Feelings Are Not Facts

(press play for audio)

I’m not meant to manage my own problems or carry my own load.

About 30 minutes ago, I got off the phone. I had been talking to a friend about one of her reoccurring family dramas, two sisters competing for the love of their dad (as though their father’s love was finite). She wondered why her sister treated her contemptuously and when she explained her own behavior I understood why. In a letter she had written, she went so far as to say “I’m sorry I’m not good enough for you.” I shared with her my thoughts on the matter. I told her that it struck me as manipulative and self pitying. In tears, she thanked me for being kind and caring enough to be honest with her. Given what I had said, I think my delivery must have had something to do with it. I had teased and joked and playfully scolded her instead of preaching to or judging her. It was a first for me, I know. If you know me, you know that didn’t come naturally. 😉

When we got off the phone, I showered and made myself some midday breakfast, a bowl of cereal. I thought about two nights ago, Tuesday night. I was having my own issues with a wonderful woman I’ve been dating. I want her to behave responsibly and she wants the freedom to be flaky. This is a tough issue for me to accept. I pride myself on being a man of my word, not breaking plans and being able to be counted on. She’s a bit younger and with part of her youth, she’s resistant to being bound by what she feels are conventions restricting her self-expression. She wants to be free to make plans and break plans on a whim. As I said, this is a struggle for me. I have a hard time accepting her as she is and would like to see her change. I’m reminded of the quote “She’d be perfect if she were different.” If she were anyone else, I wouldn’t tolerate her in my life. I would walk away. The problem is she isn’t anyone else. She’s the embodiment of so much of what I do want and admire that I’m constantly challenged to be more flexible, understanding, patient and permissive than I usually am. In other words, by her own defects (because let’s face it, being “flaky” is defective), she encourages me to be a better person. Ugh! I hate that! Why can’t she be simple and straight forward? Why can’t she be easy to love or leave? Why? Probably because that’s the nature of romantic relationships; I’m forced through my own attraction to tolerate behavior I sometimes find intolerable.

Back to my original point, Tuesday. I received an email from this wonderful woman in question. We were making contact again after I had walked away. When I had done that, I had also begun to blame myself for not being more tolerant. That, there’s no problem with; I could use more tolerance. The problem was, I soon transformed self-criticism into self-pity which I couldn’t see. What I saw instead was the all too familiar illusion: “Woe is me for not being good enough for you.” This is a lie. There is no such thing as my not being good enough for someone else’s attention or ongoing interest. There is “We don’t work”, “We hurt rather than help each other”, “We aren’t good for each other” but there is no “We’re not worthy of one another” because we’re all equally valuable. In seeing that sentence, I’m amazed I was able to write it. Given my terrible dilemma of never feeling “good enough”, it’s hard to believe that I’m ever able to see this matter more clearly. Nevertheless, Tuesday night I wasn’t able to. I was blind and the only words I could come up with were self-serving, self-pitying and manipulative. Little did I know I would hear them from a friend lamenting the loss of her relationship with her sister only two days later….
“I’m sorry I’m not good enough for you,” I wrote.
I showed the email to a friend before I hit “send.” He put the kibosh on it. “Are you trying to kill this reconnection or are you trying to reconcile?” he asked.
“The latter” I responded.
“That’s not what it looks like.”
“Well, if not that…what?” I asked.
“How about this” he offered, “How about ‘I like having you in my life and I’m sorry if I don’t do a better job of showing it?’ ”

That was better, much better, certainly for this moment, than “I’m sorry I’m not good enough for you.”

See what I mean? Even you see it’s better. We all do, but not me, not when I’m in it. This is why taking my problems to others is so helpful for me; through their eyes and with their mouth, I’m able to see and hear their sense when I am unable to come up with any on my own.

The lesson here is not I’m that much wiser than my friend who’s competing with her sister. Its more likely that because I’m not in it, her situation and her shoes right at this moment, I don’t have to react to raw but real emotions and conflict. I’m afforded the luxury of perspective, a perspective that allows me to distinguish between feelings and facts. So, while feeling “I’m not good enough” is normal, believing “I’m not good enough” is not.

It’s an important distinction, one I’d do well to remember…feelings are not facts.


22 thoughts on “Feelings Are Not Facts

  1. Love your lead sentence! Easy to say, maybe, but so hard to live out. We are meant to share our struggles with a few trusted friends and seek their wisdom. I am so guilty of thinking I am supposed to work it all out by myself. Here you show us how to learn from others.


  2. First of all, Feelings Are Not Facts is true. However in my experience both personal and professional (Therapist) sometimes the truth lie in the feelings. The facts can be manipulated and misread.

    Second, there are several things I could respond to but this is not the forum for that.
    I do applaud the fact that you are writing things out and even getting feedback from a trusted individual. The best thing a therapist can be is a good listener. The second thing they need to do is hold up the light to allow the individual to discover their truths.

    Finally, I want to thank you for choosing to follow one of my blogs. I do hope that you continue to enjoy the posts.

    Kind regards, Léa


  3. Great post! I may copy your idea of having a recorded reading, helps you listen to the post while doing other stuff 😀 Just out of curiosity, is that yourself? I mean your own voice?
    Thanks so much for visiting and following my blog!


    • Thank you, Carla and yes, that is my voice. A friend kept encouraging me to provide audio so I finally said “sure”. I think your voice would be a great addition to your page! Let me know if go with it and how it works out!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I used Windows Sound Recorder. The mic was another story. That took some investigating before having a friend donate one to the cause. You might try using the one on your computer/phone and seeing what you think. Also, posting audio required upgrading my WordPress account at a cost of about $20. I hope that helps. Let me know! I want to listen to your stuff!


  4. I love that you’ve both written and recorded this reflection. There are so many issues going on here, including “Where’s the love, the humor, the win-win attitude? But you shed some light on the difference between feelings and facts, keeping in mind, I’m assuming, that people have different ideas about what a fact is. So much of how we define things is based on our personal subjectivity.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My experience is our “feelings” create our reality. Our reality is our truth. Truth is not fact. If that were true we would be following off the face of the earth. Fact doesn’t change. Truth changes with our perceptions based on what we feel. Example: We feel the world is a dangerous, unloving place based on an experience and we perceive this to be true until a feeling leads us to a new truth (we feel with the heart). Truth is always evolving. Try as you might to change your truth, it’s impossible without changing how you feel. So the question, “how do I feel?” and then “how would I like to feel?” and then what truth would have to change to feel that?”.


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