Podcast Episode 23: Why It’s OK To Feel Sad
Hello and welcome back to The Joy Within’s podcast. Today I want to switch gears a little bit and talk about sadness. Someone sent in an email last week and essentially said: “I feel really sad sometimes. I think something must be wrong with me.”
And I know that this person definitely isn’t alone in that feeling. I know, for me, I used to really struggle with it. I would have long stretches where I’d just be miserable, and I honestly thought that there was something fundamentally wrong with me. I thought that I couldn’t be happy, because it felt like every step I took, I’d just eventually fall back. I’d make a little progress and then I’d have a few bad days and be right back where I’d started. And when that happens, over and over again, you start to believe you can’t change, and every time you try it feels harder and harder.
So, if that’s you, I want you to know: it’s ok. It’s ok to be sad sometimes. It’s ok to have bad days. That’s part of being human. What matters isn’t whether or not you have a negative emotion. What matters is how you choose to respond to it when you do.
If you do not choose how you want to respond, your default beliefs will dictate that response for you. This is incredibly important because most people don’t have any clue what those default, background beliefs and assumptions are.
In this case, it’s a belief that negative emotions are bad. That’s somehow wrong to feel sad, or to have an off day. I think a lot of people have this belief – I know I definitely used to, and even now I still have moments when I fall into that trap, thinking it’s not ok to be down once in a while — and it doesn’t help that a lot of modern life implicitly pushes that belief on us. Either it’s taboo to talk about negative feelings, or you have to have the perfect image, the perfect social media pic, or the perfect ‘get up and go’ mentality. Even in the personal development space, a lot of people gloss over the negative side of the equation. Even with my work here at The Joy Within, I always say you can become calm, confident, and happy every day, and some people misinterpret that. It doesn’t mean you should never have a negative emotion. It doesn’t mean you’ll never have another day when you feel sad. It means you can develop the awareness, the tools, and the skills to respond to negative feelings when they do come. You can learn how to shift your mood, on command, on your terms. Everything I share with you is about giving yourself the choice, the power to be able to do that.
But the negativity isn’t “wrong.” It isn’t “bad.”
I actually believe that – on a deep level – we need those negative emotions. We need to be reminded of them from time to time. No matter how happy we might be, we still need that contrast, because it is the duality, the spectrum of emotion, that is truly the profound beauty in being human. On a deep level, I believe we want that contrast. We create it, because it makes the joys feel even more joyful. We want the motion, the process of moving from one state to the other, so that we can more fully appreciate the positive emotions when we’re in them. That’s the real magic.
To put this in perspective, think of your emotions like a rollercoaster. When you’re on a rollercoast, you’re constantly changing momentum and the rush comes not from just moving fast, but from shifting constantly. It’s the anticipation as you’re climbing the first hill, that pause for a second suspended at the top, then the rush down, and then the curve, the climb, and the rush down again. If you were just moving fast, all of the time, it wouldn’t be fun. That’s just be like driving a convertible down the highway at 80mph, which, if you’ve ever done that, you know is actually kind of annoying.
The beauty is in the contrast. That means that not only is it ok to feel sad, it’s actually a good thing. I know for me, that negativity I felt when I was younger drove me to figure out how to master my mood. It led me to become the much, much happier person I am today, because it motivated me to learn the tools and techniques to change.
Napoleon Hill said that within every failure is the seed of a greater advantage. The same is true here. Within every sadness is the seed of greater joy. You have to know how to deal with that sadness when it arises.
And here’s the great irony. As soon as you accept that feeling sad isn’t wrong, that negativity isn’t bad, a lot of that sadness will go away. Often it’s our own beliefs about how we should feel, that we shouldn’t feel sad, that form the very force that keeps pulling us back down. So, I’d start there. Work on accepting that feeling. Acknowledge it. Just say: “Today I’m sad, and that’s ok.” Notice how, even just repeating that to yourself a few times can help you to feel relief.
Accepting where you are doesn’t mean you want to stay sad. It doesn’t mean you should wallow in it. It means acknowledging where you are as the first step to moving towards where you want to be.