Lifestyle

Learning from Negative Emotions

Negative Emotions

I won’t sugarcoat the truth – I’ve been horrendously down lately. From paid work falling through, to problems at work, to a mortgage meeting going badly, to visa prices being raised (yet again), to massive self-confidence issues, to feeling like a blogging failure: I’ve run the gamut of emotions lately. One of the things that I find massively triggering (obviously for personal reasons) is when people say “if you want to be successful, hard work pays off” or “just work hard!”. I find that to be offensive and utterly dispiriting to anyone who is working extremely hard.

I’m usually reasonably able to shake myself out of a rut, but this week I couldn’t. It involved me eating cake in bed (and pizza, and bizarrely, stew one night), crying and simultaneously watching “Moana” and “Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds”.  I didn’t want to snap out of it. 

I wanted to f*&$ing wallow in it. 

I’ve been living in this ever increasing spiral of not being good enough, not accomplishing enough, never being able to have kids (or ever afford to retire) and it’s been a dark place. So this will 100% not be a blog post about “10 things to do it shake of the blues” or “self-care when you’re feeling down”. 

Instead I want to talk about what my feelings are teaching me. Because emotions deserve to be felt and listened to. (Even the seemingly negative ones.) 


Inadequacy

When I feel overwhelmed by inadequacy, I need to take a step back and realise that I am once again chasing perfection instead of excellence. I am a recovering perfectionist. Perfectionism drove me into a constant state of anxiety, eating disorders and sleepless nights filled with constantly working, going over conversations in my mind and studying. There’s a difference between perfect and excellence. No one and nothing can ever be perfect, but excellence is something to strive for honourably. Perfect is unachievable, which sets up a never ending cycle of failure. It’s self-abusive. Excellence is still undefinable, yet it’s a far easier state to accomplish. 

Jealousy 

When I feel jealousy, I think it’s a good indicator that one of my basic emotional needs isn’t being met. If I’m jealous of someone’s holiday or travel plans am I really jealous of their travel or just with the idea of relaxation or escape? And if that’s the case, what is making me feel so stressed or trapped? Investigate it and solve it if at all possible. 

Discouragement / Resignation 

If I’m feeling discouraged or resigned about failure, it’s usually because I already feel like I am maxing myself out or trying as hard as I can or don’t know if I have anything else left to give (whilst still feeling like I’m not good enough). If that is the case, identify what exactly you feel discouraged about (working hard with no promotion, blogging hard with no readers, not saving enough money) and talk to someone else about it. As the listener in this situation, I’d recommend agreeing with the discouraged person’s feelings. Don’t correct them or minimise their worries. “It’s not that bad” etc is demeaning not encouraging. I like to find someone that I can bounce ideas off of and help guide me to actionable steps for improving worries. 


I’ve taken to wearing a rose quartz crystal to amplify my own feelings of compassion, tenderness and healing so at the end of the week, I gave it a good cleanse and concentrated on all my negative emotions and let them go. (I know it’s a bit woo woo sounding but it made me feel better.) 

So the key isn’t to continue to ignore your negative feelings until they build and build and build and you fall into a week long shame-spiral like I did, but to confront them head on when they first arise. Negative emotions are a natural part of life and denying them is forcing you away further from your true-self and prompting you to generate positive change; accept the negativity and remind yourself that it will pass. 

(This is separate from medical depression. And of course, it by no means guarantees easy or clear solutions to problems you’re anxious about.) 

We are human beings who feel a whole gamut of emotions and there’s no need to deny yourself a good cry. 

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  • I hope you feel better soon. but yes, we need to acknowledge our negative emotions as well and have a good cry or pity session before we can pick ourselves up again. I felt inadequate and as a failure many times…but then you get over it and see what you have actually accomplished and see that’s the best you can do at a given moment, so you’re actually doing fine

    • It just gets really hard when you feel like your best truly still isn’t good enough. But then sometimes you can re-examine that feeling and either fix it or learn to live with it for a little while. xx

  • Amanda, I’m so sorry to hear you’re feeling like this.
    Truth is, I can completely relate. I feel like I’ve lost the lust for life. I just go through the motions every day. I can’t find the right guy to date, my job, while being exactly what I want to be doing, is run by two women who are so very mean to me and refuse to pay me the same as the rest of the team, meaning I’m living like a student at 30. The only thing that brings me happiness is instagram and my blog – I love seeing all the pretty things, interacting with other people. But my head tells me that this digital world I live in probably makes me sadder.
    I bought this book from Paperchase “be your best self journal”. While it sounds kinds wanky, it helps; asks a question a day to make you feel stronger. It helps me little by little.

