I feel bad , all the time, about everything

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I feel bad , all the time, about everything.

Episode #152  How to feel better about everything

 

Question of the Day:

Dear Torie

You asked me on the coaching call what area of my life is causing me the least satisfaction. I’ve given it some thought and realized, it’s not just one area. 

I feel bad. All the time. About everything. 

My parents want to have more time with my kids. They would love to see them everyday but we live too far away for that to be possible.I feel bad about that. I want my kids to have a close relationship with their grandparents so I feel bad for the kids, like it’s my fault they can’t see their grandparents more often. 

I feel bad that I didn’t send my kids to sleepaway camp. I loved going to camp as a kid but they didn’t seem interested and I couldn’t find anyone else who wanted to do it. I feel bad that I want a week without them and none of the other moms seems ready to let go of their kids. I feel bad that my kids are stuck at home this summer watching too much TV. 

I feel bad missing my daughter’s dance showcase but if I go, I have to miss work again and then I’ll feel bad about missing work. Then I feel bad for not having my shit together like other moms who manage to balance both. 

I feel bad for having a partner who helps out so much when there are single moms out there doing this on their own. 

I feel bad complaining about my kids’ picky eating when other moms are worried about serious issues like diabetes.

See what I mean? 

How do I stop feeling bad so I can feel better about EVERYTHING? 

Anika

Parent Educator Answer: 

It’s exhausting to constantly feel bad about things you don’t have control over. This is a HUGE Supermom Kryptonite so let’s undo this toxic social conditioning ASAP. 

Let’s start by unpacking what it means when you say “I feel bad”. 

Feeling bad is a handy catch all meaning you are experiencing a negative emotion. 

When trying to identify an emotion, try to think of only one word.

Most people, when asked to define “feeling bad” say it’s closest to guilt. 

The purpose of guilt is to help us identify something we have done wrong so that we can apologize, make amends, ask for forgiveness, and not make the same choice again in the future. Feeling guilty feels uncomfortable so we do what we can to alleviate this discomfort so that we can go back to feeling “good”. 

Guilt is an important emotion designed to help us preserve our relationships.

For example, you miss work to go to your daughter’s showcase…..every week. Your boss starts to question your commitment. She asks if she should readjust the schedule to accommodate your time off. Your coworkers are put off that they have to cover for you. You start to feel guilty. You don’t like this guilty feeling so you decide to miss the next showcase and go to work instead. The guilt goes away but then you miss the next 4 showcases and you start feeling guilty about not attending your daughter’s recent performances. You choose the showcase over work but this time, you don’t feel guilty because you are more in balance. 

This is how we can use guilt to guide us towards preserving our relationship with our kids, as well as our boss and co-workers. 

The problem is that so many of us feel “bad/guilty” we haven’t actually done anything wrong. 

Is it wrong that you live far away from your parents? No.

Is it wrong that you value sleepaway camp more than others? No. 

Is it wrong that you have a helpful partner or that you get frustrated by your kids’ picky eating? Not at all. 

We don’t really have words to explain “feeling bad for no reason” or “feeling guilty for existing and being yourself.”  So I’m going to offer two new definitions to explain this common feeling.

  • Projection Reflection – Imagining someone else is suffering, then feeling a negative emotion because of this imagined suffering. 

For example, you might imagine your parents sitting home on a Saturday afternoon, sad and lonely, wishing they could be with their grandkids. Then you start feeling “bad” because of the sad image you created in your mind. In reality, they might be out having fun or enjoying the peace and quiet of the moment, but in your MIND you picture them having a negative emotion, and then your BODY starts to experience a negative physical feeling, in reaction to YOUR PROJECTION. Your mind projects suffering, and then you feel the reflection. 

  •  A “Poke” – When someone disagrees with us, our decisions or values, I’m going to call it a poke.

Sometimes in life, we get poked. Nobody likes being poked. It’s not a comfortable feeling. Sometimes it’s annoying, other times it actually hurts. But it’s harmless and just something we have to live with and not give it much attention.

 

For example: You are talking on the phone with your mom and she says, “I wish I could see the kids this weekend. Why did you have to move so far away? I don’t get enough time with them.” 

Your first reaction might be to feel guilty, but then you examine your guilt and realize YOU HAVEN’T DONE ANYTHING WRONG. You LIKE living a few hours away from your parents. You ENJOY having some space and distance between you. There is nothing wrong with this. 

I’m calling it a “poke” when someone expresses different values and desires than yours. 

 

You want to send your kids to sleepaway camp. Your friend says something like:

“Aren’t they a little young for that?” or 

“I would miss my kids too much if they were gone for two weeks this summer.” or 

“Must be nice to be able to afford sleepaway camp, it’s way too expensive for our family.” 

 

These are “pokes”. Their values are different from yours. This is not a problem. It’s just a reminder that we value different things and as much as we’d like everyone in the world to support our decisions and agree with us, it’s not realistic.  

Life Coaching Answer: How to feel better about everything

At the root of “feeling bad” all the time about everything, is a general feeling of unworthiness. Sometimes, our culture teaches us that experiencing the best things in life is selfish. We learn to become uncomfortable with joy, well being, contentment, abundance, wealth, health, freedom and love. 

Is it because advertisements use our insecurities to sell their products? “Feeling bad? Drink this and then you’ll be happy and healthy.” 

Is it because our friends in middle school would pull us down a notch whenever we were feeling too smart, too pretty, too talented, or too confident? 

