Highlights for Feel the Suck
- Some days just plain suck (0:25)
- A day that really sucked (1:55)
- About other people’s suck (3:50)
- Empathy, connection, and knowing our own darkness (7:05)
- How to navigate the suck – yours and others (8:35)
Feel the Suck
I’ve got a news flash for you…
Not every day is going to be award-winning.
Shocker, I know!
Some days are hard. Some days are amazing!
…and some days just plain suck.
Some Days Just Plain Suck
I feel like we’re expected to never have a bad day.
When people ask us how we are, I feel like they just want to hear, “Oh, I’m fine!” and move on. (But we also don’t need to back up our dump truck of shit and unload it on people.)
Most people are not comfortable when other people say they are struggling or that things are hard for them.
It touches on the vulnerability I talked about recently … if WE aren’t comfortable being vulnerable, then we don’t want to sit with other people when THEY’RE being vulnerable!
There are two important parts to this…
- We have to be willing to feel the suck for ourselves
- We have to be willing to let other people feel their own suck!
This means that if we are willing to sit with our own discomfort and not push it down, swallow it, bury it, run from it … if we just sit with whatever it is … it will eventually pass. It’s only a feeling.
But we fight it. And the longer we struggle with it, the longer it takes for it to move along or go away. But if we can sit with our feelings of discomfort and acknowledge that whatever is happening isn’t ideal, it’s not what we want, then it will eventually pass, and we can move on.
A Day That Really Sucked
When I took the CPA exam for the first time, I was working two jobs and couldn’t make it to my review class most of the time because I had to work, or traffic was really bad, or I was simply exhausted – I wasn’t sleeping much.
I wasn’t able to study the way I wanted to, or that I needed to, to pass this monster four-part exam … and the result was that I didn’t pass all four parts.
I passed one part and was SOOOOOO incredibly close to passing the other 3 parts that it made not passing them that much more disappointing. I was devastated … no way around that. I’d spent months studying and working, and I didn’t get the result I wanted.
It sucked. And I cried all day.
But after I cried and was able to process it and “get back on the horse,” I was able to put together a plan so I would pass the exam the next time.
I did pass it the second time I took it, but I wouldn’t have got there had I not been able to grieve my first disappointment – the disappointment of my dream and the disappointment of all my hard work. I had to rework all my efforts.
And if I hadn’t cried and felt the pain of not passing the exam the first time, it would have come out in other, not helpful ways – snarkiness or being mean or shitty or nasty to others, or dismissive of other people’s disappointments … all because I didn’t feel my own.
I have seen this in action, and it is NOT pretty. I’ve heard people say things like—
“Oh, what’s the big deal, it happens to everyone … get over it!”
THAT’S NOT HELPFUL! Not at all helpful.
So, we really need to be able to sit with our own feelings. Feelings aren’t fatal. We avoid them like they are, but when we take a step back and look at it, we can see that they’re not.
About Other People’s Suck
We also need to be willing to allow others to feel their own suck. Not in a punitive kind of way, but in a supportive way. It’s not always easy, especially for parents and people-pleasing fixers like myself (or I should say my former self).
It’s not our job to fix everyone’s problems; we don’t have to take them on.
But we also don’t have to brush them off or bypass the pain or irritation of others. You know what I’m talking about … we’ve all heard it or said it.
Come on, raise your hands! Mine is raised so high right now that it’s touching the ceiling! I’m very guilty of doing this in the past…
We hear about someone’s struggle or bad day or unfortunate incident, or they’re just plain irritated, and we say—
- “It’s not that bad. It could always be worse.”
- “You should be thankful for what you have.”
- “There are starving people in [ insert country here ].”
Tip: This has nothing to do with starving people!! It’s completely irrelevant … why does this even become part of the conversation?!
- “So-and-so broke their leg, you’re not as bad off as they are.”
Tip: IT’S NOT A COMPETITION!!!
Here’s a story from one of my clients….
I was facilitating a session with a client’s family, where we discussed each person’s values and how they all contribute to their family dynamic.
