way we feel what’s deep down.
 
It helped me to be more open to other people’s feelings, embracing and empowering them with the same authentic connectedness that I have worked on with ourselves. This is something that I do actively every day. It is the positive energy that has been returned that has inspired me to keep on surviving and chasing a dream that is deemed unrealistic and unachievable by so many.
 
No amount of money can help us radically accept our flaws and darkness, we can’t buy our way to authentic self-validations and authentic interactions with others. I believe that it can only be earned through hard work, discipline, and though being mindful of our emotions. To me, it is more valuable than wealth or any materialistic things we can possibly have.
Final thoughts
 
 
I remember recently talking to a friend of mine Patrick, in his 30s and originally from Ireland, about dealing with being gay.
 
He has only been able to truly live and embrace who he a few years ago after moving to London and started having more gay friends. I have always known that I feel safe being gay publicly in London, but I didn’t really think about how it was an escape from the shame. By changing my environment it released my pain by boxing those memories away, but they are very much still present.
 
Patrick explained to me the reason he quitted his teaching job at a high school in South London. It was due to the institutional prejudice against the promotion of pride month. He would be the only teacher actively making it happen. He had helped promote Black History month, awareness month around female genital mutilation (which I hadn’t a clue existed) at the school. But he would have kids coming up to him and say things like ‘my parents told me that you are going to hell for being gay’.
 
I felt the same feeling of rejection and alienation, that trigger response, inflicted on future generations. Kids that are like me, who don’t know what to do and how to feel because society has the tendency of trying to shut down this thing that they call ‘feelings’ when in fact, they are trauma. They are simply not given the right tools to cope.
 
It is easy to mistaken forgetting and forgoing from radically accepting. This is why it is so important to me that I work on myself as much as I can. So that I can empower those who are not in the position to face their feelings; those who on the verge of losing their lifeboats or the leash on the mechanical bull.
 
To summaries, these are the principles I have stuck to and continue to practice in order to achieve self-validation and keeping my feelings in check:
 
  1. Be proud of being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)
  2. To know that some feelings aren’t facts
  3. Feel good about knowing how to feel bad
  4. Seek Self-validation
  5. Connect to yourself so that you can connect to others
 
Do you follow any similar principles that allow yourself to embarrass your feelings and are there any more you've learned growing up that helps you with self-validation?
 
John
 
 
 

What are your thoughts?