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It’s Never too Late to Learn How to Feel Your Feelings

boundaries burnout curiosity emotional resilience emotional wellbeing negative emotions negative thoughts positive emotions positive thoughts Apr 06, 2024

“I feel like I should know how to do this by now”

I hear this a lot from my coaching clients (and my patients TBH). When we are talking about feeling our feelings, as in really noticing what we are feeling, noticing physical sensations in our bodies, our thoughts connected to the feelings, labeling the feeling, etc, most people have this sense that they should “get this” by now, that they should already be doing this.

It seems really simple, doesn’t it? We have feelings all day. Why aren’t we “better” at this?

I’m going to come back to the knowledge that simple isn’t easy. They are not the same thing. AND, chances are high, especially if you are reading this, that you have been socialized in some way to ignore your feelings. 

For those socialized as women, many of us were taught that our feelings were not as important as the feelings of others. We were asked to smile, taught to be “good girls,” encouraged to perform and to serve others. For those socialized as men, you may have grown up learning that some emotions were ok for you (happiness, excitement, anger), but others weren’t ok (sadness, overwhelm, confusion). 

Our family origins, our schools and other influences in our lives as young children taught us what was ok when it came to feelings, but may not have taught us that the full range of emotions is normal. In trying to control our expressions of emotions (tantrums, yelling, complaining), adults may have taught us that it was wrong to feel the emotion in the first place.

And then when we hit higher education, particularly medical school or other professional training, the “suck it up” mentality really kicked in. Not only were emotions not ok, it also wasn’t ok to use the bathroom when you needed too, or take a break.

Now, this serves a purpose; if you are running a code on a patient, it’s probably not a good time to take a lunch break. BUT…how many of us are living our lives, continuing to ignore/negate/minimize our emotions and the needs of our bodies, and then find ourselves struggling.

You can’t ignore your emotions forever and hope that they go away. Just like you can’t ignore your bladder forever. Eventually, both will spill over, and make a mess. Isn’t that a fun visual?

So if you are here, still reading, and you find yourself struggling with emotions, struggling to express them, struggling to get your needs met, putting everyone else first, let’s put down this idea that you “should” know differently. That isn’t a helpful thought, and it just adds shame and judgment to the load you are carrying.

Instead, choose to start tuning in when you notice a feeling. Name the emotion (“this is anger”). Identify physical sensations in your body (“I feel tightness in my jaw and shoulders”). Get curious (“what’s going on that I feel this way?”). Choosing to pay attention to our emotions is the starting place for emotional resilience. Life involves positive and negative emotions. All lives. Everyone. When we are living in burnout, we may feel like we are only experiencing the negative, and we seek numbing out (social media, food, booze, etc) to avoid these emotions. But healing requires that we learn to tune in. Learn how to feel them, how to process and digest them as feedback. Maybe we will learn we need boundaries. Maybe we will learn we need more sleep. Probably both. These are lessons worth learning.

So set down the idea that you “should know better.” It’s not helping. Learn to tune in and take care of your real, human emotions with self-compassion, curiosity and grace. 

Life’s better here. 

It’s up and down (because life always is); but it includes the ability to feel the good, to enjoy the good, and to learn from the negative emotions without being consumed by them. 

Join me.

Hi There!

I'm Megan. I'm a Physician and a Life Coach and a Mom. I created this blog to help other Physicians and Physician-Moms learn more about why they feel exhausted, burned-out and overwhelmed, and how to start to make changes. I hope that you enjoy what you read, and that it helps you along your journey. And hey, if you want to talk about coaching with me, I'm here for that too! I offer a free 1:1 call to see if we are a good fit. Click the button below to register today.

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