My client has Gratitude very high in her VIA (or Values in Action), and we talked about how she sometimes responds in a way that makes her kids want to throat punch her because she doesn’t hear their hard stuff.
When they came home and said they had a bad day, her response was, “Well, at least you don’t have cancer!”
It drove her kids up a wall because she wasn’t acknowledging their tough day, their hard stuff. She wasn’t hearing them or empathizing with them. She wasn’t doing it intentionally; she didn’t even realize she was pushing it away.
Her value of Gratitude had her focused only on things they could and should be grateful for, but that didn’t allow them to feel the disappointment at the challenges and difficulties of their teenage lives.
This was a source of frustration for everyone involved! Her kids didn’t feel heard and understood, and she felt like they weren’t being grateful for all of the amazing things they had.
And that became a light bulb moment for all of us!
It’s not that they weren’t grateful, but life isn’t always a bed of roses … and that’s okay!
Empathy, Connection, and Knowing Our Own Darkness
If I’ve just had a bad day, I don’t need anyone to fix it for me. Maybe it’s the same for you.
But we are humans, and we’re looking for connection, and we want to share what’s happened in our lives.
It’s not about making it a big deal or holding on to negative stuff, it’s about human connection and a search for empathy.
The best thing you can say to someone who’s in the suck is: “Oh, my gosh, that sucks. I’m so sorry that happened.”
Sometimes life sucks, and we need to take a moment to feel the suck. We don’t need to set up camp and live there, but feeling the darkness is what makes the light so amazing!
We need that contrast to push against – the up versus down, the light versus dark. We wouldn’t know how great things can be without ever knowing trials and tribulations, or if we never stumbled or fell.
It’s our own discomfort that makes us unwilling, or makes it difficult, to sit with others in their discomfort.
Pema Chödrön has a great quote…
“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”
― Pema Chödrön, The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times
It’s amazing, and I think this is what’s missing from our culture these days … the ability to know our own darkness, to be able to sit with it so we can sit with others in theirs.
How to Navigate the Suck – Yours and Others
When our coworker says they’re having a hard time because their mom is ill…
or our friend got a scary diagnosis…
or our sister’s marriage is falling apart…
…it requires us to access our own scary and difficult moments and to feel our own suck so we can really empathize with them and hold space for them.
In order for us to be the strong arms for someone else to fall into, we have to know our own darkness.
And empathy is required to meet someone where they are and to feel that suck.
When we don’t allow ourselves or others to feel the bad things, the hard things, the challenging or exhausting things – that’s where the numbing, avoiding, stuffing, and hiding all come in, and the cycle continues…
So, here’s how you can jump off this merry-go-round of stuffing, hiding, and numbing—
1. Be willing to feel the suck. It’s just a feeling, and feelings aren’t fatal. Sit with the discomfort. Don’t hold on to it forever … it’s okay to share it. But do be careful who you share it with, because if you share it with someone who hasn’t earned the right to hear your story – it can make the suck worse!!!!
2. Be open to letting other people sit in their own discomfort. Not in a punitive way, it’s just part of the human experience. My amazing friend Jen Gotti mentioned this concept this past weekend…
We talked about how people are always trying to manage other people’s emotions, and sometimes, we have to let people feel what they feel for themselves.
It’s easy to let people feel the good stuff, but for some reason, we want to take away or withhold the bad stuff, or we try to manage other people’s feelings – and that’s just not our job!
When we try to manage other people’s emotions, it puts us out of alignment, and we feel off because we’re absorbing other people’s stuff, and, well … it’s a mess!
3. Be empathetic. It’s a gift to be able to bear witness to someone else who is having a hard time. To sit with them, to listen to them, to say you are sorry things are so hard right now.
Most times, people don’t want you to fix things, they just want you to listen and be supportive. A lot of times, there’s nothing else we can do.
Hard times are not ideal, but they’re part of this thing we call Life, and the better we learn how to manage them, the happier and more confident we will be.