Why Punishing Ourselves Never Works the Way We Want It To

We all have feelings. That’s obvious. But did you know there’s no such thing a wrong feeling?

Has someone ever told you you’re not allowed to feel what you’re feeling? Maybe. Have you ever told anyone they’re not allowed to feel what they’re feeling? Perhaps.

BUT have you ever told yourself you’re not allowed to feel what you’re feeling? I guarantee it. AND you do it WAY more often than you even realize.

As humans making our way through our lives, going about our business, and doing the best we can with what we’ve got, we sure seem to have this thing with kicking ourselves when we’re down.

When’s the last time you felt mad, sad, bad, angry, jealous, depressed, lonely, anxious, worried, scared, or vulnerable? Think about it for a second. And then think about what was going through your mind – what were you thinking when you were feeling one of above said emotions?

You may not know right off the bat, but I will bet, no, I can almost guarantee you were thinking to yourself something like: “you’re so weak! How can you let yourself feel this way?” or “You’re pathetic. No one else let’s themselves get in to an emotional state like this!” or “What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you keep it together!” or some other really encouraging, uplifting, and compassionate phrase.

To be fair, many of us do believe in earnest that we can whip ourselves in to a calm, peaceful, and balanced emotional state by criticizing and berating ourselves to no end. It is kind of how our society works: use punishment in order to keep the people in line.

Unfortunately that doesn’t work with our emotions – and I’m not even sure it’s the best way to run a society either. It’s almost like saying you can scream and yell at a crying child to get them to snap out of it and be happy. Pretty harsh Julia, but it’s true.

So now that we’re more aware that we tend to get all nasty with ourselves for feeling bad, mad, sad, angry, guilty, or depressed AND it doesn’t actually make us feel any better, what are we to do?

Let’s say a good friend came to you and said they were feeling really down, low, worried, scared or anxious – how would you respond to them? Something like: “You’re pathetic!” or “Stop being such a baby!” Oh man I sure hope not.

So then why do we think it’s okay to say things like that to ourselves?

What would you actually say to a close friend who was struggling? Why not try responding to yourself in the same way? You deserve to be treated at least half decently too.

It’s really important that we learn to take better care of ourselves – because let’s face it – we’re the only one of us we’ve got.

It’s okay to feel what we’re feeling. I’ve learned there aren’t actually any wrong feelings. We may not like what we’re feeling, but that’s okay, and it’s normal – life is not always pleasant. And that’s just a fact.

And by both giving ourselves the freedom and compassion to feel what we’re feeling, and also working on treating ourselves in the same way we would a close friend who was struggling, those unpleasant feelings really won’t stay around very long, AND they won’t be nearly as intense as they were when we were unknowingly making ourselves feel bad simply for feeling bad.

headshot Julia Kristina is a Mental Health Therapist who lives in beautiful Vancouver, BC, Canada. She runs a vibrant clinical counselling practice, is a speaker, workshop facilitator, blogger, and recovered ‘Friends’ junkie. In her spare time she likes to power walk, power talk, and power drill. You can read and see more from Julia Kristina on her Good For Me Blog.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

6 Responses to Why Punishing Ourselves Never Works the Way We Want It To

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