Tis’ the season to experience the creeping, gnawing feelings of inadequacy bubble up to the surface of our psyches. Whether you are a high level competitor, a regular Crossfitter, someone just on the cusp of making it to Regionals or just a normal human being going about your life; we all know that shitty feeling. We are all looking for external validation of who we are and what we do- Crossfit is simply another system for instant gratification (in our current mindset) of that validation seeking.
A couple of weeks ago I had a very extreme feeling of inadequacy. I am 28 (almost 29!) and struggle frequently with the idea that I haven’t really found a stable career and have no fucking clue where I am headed in life. The feeling of inadequacy runs deeply in me. I have felt it before but I often try to busy myself with distractions (working out excessively, more activities, more social media). Maybe it is all the crazy shit I have been reading lately, but this time, I chose to, as my friend Jane Levesque put it, “stay with the feeling.” I didn’t know what this meant exactly. Instead of ignoring it as I usually do I let the inadequacy wash over me. I let the feeling fill every cell. I surrendered. And my reaction was to scream in my car, howl, rage and cry (don’t worry I was parked). And after this cathartic and demented fit I had some little golden, chocolate covered nuggets of clarity about inadequacy, where it stems from and how to re-frame my current mindset.
Negative emotions and pain are a part of life. Let it happen.
I know you have heard this before. So often we resist letting ourselves slip into an emotional state because we are so busy with the topical elements of life. We feel we have to keep it together for significant others, friends, family and work. Then, when we inevitably start to feel shitty about ourselves or a situation, we beat ourselves up over feeling that way. Mark Manson, the authour of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck calls it the Negative Feedback Loop From Hell. And yes, this is a form of personal hell. Mark Manson tells us to just, “not give a fuck,” about each emotion which, to an extent, is true; but I believe we can delve deeper into why of the feeling- especially if that feeling keeps re-surfacing. But first you must release your emotions. How do your release your inadequacy feelings? Here is a non-exhaustive list:
Scream in a pillow, punch a pillow, scream in a car, kick something soft and forgiving, snap a branch, lose it in the middle of the woods, howl at the moon, cry super hard, go somewhere, anywhere to be alone so you can unashamedly go off the deep end as they say.
I know this list probably makes you uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable and that’s a fucking great thing. Why?
We have been raised to listen solely to our intellectual mind.
To over-analyze, over-rationalize and harshly criticize ourselves for how we conduct ourselves in society and our subsequent emotions from participation within society. We are not taught that out bodies are really smart and know how to send us signals (like emotions) to pay attention to them. We don’t trust our gut feelings because we cannot rationalize them. We also have a hard time dealing with raw emotion, not just sadness, but joy as well. Think about the last time you saw someone crying uncontrollably- how did that make you feel? What was your response? To calm them down to get them back to some kind of normalcy? What about a stranger feeling intense joy? Whooping and jumping and smiling- it’s kinda irritating isn’t it? Why is that our response? Our culture has had this orientation to keep a lid on true expression of emotion. We have lost the richness of emotional life!
Every time we deny ourselves of working through an emotion we are shutting off our inner guidance, our intuition and our brain gets confused. Negative emotions exist to let us know we are not facing the clearest path to what we want. Every time we ignore our shitty feelings they build up- deep within our bodies- manifesting itself in a form of injury or ailment. The mind-body connection is real my friends.
So back to my car- I had just finished my emotional cleansing and I realized my inadequacy feeling was my body telling me I had an unmet need. And that was unconditional love. Being loved and loving myself for exactly who I am in this moment (because we only have this exact moment). That I am this beautiful source of light, love and mindfulness wrapped in a meat-bag vessel. I began to have inklings of acceptance- that nothing can define me and every fuck up, every success and every ordinary day is simply experience. Experience which creates a wiser, a more capable, a more loving entity. I don’t need more accolades or accomplishments or successes to be a better human. Those are fleeting validations and a reward system only I have created in order to feel worthy.
And I would have not come to this conclusion without releasing all the bullshit I was feeling. It was scary, uncomfortable and absolutely necessary. If I didn’t cope with these feelings I would probably find another coping mechanism like excessive fitness, drinking, drugs, excessive eating….the list goes on.
There will always be times when we feel dispirited or the same feeling bubbles up again. I will feel inadequate down the road but now I think I can tough out those moments a little better next time. And this would be what I would ask myself:
1. Do you really deserve to feel inadequate right now? I’m a boss-ass bitch. Throw on some lipstick and go make waves!
2. Do I need to change my situation? Is someone or something making me feel terribly inadequate?
3. Do I need to change my performance? When the going gets tough the tough get going. The universe rewards a stubborn heart. So screw that person or situation that is making me feel inadequate and get after it.
4. Do I need to change my expectations? Learning acceptance of the things that are or even lowering the expectations I put on myself.
Next time you have a dark feeling I implore you to take a moment to reflect, neigh, to SURRENDER to that emotion as there may be an unmet need pissing you off. To be human is to descend into darkness, to mourn and celebrate the enigma that is life. Maybe that is the point of all this chaos- to fully fucking feel- so that our inner guidance can lead us towards direction and fulfillment, growth and delight.