Introducing a meditation practice into your daily routine can be a powerful act that enhances focus and self-reflection. Carving out the time to meditate sends a message to yourself that your inner world matters and needs tending to. If you’re someone who grew up believing that your feelings don’t matter, or if you identify as someone who people-pleases or self-sacrifices, then you might benefit from creating a meditation practice that specifically addresses these tendencies. Creating a meditation practice that’s focused on reminding yourself that your feelings matter can be a game-changer in the process of finding your voice and staying grounded to your individual needs and feelings.
Your Feelings Are Valid
We hear it all the time that “all feelings are valid,” but what does that mean?
Feelings are a natural, informative part of the human experience. They give us clues into ourselves, our environment and our relationships. When we believe our feelings are valid, we turn towards them instead of away from them. We get curious about our inner-world, and we begin to view our feelings as teachers. Rather than avoiding or pushing feelings away, we view them as an opportunity to learn about who we are and what we need in the moment. The belief that we should not feel the way that we do usually comes from childhood experiences.
Many of us experienced punishment as children when we put our emotions first, or expressed them at all. Perhaps you cried to your parents about being bullied in school, and they told you to “suck it up.” You might have internalized the belief that sadness is not okay and that you need to “toughen up.” In childhood if you were criticized for asking for help, as an adult you might belittle yourself for feeling vulnerable, or talk yourself out of asking a friend for emotional support. In childhood, we are learning what to do with our feelings and how to relate to ourselves. Regardless of your history, if you’re reading this, chances are you’re curious about the path to changing your relationship with emotions, and shifting into a place of validating your feelings and needs.
Building a Practice
When changing a pattern of denying our feelings, we need to care for our inner-child. You can understand the inner-child as your feeling self. When feelings rise up, they need to be cared for with patience and understanding. They need your attention, curiosity, warmth and acceptance. We need to create the space inside of ourselves that allows emotions to unfold and be known in their truest form.
In the following exercise, we will create a meditative practice that reminds us that our feelings matter.
1. Grab a pen and some paper.
2. Review the following prompts and write down your answers. If some of the questions don’t feel right to you, then skip and go to the next one. Also, if you find yourself inspired by a prompt, keep writing and follow that. The prompts are simply guidelines that can help you create personalized messages that you can bring into your “my feelings matter meditation.”
Think back to the earliest time in your life; think about your smaller self. What did they most need to hear? What did they need to know?
Example: I needed to hear that I’m allowed to be imperfect.
What kind of support did your younger self need? Can you think of a phrase that would be soothing to them?
Example: I am truly okay the way that I am. There is nothing wrong with me.
When another person’s needs and feelings begin to override your own, when you’re about to make a decision that puts yourself second, what do you need to hear to stay connected to your feelings and needs? What can you remind yourself in that moment?
Example: My feelings and needs matter just as much as everyone else’s. I am responsible for my feelings and needs. I have the power to prioritize myself.
What are some words of encouragement that you need to hear? What do you need to hear in times of stress and struggle?
Example: I am enough. I will get through this just as I’ve gotten through everything else leading up to this moment. I am resilient.
When you feel at your best, what might you say about yourself?
Example: I am a deeply feeling, sensitive person. I am in tune with my emotions and I make choices based on what intuitively feels right to me. And I have the right to do that.
Are there nurturing words that you’d offer to a friend, co-worker or family member if they were struggling with a tough emotion? Or struggling to allow themselves to feel?
Example: I would tell a friend that it’s okay to feel how they feel. It’s okay to be who they are at this moment. I would validate a friend and not ask them to feel differently. I would tell them that they’re doing the best they can!
Thinking back to times when you were unable to choose yourself, what did you need to hear in order to prioritize yourself?
Example: My feelings matter. I care for my feelings.
What do you need to hear to know that it’s okay to feel how you feel?
Example: My feelings are a natural part of life. They are here to help guide me towards what I want and need in my life.
3.) When you’re done writing down your answers, take a few minutes to review them. You can try shortening your answers in order to put them in the form of a simple affirmation, or, you can leave them as longer answers if you prefer to do so.
Example: “I needed to hear that I’m allowed to be imperfect.”
Affirmation: “I’m allowed to be imperfect.”
Continue to write a list of 5-10 affirmations that you pulled from the writing exercise. Try and make them as clear as possible, so that you send yourself a concise message. Think of an affirmation as potent, clear and to the point.
4.) Once you’ve written your list of affirmations, you can choose to put the list in a safe and private place. Another option is to record your affirmations in the Voice Memo section of your phone and play them back to yourself. It’s helpful to keep a visual list of your affirmations on your phone, so you can take a glance at them whenever you need a reminder that your feelings matter. If you’re struggling with boundaries or being assertive, it’s great to have your list handy to assist you in the moment. You can call on inner-strength at any time.
5.) Set up a designated time each day to review your list either reading the list to yourself, or listening to your own voice recording of the affirmations. Meditation is simply focusing on one thing at a time, and does not have to involve any special techniques or “clearing the mind.” Taking the time to review these affirmations, reading them slowly, listening to them a couple times and taking a few deep breaths while doing so is a great way to meditate and focus on yourself. You might also find benefit in journaling before and after you sit with your affirmations, reflecting on times in which you needed to be reminded that your feelings matter!
The beautiful thing about creating these affirmations is that they come from you! These are the messages that you most need to hear, and they are unique to your personal journey. When we are faced with the task of unlearning people-pleasing tendencies, we need support in the form of repetition and practice. This practice can be soothing and healing, and spark deeper questions and more understanding of where you’re getting stuck with boundaries and assertiveness.