Don't Just Suck it Up
Everyone has triggers. One of mine happens to be a four-word phrase, which has proven time and time again to have a devastating impact on so many hearts—“Just suck it up.” Other honorable mentions on my please-don’t-say-that list include, “Just be happy,” “Get over it,” and, “You should feel (fill-in-the-blank).”
Wouldn’t it be nice if those phrases were a fix-all for every emotional burden we struggle with? Wouldn’t it be nice if months or years of pent-up emotions from traumatic events, negative self-talk, and rejection could disappear if we could just “suck it up” and act like it never existed? Unfortunately, trying to push away emotions in this way often leads to a very unhealthy path including but not limited to self-medicating, emotional numbing, relational struggles, shame, and anger.
I will be the first one to admit that there are times in which it is healthy to shelve difficult emotions for a short time in order to be functional at work, school, and in relationships. However, they do always seem to creep back up in one way or another, asking to be acknowledged.
If you are at all intrigued by personality inventories, you probably know if you are more of a “thinker” or a “feeler.” Many thinkers, while they do experience feelings, often have a magical ability to rationalize their hurt feelings in such a way that logic can override emotions — it no longer makes sense to feel upset. In a nutshell, thinkers rely on their head rather than their heart. Feelers, on the other hand, are typically more easily and deeply affected in their emotions and are often more sensitive to interpersonal interactions as well as internal and external stimuli.
With all of that being said, I am absolutely not bashing people who have the “suck it up” mentality. Chances are, it might work very well for them, and they genuinely believe that it could help someone else too. However, I hope to bring light to the fact that not everyone experiences, processes, and overcomes difficult emotions in the same way.
I think it is fair to say that we all want to feel good, be happy, and find fulfillment. For many who are struggling to find joy, it could pile on more shame and defeat when they are told that finding happiness and fulfillment is as simple as "sucking it up." Resolving underlying hurt is often the key to finding deeper joy, and that does not happen overnight for most people.
If you or someone you know is struggling, here are some things to keep in mind:
Give grace—Be patient and give grace yourself or those around you. The journey is not always easy but very worthwhile.
Validate—Instead of telling someone how they should feel, offering empathy and validation will allow someone to feel supported without having to be defensive. There is no such thing as finding the "right" words to say, but phrases like,“I am sorry that this year has been so difficult for you,”“Let me know how I can help you through this rough time,” and“I am here for you no matter what,” are options that communicate support and empathy.
Instill hope—Often when someone has felt stuck in a pit for so long, it becomes difficult to see the way out, or if there even is a way out. You might be the only person who has given hope to a hurting loved one. Perhaps it could help to learn about his or her love language and offer what means the most to them. This might include speaking encouraging words, giving a sincere hug, spending quality time, or offering kind gestures or thoughtful gifts.
There is no perfect science in dealing with emotions and finding joy, but along the journey, remember to....
"Do the best that you can in the place where you are, and be kind" -Scott Nearing