You go to the doctor when you feel physically ill. You go to the dentist when you have a toothache. You go to church when you feel spiritually weak.
But what do you do about the ups and downs of your emotions? What about your emotional health?
Emotional health is your ability to feel and express your emotions without allowing them to dictate your perceived value. For example, if you are sad because you did not get that big promotion at work and you allow yourself to feel the emotions of sadness and then move forward, that’s being emotionally healthy. If you allow your sadness to put you in the mindset of “I am never going to achieve my goals” or “I didn’t deserve the promotion anyway” or “I might as well give up or sabotage every other good thing in my life,” that’s emotionally unhealthy. Being emotionally healthy is understanding who you are despite what your emotions are at the moment. You know that — no matter what happens in your life — being sad, happy, angry, embarrassed, jealous or lonely does not impact your value.
Your emotional health becomes pivotal during relationships because the relationship you have with others is just a reflection of the relationship you have with yourself. You cannot begin to give your partner compassion if you have not shown it toward yourself. And when you lack emotional health and you are in a relationship, you may put your needs on the backburner for your partner, which creates a void inside of you. Or you allow your emotions to take over and run the show, causing all sorts of havoc in your life. But when you love yourself, you can get through anything. When you love yourself, your relationships can thrive.
So, are you emotionally well enough for your relationship? I’ve put together a little pop quiz to help you answer that question. No need to worry. It is easy, I promise, and if you don’t make the grade, I provide you with tips and tools for improving your relationship with yourself.
- When you look in the mirror, do you think to yourself…
- “I am beautiful.”
- “I’m worried I’m not pretty enough for my partner.”
- “I have a long list of things I would change about myself, if I could.”
- When you are sad, you…
- Call a friend, chat with a family member or see a therapist to talk it out.
- Acknowledge that you are sad, but you choose to hide your feelings. Your family has much more important challenges for you to focus on right now.”
- Sad? I’m not sad. This is just life!
- When is your own happiness a priority to you?
- I’m always checking in with myself to make sure I’m feeling positive about me.
- I usually put others’ wants and needs before mine, and that means sacrificing my own.
- I’ll think about my own happiness when I make more money… when I get married… when I lose weight.
- When I eat ice cream, it’s usually because…
- It’s a treat. I love ice cream, and I let myself enjoy it every so often.
- I don’t really eat ice cream, unless my partner wants some.
- Food is one of the few things that I can rely on to make me feel good.
- Your dating philosophy can be summed up by…
- You know what you want, and you are not afraid to hold out for a person who meets your needs and respects you.
- You tend to think more about pleasing your partner than you think about whether or not he meets your needs.
- You don’t really focus on finding a person with particular qualities. You just let your feelings be your guide.
- When you are in a relationship, your goal is to…
- Have a strong, committed and trusting partnership.
- Make your partner happy.
- Have fun and go with the flow.
- At work, when you disagree with a co-worker about a big project…
- You talk with your co-worker one-on-one, let them know your concerns and then you encourage a discussion on finding compromise.
- You don’t say anything. You don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
- You get upset with your co-worker in front of the whole office.
If you answered mostly A, you are a…
Definition: Congrats! You are emotionally healthy, and you are ready for love. When you are emotionally healthy in a relationship, you speak your truth and you are honest about how you feel without fear of the other person leaving the relationship. You do not depend on your partner to make you “feel” a certain way. You can flow with the relationship’s ups and downs without falling apart. Being emotionally healthy doesn’t mean you never get emotional — you will still occasionally shed some tears — but it does mean you understand what is causing those emotions. You can process your emotions without looking outwardly for things to make you feel better, like relationships, food, sex and shopping. Those things are not always bad, but when they aid your avoidance of your emotions, then they become emotional detours.
Next steps: Yes, you have just passed the test, but it does not mean that the work stops here. To maintain your emotional health, check in with yourself daily by self-reflecting, journaling, meditating or praying. These activities allow you to be in a quiet place and check in with your beliefs, values and goals. You can see your progress and your challenges not with negativity but with compassion.
For me, journaling and praying are my top two ways to check-in about my day. I reflect on my encounters in my relationships, my work and my happiness. If there were any areas that I feel I can do better, I write it down. This process is all about me. I do not need my partner, friend or co-worker to tell me how I am doing. I know me well enough to motivate myself and to know when something is good or bad for me.
If you answered mostly B, you are a…
Rockstar in Progress
Definition: You, my friend, are what we call emotionally passive. You are aware of your emotions, but you put your feelings on the back burner to please others. You are the woman who does everything she can for the people around her, because you are hoping to win and keep everyone’s approval. Making others happy makes you happy, right? That may sound nice, but the reality is that you don’t think you are valuable enough to have your feelings recognized. If you don’t prioritize your feelings, neither will anyone else. Eventually, you will become bitter, angry and resentful because no one seems to care about your feelings, wants and needs. Sure, you know who you are, but you don’t have the self-assurance to make your feelings a priority.
Next steps: Next time you consider not expressing an emotion, think about the pros and cons: What does it feel like when you don’t say you are angry? When you keep quiet to your partner about being sad, how does that feel? How does it feel when your partner overlooks your ideas? Is it worth being in a relationship and being unhappy? These are questions you must ponder to understand that you have a choice to either express your feelings or not. But know that when you don’t give your two cents, you give others the power to make decisions for your life.
To kick your emotional passivity to the curb, I would suggest that you start by journaling every time you have an emotion that you don’t feel you need to verbalize. Write down why you don’t want to address it, what your fears are about addressing it and what it would feel like to be heard, to have your feelings acknowledged and have a voice in your relationship. Then, start tackling one feeling at a time and write down how the experience was. Did it feel like you expected it or was it a totally different experience? This way, you can look back and see your progress and see what really frightens you about expressing your emotions.
After you start to deal with your emotions, you will begin to feel more confident. You will understand your value, that your feelings matter and that your partner needs to honor your voice in the relationship. It takes time, but taking it day by day and progressively addressing your emotions will put you on a new path of emotional health.
If you answered mostly C, you are a…
Definition: You are your own worst enemy. But you have the power to improve your emotional health. Being emotionally unhealthy can lead to both personal and relationship problems. You make decisions based upon your emotions before processing them, which is called “drama.” You get mad and you leave the relationship… then your partner does something good and you come back to the relationship… your partner cheats… you cheat… you get angry and say things you don’t mean… and you never stop once to check-in with yourself to see how those behaviors are truly making you feel and determine what it is that you want. You don’t stop to think how your feelings are influencing your decisions and your relationship troubles. You are on an emotional roller coaster, and you may not know how to get off.
Next steps: You cannot simply say, “OK, I’m going to be emotionally healthy now.” It is not that simple. It will take time and work, but I know you can do it. Start by regularly taking time for yourself in a quiet place where you can see the person you are, who you want to be and if your current behavior/emotions align with that vision. If you don’t like what you see, then you can look at what needs to change in your actions to make that vision real. The question is: What do you need to do to like the person you are right now? Because when you love you, your emotions do not make your decisions for you.
Seeing a therapist can be a wise step in improving your emotional wellness. Whether you are single or in a relationship, a good therapist like myself can help you sort out your emotions and ensure that you are being the person who you want to be.
You can contact me at (864) 559-8181 to schedule your appointment. I can help individuals and couples in the Greenville, SC area. Relationship and Life Coaching Sessions are available via phone.