I don’t know, but it is pervasive. Feeling bad keeps us small and meek. We don’t dream big when we’re worrying about other people’s reactions. We don’t go after what we want in life when we’re worried about other people’s values “poking” us and keeping us in our place. “Feeling bad” is toxic and we need to get over it ASAP. 

 

Because I care deeply about others, I thought that the way to show I care deeply was to “feel bad”.  I heard, “People are starving in Africa so you need to eat your lima beans.” I never understood the connection but I did learn that a good person “feels bad” for the starving people. Whenever I saw someone in a wheelchair I would “feel bad” for having legs. Is this guilt? No, because I didn’t do anything wrong. Somehow the message to feel grateful got turned into feeling guilty, unworthy and undeserving of the privileged life I was living. 

 

But if we waited for everyone else to be free from suffering, we would never be happy. How can we celebrate the 4th of July when the war in Ukraine still rages? Someone, somewhere will always be suffering so when would we ever be able to feel happy, loving, joyful and free? 

The turning point for me was realizing that “feeling bad” did not encourage good, productive action. This bad emotion does not drive good behavior. 

When I hear about what it’s like to have a child with diabetes, my heart goes out to them. It sounds so stressful and scary. My body reacts with negative emotion. My stomach clenches, I pull in, I tell myself I’m bad for complaining about my kids’ picking eating. I withdraw. 

“Feeling bad” for moms dealing with diabetes does not make me reach out to them. This Projection Reflection does not motivate me to offer a helping hand, donate to charities, pay for medicine, etc. It makes me feel small, unworthy, inadequate and not good enough. When I do reach out with kindness, I STILL feel like it’s not enough. When I do donate my time or money,  my negative emotion doesn’t go away.  I’m imagining they are suffering and then suffering right along with them. 

When you realize that “feeling bad” does not make you a good person, or make you spread kindness and love throughout the world, it’s time to let it go. 

 

Are you worthy of love, belonging, acceptance, joy, health and abundance? 

Listen to the podcast when I talk about babies in bassinets and you will have your answer. 

 

Next time you catch yourself feeling bad, ask yourself, “What emotion does the world need more of?” 

Does the world need more blame and guilt or does it need more forgiveness and kindness?

Does the world need more suffering or more happiness? 

Does it need more thoughtful, empathic women playing small, or does it need empathic women to speak louder and demonstrate love? 

Then commit to your values and be the change you want to see in the world. 

 

Supermom Kryptonite – Not knowing what your values are

Sometimes it’s clear, you value love over fear. But through the process of raising kids, our values can get murky. Should I send my kid to sleepaway camp even though the other parents aren’t? Does my introverted kid need more social activities or is it ok for him to spend so much time at home where he’s happy? 

I’m struggling with my values around underage drinking. I would have been content to do what my parents did, no drinking in until you are 21. It’s the law. Everyone agrees, Easy Peasy. 

Except that when I was in Costa Rica, someone offered my son a drink and he said yes. What?! I had no say in the matter. He’s an adult. The drinking age is 18. I wasn’t paying for it so there was no decision for me to make. It felt so strange. 

In Europe I let loose and bought drinks for my kids, but here, I feel like I’m doing something wrong. Why?  My dad has a glass of wine every night with dinner, that seems just fine but when my kids want to drink with dinner, it seems totally wrong. My husband is offering cocktails while I’m offering smoothies. I’m the only one in my family still clinging to the arbitrary 21 year old drinking age. Not knowing what my values are makes it harder for me to relax and enjoy hanging out with my kids. 

Life is always going to throw us curve balls and force us to update our values. Taking the time to unpack it and figure out what is important to you is worth it every single time. 

Ask yourself these questions to help clarify your values: 

 

Why is this bugging me? Am I doing a projection reflection?

Yes,  I’m imagining people thinking I’m a bad mom for allowing/encouraging my kids to drink. I’m imagining my kids developing a drinking problem and the mean things I’m going to say to myself should that occur in the future. I’m reacting to my future self telling me it’s my fault because I poured them a drink at 19 instead of 21. 

 

Am I being poked by someone else’s values disagreeing with mine? Yes, I’ve been poked my kids and husband having different opinions than me. 

 

What is the value that is important to me that I don’t want to let go of? I value a healthy, balanced lifestyle. 

 

What am I ready to let go of? The belief that I’m a bad mom for not obeying this U.S. law while on U.S. soil. 

 

Get clear on your values and you will feel more energized and at peace. 

Supermom Power Boost – A slice of shifting stillness

We have all the parenting answers we will ever need but in the chaos of everyday life, it can be hard to access our inner wisdom. Meditation is the gold standard but it’s not always easy for busy moms to sit still. That’s ok. You can still access your inner wisdom while moving. 

Ask yourself a high quality question like, “What am I ready to let go of?” or “What value is important to me that I don’t want to let go of?” 

Then go for a hike, a drive, a bike ride. Any kind of repetitive movement can help you sit in the stillness and allow those answers to come from within. Fly a kite, bake a cake, get a massage, doodle, walk a labyrinth, it doesn’t need to be exercise, just a slice of shifting stillness that will distract your left brain so you can access the inner wisdom that lies on the right hemisphere of your brain. 

 

Quote of the Day: 

For today’s quote, I read an excerpt from Orli Auslander’s book, “I Feel Bad”. This is a funny look at the toxic habit of “feeling bad” when we haven’t actually done anything wrong.

I feel bad

Also check out the short lived TV sit com with the same title, based on the book.

I feel bad

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