    • I’m really sorry that you’re feeling like this too Charlotte.

      It really is a “feeling like a student at 30” feeling. That’s a great way to describe it. I’m fully embracing so many activities that would be traditionally described as quite wanky. They really do make me feel better, or at least more free- so I’m going to continue and if anyone wants to roll their eyes at it, then meh – it’s no skin off my back! xx

  • Thanks for sharing this so honestly with your fellow readers. I can tell you one thing, your blog is definitely looking stunning and I love your content. I firmly believe that moments like these happen so that we readjust our perspective and then head somewhere a little bit differently. It helps to get out of the rut. Sending love to you.
    x finja ~ http://www.effcaa.com

  • I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve been feeling like this recently, it’s not a good place to be and can feel so isolating. But you’ve managed to turn your negative emotions into such a gracious and genuine post, that serves to help others and that’s something that should be applauded xx

    • Thanks Lynsey! One of the amazing things that’s come out of this post is the private messages and public comments that I’ve gotten from people who feel the same way. And whilst I don’t wish this feeling on anyone, it’s great to talk about, normalise it, and realise that you aren’t alone. xx

  • It sounds like you’ve been having a super stressful time, I’m sorry! I find it really terrible when a bunch of bad things happen all at once because I feel like they just amplify. I really hope that this upcoming week is a lot better for you!!

    • Totally! Things like that really snowball until they become overwhelming. Thanks so much, Elizabeth! xx

  • Firstly, I’m so sorry to hear you’ve been feeling like this! I know what you mean about the spiral and as a fellow perfectionist I can definitely understand what it’s like to feel like you’re giving everything and still not hitting your ideals. I found this post incredibly useful – you are so right, I find that envy in particular is usually an emotion I can learn more about myself from. Often when I stop and dig into what I’m actually envious about, I realise that I wouldn’t swap positions with the other person even if I had a chance and it helps me refocus on my own goals, if that makes sense? x
    Sophie Cliff

    • That makes total sense! It definitely can help you refocus on what you really want in life. We group jealousy and envy as automatically “bad” emotions but they have some positive things to teach us! x

  • This post could have been written by me too…

    Very sorry you’re having a rough time, but I could not agree more with the fed up attitude towards the phrase “hard work pays off.” Sometimes, it doesn’t. That’s been a truth I’ve needed to learn and it was hellish learning it, but it’s an idea that I think needs to be talked about more. I’ve been struggling to find a way to write or talk about it myself, but haven’t found one yet.

    I really admire you for putting it out there bluntly and honestly, and owning the need to feel bad sometimes. I think there’s a lot of pressure, particularly on women and even more particularly in the current cultural moment, to put a good face on everything and downplay anything difficult, hard, or just plain awful. Sometimes, life sucks. And that’s okay. Sending you positive vibes from one expat to another.

    • Thank you so much Cadence.

      One of the good things that came out from writing this post was hearing from other people that feel similarly which always helps to know that you’re not alone.

      I could have written a whole post on the negative effect of “hard work pays off”. It’s just so offensive. It comes from an absolute position of privilege and instead of being inspiring it’s so incredibly dispiriting. I think if that kind of maddening platitude towards “hard work” wasn’t being paid anymore, we’d all genuinely be better off for it.

      To be honest, I was just done with putting on a good face. You’re right it’s a cultural attitude that women especially are forced into. We have to play nice, we have to always be friendly, we need to be liked by everyone. I’m not saying it’s okay to be rude to other people but if you’re not feeling great then putting on a positive front solely for the benefit of other people might not have your own best interests at heart.

      Big hugs to you and I’m very sorry that you’ve been feeling this way! I’m always here if you need to talk or you just need to have a proper moan about something. xxxx

      • Back at you. There needs to be more open and honest discussion on what happens when you work hard, make good choices, take smart risks…and things don’t work out the way that movies and blogs would leave you to believe. Noble failures, flops, duds, and just plain disappointments and rough times are a part of life (and often statistically likely!). We need to hear about them more.

        But going through them? UGHHHHHHHHH.

  • It’s so important to be in tune with you emotions, and as you say, learn from them. I’m sorry to hear that you haven’t been doing/feeling the best right now, we’re all here for you in the blogging community!

  • Thank you so much for putting this out there xx

    Gemma
    http://www.fadedwindmills.com

  • Sorry you’ve been feeling this way. I hope good things come along for you soon. In the meantime, sometimes wallowing is the best thing to do.

