The One Thing That Matters When It Comes to Emotional Health

I think that it’s very easy to overcomplicate the steps it takes to become emotionally healthy. We can look for answers and go through 37-step programs and a read million emotional health blogs until we are blue in the face.

But what if all that searching is just a way to cover up the fact that we’re actually terrified?

Terrified of becoming healthy. Terrified of the pain we might face. Terrified of what our lives might look like if we become healthy. Terrified that we’ll lose our friends if we change. Terrified that we don’t have what it takes to face our pain.

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I’ll speak to this from my own experience. It's easy for me to go to work on my photography business or on reading a book rather than work on understanding and feeling my emotions. 

It’s so easy for me to stay perpetually busy so that I never think about my feelings, emotions, pain, hurts from the past, etc.

And I think we see this everywhere. What are the three words that you hear (or say) the most when you ask someone how they are doing? “I’m so busy.”

I’d like to suggest that this busyness is a cover up. A cover up of how we’re actually doing and feeling. Busy is the easiest way to medicate our pain, and to make it harder, busy is culturally encouraged and celebrated.

But busy is what is perpetuating this cycle of crap.

So how the heck do we get out of this cycle and become emotionally healthy?

I’m not that smart, so I can only speak for me. But if you were to ask me what has been one thing that's really mattered for my emotional health, I'd say this: 

It's about showing up.

Let me explain what "showing up" means to me:

It means saying "yes" to the journey. It means choosing to face things that scare you. It means being willing to put in the hard work to get healthy. It means showing up to the fight, every time, every day, no matter if you feel like it or not.

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(Because most days, I don't want to touch my emotions. If I'd wait until I felt ready, I'd die like this.)

When and how should you show up?

  • When it's Monday night after a terrible day at work and you snap at your sister/wife/kid, but later that night you realize what you did and go apologize to the person you snapped at. You ask your heart what's going on and why you feel angry and in pain, so that tomorrow you can do better. That's showing up.
  • When you're home alone on Friday night and feeling lonely and want to eat a box of ice cream with peanut butter. Halfway through the box of ice cream, you recognize that you are trying to medicate the pain of feeling lonely and so you go sit on the couch for 30 minutes just sitting with the pain and feeling everything. That's showing up.
  • When you completely isolate and shut off the outside world for 6 days in a row and you don't even know that you're doing it, on the 7th day you recognize that you're intentionally isolating and so that night you attend the young adults group at your church even though you feel like total crap and don't want anyone to see you like this. That's showing up. 

These are all my own examples in one way or the other. 

Sometimes I put so much pressure on myself to be perfect. "Japheth, why aren't you emotionally healthy? Why haven't you gotten healing for this? Why are you so bad at processing pain and emotions? Why do you suck at listening to your heart?!"

But perfectionism is DUMB. I don't need to listen to that garbage any more, and neither do you.

I believe that emotional health isn't like a goal that we will reach one day, but it's more like a path that we are always traveling on, always getting healthier. 

What if the reality of the matter is that we don't need to be perfect? 3 steps forward and 2 steps backward is still progress! We're one step further along on the path to emotional health. And that's awesome.

I feel like we need to quit using the word "failure" and replace it with "learning" or "growing." 

It's not failing. It's growth. All that matters is we show up, every time.

When we fail, show up. When we win, show up. When we feel like crap, show up. It might be a war zone out there, but we still show up. And that's brave.

Disclaimer
The beliefs, convictions, and opinions I have are what seem right to me now, but I may change my opinions as I mature. 

Practical Next Steps

Ask yourself "How can I show up more?" Think about yourself with your co-workers, with your family, and most importantly, with yourself. Lean into the hard situations that you face, face your emotional pain. This week, I dare you to show up.

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