Lean In

On any given day, something can happen to us that causes us to feel frustrated, unhappy, angry.  It could be a difficult conversation that we had with a co-worker or boss, overhearing unkind remarks that were made about us or even sitting through a meeting and listening to someone dominate the conversation to make themselves look smart or essential.

When we’re struggling and experiencing confusing emotions or circumstances, it’s human nature to want to push your feelings aside. We wish to deny the feeling, get rid of it, or numb it as an alternative to the struggle going on internally.

We have been taught, especially in business, to repress our emotions because they are a sign of weakness and can diminish our professional image. Actually, it’s natural for us to feel emotions, including fear and anxiety; in fact, it’s a part of our human survival system. It’s our body’s way of communicating to us, and the more we push it away, the more elevated our emotions can become. Emotions are not random acts that interrupt our day; they occur because they are messages our body is sending us. Trying to fight our feelings often leads to more suffering. Using negative behaviors such as alcohol, overeating, or drugs to try to numb our feelings is akin to putting a Band-Aid on a gaping wound. They might make you feel better temporarily, but these behaviors do not “fix” the underlying problem. You can’t manage yourself effectively if you ignore what your body is trying to tell you.

Rather than avoiding a feeling, make it your goal to lean into the emotion. Think of leaning in as a form of exploration and acceptance. It means paying attention to your body and what impact your emotions are having on it. When you ignore or minimize an emotion, you miss the opportunity to process and learn from it.

I’m a huge advocate of journaling.  When you take the time to journal your thoughts and feelings, you can begin to recognize triggers that can cause negative feelings.  Knowing who and what pushes your buttons is a critical step to understanding and managing your emotions.

If emotions remain unprocessed, then they will just resurface time and time again.  Learning how to acknowledge and express our feelings in an appropriate and considerate manner ensures that our emotional reactions flow, and we can behave with greater authenticity and increase our emotional intelligence.