    The thing I am jealous of unfortunately can’t be resolved that easily. I know exactly why I’m jealous and I’m trying very hard to throw myself into being happy for those people instead. I just have to keep reminding myself that it is possible to be happy for someone and sad for myself at the same time. Being jealous doesn’t make me a bad person (as long as I don’t start saying mean things about people who easily achieve what I can’t)

    • I definitely know what it’s like to have an unresolvable jealousy. It can be hard every day. But the fact that you can throw yourself in to being happy for other people just shows what a kind person you are.

      Being jealous 100% does not make you a bad person! xxx

  • Sometimes only a good cry in bed with stew will do! I’ve often confused Rich by picking a sad movie that I know will make me cry, just to release some of that pent up emotion! x

    • Do you have a favourite sad movie, crying time viewing choice? x

      • Sorry, jumping in here. Hope that’s okay. I have one to recommend. It’s sad, but it’s also all of the other emotions, too, and it relates to so many of the negative things you’re feeling right now (inadequacy, comparison, “perfection”). You need to watch Little Miss Sunshine if you haven’t already. That movie takes me through the emotional wringer every time, but it’s an excellent reminder of what matters more than things like success and perfection.

        • I haven’t seen it in ages! Not since it was first in theatres. I’ll have to watch it again! x

  • AMANDA! UGH I wish I could hang out you in person, coz your posts always give me all the feels and opinions and it’s too much to express in writing.

    Agree more than anything about “hard work pays off”. Yes, success can come after hard work but not all hard work leads to success. There’s waaaaay too much of this in me right now to get into here, but it all ties into my feelings about people wanting to blame poor people for being poor, like it’s possible to just hard work your way out of anything Just any kind of hard work, the non-specific hard kind. As if some kinds of hard work don’t just send you into a spiral of exhaustion and get you nowhere.

    Then that feeds into my feelings about the pricks who get all sanctimonious about people “having children they can’t afford”. Like if you’re a responsible 30 yr old working full time and feeling the pinch then you’re just not allowed to have kids because you didn’t decide to major in investment banking at uni… I have some rants in me, AAAARRRRRGH!

    • Yes, Frankie, yes! I could have done a whole post on the “hard work pays” bullshit that I only lightly touched on here. I had to take a twitter break just to get away from that very message.

      The kids thing is SO ridiculous. So basically poor people shouldn’t be allowed to procreate? Like relaxation and holidays, kids should solely be the playthings for the wealthy?! I honestly don’t get it. It’s just a)cold-hearted and b) discriminatory.

  • Kourtney Reece

    I wish I could hang with you. I relate to you in so many ways. I have those times too. Moslty jealousy. I see so many of my friends in happy relationships and getting all kinds of promotions and I look at myself and wonder what am I doing wrong. I’m in a long distance relationship right now and that gets extremely hard because I do get jealous of seeing pictures of my friends with their significant others and I can’t do that. I get a little stressed out because I’m a full-time student and I work full time and I can’t do everything that my friends get to do. I have a tendency to compare myself to others which is something that I need to stop doing because it makes me feel worse. What I’ve learned is to not bottle up that emotion. If I need to have a good cry, I just let it out. Once I do that, I try to get my mind back on track and continue to do what I need to do. It’s good to rant about it and I’m glad you made a post about this. Let’s me know that I’m not alone with these crazy feelings.

    • Oh Kourtney, my heart really goes out to you.

      First of all, I know how hard being in a long-distance relationship is. It takes all the normal emotions that you might have in a relationship and then amplifies them by about 100%. I think it’s one of the biggest challenged that you can have in a relationship.

      Next time you’re in England please let me know and we’ll try to arrange a coffee date. I’m always here if you ever need a good chat! xxx

  • Dana

    Amanda UGH! I relate to this sooo much- please know you are not alone! (Especially coming from a fellow American expat!) Since making the decision to stay longer in France and embrace these lower salaries, I’ve also felt the spiral of not being good enough, never being able to have kids or ever afford to retire dilemma– the comment below about feeling/living like a student at 30 really hit home. I’m trying to tell myself that I’m starting to take action now so I suppose the only way I can go is up.

    I was in a really dark place two years ago (broken, broken heart) and am still struggling. I think part of it is that I’ve tried to burry my emotions and not feel them. I know now how awful this is to do to yourself. Our society teaches (women!) that expressing our emotions is not a good, attractive quality. But seriously, on the contrary it’s one of the best things you can do for yourself! So with that my dear I say feel all the feels and embrace them. Remember all the good things going for you— and this too shall (hopefully?) pass. Xx

    • It’s really interesting, because though it’s universal, this post has really seem to hit home with fellow expats (from all different parts of the world).

