Emotional strength is, undoubtedly, an important skill for most people. This is definitely true for women and moms since we often feel at the mercy of our (sometimes very strong) emotions.
Multiplying the importance of emotional strength is that when we get overly emotional, we often don’t make the best decisions. Sometimes we might act in extreme ways out of “negative” emotions that get the best of us, such as lashing out in anger or frustration. Other times, we might become too “soft” (being a pushover) because our emotions make us fear being strong and standing up for ourselves.
Do you ever feel like your emotions get the best of you?
If so, here are two questions you can ask yourself to determine if you are feeling and acting from a place of emotional strength or whether you are behaving at the mercy of what you are feeling.
- Is the way your emotions are making you act or feel, useful to you and/or others?
Can you act on every single thought or belief you might have? Sure. Should you? Ummm… you probably know the answer to that. One reason we do find ourselves doing that, however, is because we sometimes begin to let our feelings define us. Therefore, we start to act (and act out) how we are feeling, instead of in a way that is productive. If that’s confusing, maybe this next statement will help clarify what that means.
Neuroscientist Alex Korb explains that if you were to break your arm you would not tell people, “I am broken.” But when we feel worry we’re quick to say, “I am worried.”
Bottom line is that we don’t have to “be” everything we are feeling. Often, we can’t help the way we are feeling but what we do – how we behave and deal with those feelings – is a choice. Will acting the way you are feeling, or using your feelings as a catalyst for certain actions, help you feel better or be happier? If not you, will it help someone else be better/safer/happier? If not, and you are merely reacting because of your feelings, this might not only be unproductive, it could be harmful to you or others.
Takeaway: If choosing to act the way we are feeling doesn’t positively serve or help you or someone else, it’s likely worth considering if there is a better way to respond. (This is actually one of the main keys to the Buddhist practice of “mindfulness.”)
- Ask yourself – before you act or react – is this who you want to be?
Does the way you are acting (or thinking about acting) make you feel pride? Does it make you feel stronger about who you are and what you believe in and who you want to be?
If the answer to those questions is not immediately clear, consider how you would feel if you saw a good friend or family member acting the way you are considering – or are – acting. Would you feel more positively about them? Or would you look at them or their behavior negatively?
Who do you want to be in this world? How do you want to be viewed? If your actions are not in alignment with that, it’s likely time to step back and bring your emotions back in check.
The good thing about asking yourself these two specific questions about acting on your emotions, is that it doesn’t take away your general right to act or react when it’s truly called for and necessary.
There are few greater regrets than wishing you had acted when something was important and deserved a response, but you stayed quiet or didn’t act or react the way you felt you should have… Asking yourself the two questions above first still leaves you the freedom to respond when necessary, but help to ensure you do it from a place of emotional strength, instead of weakness.