Have you ever felt like you have to justify your emotions? If you haven't, you're much more self-aware than I am. And while I'm starting to recognize when I do it, it's still a conscious effort on my part to make myself stop.
Justifying your emotions usually happens when you know or sometimes assume that people will think you're crazy for feeling the way you do - whether it's angry, hurt, sad, or offended.
I had a conversation about this with a friend recently whose husband couldn't understand why she feels the way she feels. And that's okay.
But it doesn't mean she doesn't feel it. And it doesn't mean she shouldn't.
When I was going through a messy break-up years ago, my ex-boyfriend said to me, "You need to change how you think."
I'm actually grateful that he said it because it reinforced my decision to end the relationship. But years later I still think that was one of the dumbest comments one human can say to another.
How we feel about certain situations has everything to do with who we are and the circumstances that have created us. So, while the same situation can happen to two different people, no two people will interpret it the exact same way.
Just because someone else doesn't understand how you feel about it, doesn't make your emotions any less TRUE.
This weekend, I had a difficult time with something my kids said to me. And - really - it was not meant to be a hurtful comment. But it triggered something for me and made me feel terrible and that trigger had everything to do with my life experience. So, while my kids had no idea how bad that comment would make me feel, it didn't change the fact that it hurt.
In the beginning I thought about brushing it off because my feeling bad wouldn't make sense to anyone else. But that's not fair either; it doesn't matter that it doesn't make sense. The fact is...I still felt that way. AND THAT WAS OKAY. I didn't have to do what my ex sad and "change the way I thought." My feelings are just as valid as anyone else's. And I honor those feelings in others - why wouldn't I do the same for myself?
You don't have to justify the way you feel to anyone, even if it's a circumstance that someone else might feel is "no big deal." No one else but YOU experiences your life through your specific lens.
However, I do think it's sometimes important to know why you feel the way you do - even if you keep it to yourself. When I really explored why I felt so bad this weekend, it made me discover new things about myself that will continue to shape who I am. But it was also a powerful lesson to say to my kids, "I know you didn't mean to hurt my feelings. But you did. This is how it made me feel. And I'm entitled to feel that way."