three words

For anyone who doesn’t want to read any further, here’s the three words:

Feelings aren’t facts.

For anyone who wants to know how these words have helped me and why they’re important:

If you’re the kind of person who tends to over-analyze everything to the point of running in mental circles, it’s easy to forget that so many things are solved by simplicity.

I remember being thirteen and thinking that it took several months of listening to The Cure alone in my room and writing mediocre poems that “totally aren’t about a specific person and are open to interpretation” to get over inconvenient feelings. Usually, because a thirteen year-old’s universe is limited, those inconvenient feelings weren’t over something that affected my life in the long run.

But, since I’d had such little experience with hardship at thirteen, at the time, every single thing I felt seemed like it was urgent. My friend is mad at me because I forgot to invite her to hang out like I’d promised? A meteor is about to strike Earth. This dude I have nothing in common with but have put on a pedestal for some reason thinks my clothes are weird? All of the volcanoes whose names I can remember are erupting simultaneously.

It wasn’t until my early twenties, when I begun to understand the meaning of “feelings aren’t facts,” that things started to change.

What I like about using these three words as a mantra is that you’re not shaming yourself for whatever you’re feeling. You might be feeling something heavily, and that’s fine. It’s vital to remember that by telling yourself feelings aren’t facts that you’re not supposed to beat yourself up over having feelings in the process. Welcome to Being Human! Feelings are inevitable, some of them suck, and you’re going to have all kinds of feelings, many of which you won’t know what to do with at first.

In fact, go ahead and feel the ever-loving fuck out of those feelings, because resisting them isn’t going to help either. Just remember that, unpleasant as those feelings may be, they will pass, and they ultimately have as much weight as you choose to give them.

It’s vital to remember that a lot of us automatically give shitty feelings more weight than good ones, and that’s what trips us up a lot of the time. If your feelings are incredibly painful, keeping you from doing you, or involve negative thoughts about yourself, pretend they’re as light as balloons, let them go, and watch them float away. It sounds dumb, but it helps to actually visualize this. If you’re feeling great about finishing  a project, making new friends, or just being outside on a perfect day, let those feelings sink in and hang onto them when you’re struggling.

Here’s an example from my vault of experiences, which for those who know me, is full of wonder, mystery, and pointless junk in abundance:

Recently, I had to step back from a situation, because I realize that while I was mostly enjoying myself, it ultimately wasn’t right for my current state of mind, and I was starting to feel self-conscious. Stepping back wasn’t what made those feelings go away, however, even if it was the right thing to do. Initially, doing so exacerbated my self-doubt, and for two days, I ruminated on the situation and barely slept.

But over the span of those two days, even when I was feeling my worst, I constantly reminded myself: Feelings aren’t facts, and this is temporary. The words didn’t feel quite right at first. The temptation to stay mired in self-pity and confusion is undeniable, but ultimately, my desire to go on with my life and my ability to recognize that the situation only has as much power as I give it always wins.

I don’t know if “feelings aren’t facts” is the right mantra for you, but it’s certainly helped me realize that most of the things I’m upset about in the moment will only end up being footnotes in my life, if that. Any simple phrase that helps you remember not to invest too much in feelings that aren’t helpful or necessary at any point in your life can be vital to making it easier to see the big picture.

(Of course I still listen to The Cure, even when I’m happy.)