      You’re right it’s a cultural attitude that women especially are forced into. We have to play nice, we have to always be friendly, we need to be liked by everyone. I’m not saying it’s okay to be rude to other people but if you’re not feeling great then putting on a positive front solely for the benefit of other people might not have your own best interests at heart.

  • This is a wonderfully honest and open post, I relate to so much of it. Especially having to let go of being a perfectionist that’s really hard for me. You’re also so right about jealousy! I find now I have a sunny trip planned, I can handle Instagram just fine… wait till I come back though and I’ll be hating on it. It’s great to be able to recognise these feelings and deal with them accordingly. It sounds like you’re getting there! Remember how much we all love your blog and content, keep going with it and soon you’ll get that recognition you’re after 🙂 x

  • I identify SO much with this post! I took a day off work last week because I couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed and was spiraling. It sucked! I’m still not in a great place, but writing out what I was feeling helped me identify where my feelings were coming from and put everything into perspective. You are not alone!

    • I hope you feel better soon, Alex! I’m so pleased to hear that you took some time off. I think more people should exercise mental health days! x

  • So sorry to hear you’ve been feeling like this recently Amanda. Your post has honestly resonated with me so much – I feel like I know exactly what you mean and it actually really helped me to see some of the things that bother me often articulated so well. I struggle massively with perfectionism but aiming for excellence instead seems like a pretty good idea to me, I’m going to try to remember that now whenever I fall into the inadequacy ditch.

    Don’t even get me started on the ‘hard work pays off’ thing – well maybe do because I’ve got a blog post in my drafts on that very subject because I was seeing so much of it on Twitter – I find it so hugely offensive and self-indulgent. Hard work can certainly be a factor in success, but there are also lots of other factors; opportunity, connections, natural ability, sheer luck…the list is endless. Not all hard work will lead to success. It’s a very nice-sounding notion that people who are already successful like to peddle but what an insult to those who are working tremendously hard each and every day and just can’t get a break. Sorry – rant over! Basically, I loved this and you’re wonderful x

    Sophie | Sophar So Good

    • Yes Sophie, Yes! You’ve nailed my “hard work pays off” problems precisely. It could have been a whole blog post, really.

      I hope you stay out of the inadequacy ditch, but I know exactly what it feels like to be there! x

  • We all have times when we feel just like that and a good cry can help wash out some of the negative feels and help us on the road to recovery from those shocking, terrible, horrible times. I hope your feelings are moving from negative to positive and upbeat again.

  • I’m sorry to read you’ve not been feeling great – BUT it looks like you are doing all in your power, both physically and mentally to deal with the shit feelings and you’re going with it.
    You are excellent! Put your perfectionism demons to bed, you are doing all you need in life, xxx

  • I’ve thought so much about this post since I read it yesterday, Amanda, mostly because so much of it resonates with me, but also because I know how these things can really overwhelm and weigh you down … sometimes, it feels like a wave that keeps crashing over your head, no matter how hard you’re treading water underneath to get a good breath of air. Definitely acknowledging the need to be compassionate towards yourself is so helpful. I used to beat myself up about things and now I pretend it’s my best friend I’m saying those hurtful, negative things to and I think to myself, would I say that to her? So, why am I saying it to myself? If it helps at all, I have always thought of you as one of the truly “successful” bloggers, and I’d always thought of you as someone who had “made it”. You’re beautiful, talented, smart, and attract so much love from your readers, friends, and followers alike. xo

    • Thank you so much, Jaime! I really appreciate your kind words. You bring up such a good point. Why do we talk to ourselves in such an unkind way? If we wouldn’t talk to our best friend that way, there’s no reason that we need to berate ourselves. xxx

  • Oh Amanda, I am so sorry you feel this way! To me you are definitely one of the top UK based bloggers, I cannot even understand why you woudn’t credit yourself for this! Your writing is exceptional, your photograph is stunning and you always produce top content here and on your sm channels. I love your instagram theme and now with Harold your Twitter is what makes me smile! (Speaking of which please more Harold updates, pleeeeease).
    Eat some cake and chocolate and cuddle Harold. I know most of the times we feel we are not ‘enough’ but you my friend are more than enough!
    I am sending you a cuddle from Greece xx

    http://www.natbees.com/

    • Thank you so so much lovely. Your words really mean so much to me. It can be tricky when so many life things pile up upon each other. This week is definitely looking better than last week (though I probably have Harold to thank you for that!) I hope we get to meet in person one day soon! xxx

  • Oh Amanda, I’m so sorry to read that you’ve been feeling like this lately. But, I think this post has resonated with a lot of people, including myself.

