I am a big believer in the power to change one’s life (I mean, I’m a therapist, so duh.) I always think that with some effort, virtually any difficult circumstance can be improved, even if all we have changed is our orientation to the problem. That said, I am not a believer in our ability to banish all negative feelings and thoughts.  I don’t think that’s the purpose of therapy and I don’t believe that’s an effective way to get through life.

We can get stuck on this idea of having to show strength, and not allowing any sort of weakness to shine through.   But, sometimes, it’s okay, and even appropriate, to not be okay.  I have had clients (and friends) who were going through something uniquely difficult, tell me, ‘I should be stronger than this,’ or ‘I shouldn’t let this affect me so much.’ And I give them a genuine look of befuddlement, because I’m not sure how one could feel anything but pain when they lost the promotion they worked so hard for, or they’re having difficulty in their marriage, or their child is acting out school, or any manner of challenging circumstances.

If you’re going through something difficult, give yourself permission to not be okay. Give yourself permission to be sad, hurt, frustrated, overwhelmed, or whatever it is that you’re honestly feeling.  This doesn’t mean you need to burn down your life in some emotion fueled rage, but simply that you give yourself the space and time to deal with what’s happening around and inside you.

So What Do I Do?


Get Help

To me, a healthy ‘not being okay’ means making an effort to figure out what you need to get through it.  It means leaning on support from family and friends, or even a mental health professional.  Meet with a friend or family member for a meal or an outing, and let them know that you could really use their support. Tell them if you’re looking for advice or for someone to simply be present with you (its often the latter) or both. The myth that we can or should get through difficult circumstances without help from others is just that, a myth.  People need people.


Take a Step Back

Consider reducing activities or commitments so that you can give yourself space and time to heal from and/or process what you’re dealing with.  You don’t have to do everything.  Honestly ask yourself, where you can cut back in your life, at least for this period, so that you can give yourself a chance to heal.  One way to show strength is to accept what you can and cannot do, and to take care of yourself.


Accept Your Feelings

I know I can be a broken record on this topic, but I can’t emphasize enough the importance of owning and accepting how you feel, regardless of whether you think you shouldn’t have those feelings.  Our feelings cannot be controlled, only our responses to them can. The areas of our brain that manage emotions are incredibly powerful; it is not worth your time or energy to fight them.  More than that, as Jodi Aman discusses, the shame around our feelings and our rejection of our emotional truth only serves to keep us stuck. Instead, start by being very honest with yourself about what you feel, and then you can respond to your emotions and the situation at hand from an authentic position.


This all might sound obvious.  Of course we should reach out to others, acknowledge our feelings, take time for ourselves, etc. when we’re going through something tough.  Despite this, I see folks every day who beat themselves up over how they manage their own pain (or even that they’re experiencing pain in the first place).  Unfortunately, it’s easy for us to get stuck in a should-y narrative about how we handle a situation and our own emotional response to it.   Instead, take the time to discover and embrace what you really need.