“Don’t Tell Me to Calm Down!”…My Road to Emotional Intelligence
My early twenties can easily be deemed as an emotional rollercoaster.
I have spent the better part of that time trying to understand these feelings that have become such an integral part of my life.
Sometimes it’s the anxious anticipation of a good thing.
Or it’s that uneasy feeling right before you hear bad news.
Sometimes, I even felt like I was screaming out for help but no one could hear me.
Other times I was filled with insecurity, jealousy, shame, or bitterness but felt like I couldn’t express that because those aren’t emotions you can be open about feeling.
Other times I was angry. But I was always hyper-aware of my anger as it relates to my blackness. Let me not be “too angry” and play into the “angry black woman” narrative.
(sidebar: who even came up with that?? Because it couldn’t have been another black woman..)
Yes, I’m black. And I happen to be angry. The two can live in harmony.
I can say that now. But that wasn’t always the case. Similar to any growth journey, there were growing pains on my road to emotional intelligence.
I am by no means at the end of my journey. I still have days where I feel as if I’ve taken three steps back.
Let’s be real, some emotions are just difficult to deal with.
However, I’ve come to learn that ignoring those difficult emotions doesn’t make them disappear. They persist. So using research from the Gottman Institute as an aid, I’ve learned some mindful ways to deal with my difficult emotions.
“Turn towards your emotions with acceptance; become aware of the emotion and identify where you sense it in your body.” When I don’t acknowledge something that’s bothering me, it usually manifests itself in other ways throughout my body. Accepting, rather than resisting, the emotion I’m feeling has significantly changed my outlook on them.
“Identify and label the emotion; to stay mindful, say to yourself, ‘this is anger’ or ‘this is anxiety.’” Once you accept the emotion, it’s easier to identify it. Calling it for what it is has helped me to
reduce my fear around it. It gives me back my control over it rather than continuing to allow it to control me and my every decision.
“Accept your emotions; don’t deny the emotion. Acknowledge and accept that it is there.” Just because you deny something doesn’t mean it’s not present. Accepting it takes less energy than fighting against it.
“Realize the impermanence of your emotions; even if the emotion feels overwhelming, remember that it will pass.” Few things in this world are permanent, the good AND the bad, rarely lasts forever. If you can remember this in the midst of overwhelming emotion, you can make it through them.
“Inquire and investigate, ask yourself, ‘what triggered me?’ ‘why do I feel this way?’” Digging into these questions will help you identify the root cause and help you to better navigate the emotions the next time they pop up.
“Let go of the need to control your emotions; be open to the outcome of your emotions and what unfolds.” Nobody is perfect, you don’t expect others to be, so do yourself a favor and extend yourself the same courtesy.
So the next time I find myself angry, it’s not my blackness or my gender that’s going to limit the extent of my anger. I’m going to choose grace. I’m going to choose to be gentle with myself as I attempt to navigate difficult emotions that I’m supposed to be hiding from the outside world. Because I’ve come to learn, it’s in that discomfort, that my opportunity to learn and grow, abounds.
I’m doing this for me, yes, but also for my progeny. Change can start today. And I may slip up tomorrow, but I won’t give up.