    I hope Harold cuddles are helping you feel a bit brighter and helping you ride the negative emotions out a little easier. I’ve just got to learn to do this more and maybe get a little pooch too 🙈

    • I won’t lie Emma, Harold cuddles definitely help! Having a snuggle with him is an automatic serotonin booster!

      I knew that this post would resonate with some people but I was genuinely surprised by how many people feel similarly (especially from people that I think are absolutely bossing life!) It all just goes to show how much we sometimes put our best foot forward on social media! x

  • Emina

    Thank you for your sincerity and the courage to not sugarcoat it, like you said. I’ve been feeling pretty much the same, and just snapped today, so reading and writing are my therapies. It’s not easy to fall, but it’s much more difficult to get up. So, thank you for your honesty, and things will be better, soon, after the rain, the sun always come 😀

    • Thank you so, so much Emina. I really appreciate it! Being honest about my feelings felt really good, to be honest. It didn’t clear up everything (or anything) that I was desperately stressed/upset about, but it felt therapeutic to admit that! Like you said, it’s the getting up that’s so much harder than the fall. I hope you feel much better very soon, and if it helps at all, I’m always hear if you want to DM me on twitter just to let someone know the truth of how you’re feeling. Big hugs! xxx

  • Natalie Redman

    Great post! All very true.

    http://www.upyourvlog.com

  • This is a wonderful post Amanda! I really enjoyed reading it and it struck a chord, definitely! I hope this week you’re feeling quite the opposite, but it’s actually good to allow yourself to process the negative emotions. I’m definitely someone who bottles things up and then ends up in some sort of self destruct mode, rather than allowing myself to process each small negativity and dealing with them individually rather than in a too hard to handle messy bundle! Alice xxx

    http://www.woodenwindowsills.co.uk

    • Being a bottler is so hard! It’s been a really big stretch for me lately so go “okay, what i’m feeling is normal and it’s fine” But it’s like a muscle right? So I just need to work that letting go muscle a bit more! I’m feeling a bit better this week – puppy snuggles are certainly helping though a bit of alone time will be good as well x

  • I read this post when you posted it on Facebook and couldn’t find words to comment at that time. I’ve definitely fought through a lot of negative feelings in the last few years. I found that becoming an immigrant has increased my feelings on helplessness, lack of control and generallt feeling like the odd one out. I also get annoyed when people say working hard is all there is. People who say that don’t seem aware of their privilege. I do believe hard work is important to achieve goals but sometimes we are in difficult situations, sometimes it’s out of our control and that’s when all my emotions come out. Lately I’ve been trying to let go of that, of focusing on me. I can’t control those other things so may as well not lose time caring about them too much. It’s easier said than done, but it’s helped me take a step back from stuff I took too personal (like the sale of our house falling through a few days before we were meant to move in). I really appreciate that you wrote this post, it’s so important. Hope Harold is bringing some happiness to you and you’re feeling a bit better!xx

    • Yes, totally! Privilege is so much a part of it! I also struggle with this same lack of control issue. I’m a massive planner and when huge swaths of my life are out of my control the frustration of that can really finish off your hope, if you let it!

      I hope you’re feeling a bit better too! (Any good house news?) xx

  • I completely agree and it’s definitely something i am learning! I used to get so down on myself for having negative responses to this, but i was simply putting a negative with a negative – and that NEVER makes a positive! Simple mathematics 😛

    I’ve spent a lot of time over the years in a denial state, which got me nowhere. All i ended up doing was retreating more into myself, with the unhelpful bedfellows of guilt/shame for feeling the way i did. It became a vicious cycle, one negative on top of another and soon i was in the red BIG TIME.

    Slowly but surely, i’m finding my way out of my “negative overdraft” though, and key to that is acceptance! I often think of the quote “learning to dance in the rain” and it’s so true. Experience makes you stronger because you LEARN from it. I can’t tell you how grateful i was to read this post, it really came at a good time for me – my head has been in a bit of a jumble recently, so i need to keep reminding myself that i am LEARNING. It doesn’t make me a failure; it makes me human xxx

    Bumble and Be

    • Hi Sophie, I utterly agree. (And I’m thrilled that this post came at a good time for you, though I’d obviously not wish negative emotions on anyone.)

      I really like the phrase you used “negative overdraft” it’s a helpful way to think of it. If you’re learning from it it just makes it a part of life right?

      Here’s to hoping you continue to dance in the rain! xx