Most of us have days we feel disgusting for some reason or another. Those days are the worst. When we feel disgusting, we often feel like we are inferior or unacceptable in some way, or we feel ashamed of ourselves.
Feelings like this are a common part of human experience; but that doesn’t make them any less painful, and they are often a result of negative external pressures. (I will address this in a minute.)
Next time you have a day in which you feel disgusting, here are ten things to remember:
One: Know that feeling bad about ourselves sometimes is a common human experience, and we are not required to be perfect. Here are a few common human experiences that can make us feel badly: when we have dirty clothes; when we are hot and sweaty; when we eat to the point of discomfort (which is normal sometimes and nothing to feel ashamed of but we are often culturally conditioned to feel that way); when we have painful emotions; when we feel sluggish from lack of movement; when we feel smelly.
Here’s the thing: everyone has dirty clothes sometimes; everyone is hot and sweaty sometimes; everyone has painful emotions sometimes; everyone eats to the point of discomfort sometimes; everyone feels sluggish sometimes; everyone feels smelly sometimes. We all have our days of feeling badly, no matter our size or appearance. Acknowledge your pain on days you feel bad, but try not to worry about it too much because it will pass soon.
You are not alone, and you aren’t required to be perfect. These things don’t mean we are disgusting. It just means we are a normal human being.
Two: Know that you are not the same thing as your feelings. If you feel disgusting, it doesn’t mean you are disgusting. Our feelings often have very little or nothing to do with reality. For instance, we can feel terrified of a mouse and believe it is out to destroy us, even though generally speaking there is nothing dangerous or life threatening about mice.
Now, our feelings matter, and if we are terrified of mice, we don’t have to be around them. However, we can still recognize that mice aren’t actually out to get us even though it feels that way sometimes. In the same way, if we feel disgusting, our feelings matter, and our pain matters. It is still helpful to realize, however, that our feelings do not always reflect reality accurately. This realization can help lessen our pain or help us move through it more easily.
Three: Remember breathing and sleeping. It may not seem like it, but how we sleep and the way we breathe can make a big difference in how we feel. If you feel disgusting, you may not be sleeping enough or breathing deeply. If you can do so, please let yourself sleep as long at night as you need to feel rested, and please give yourself permission to take naps during the day. Regular napping can help improve all areas of health and boost your creativity. There is a common saying, “Sleep is for the weak.” This is not true. Sleep makes you wise and productive
Sometimes, however, we can’t get enough sleep because we care for children or are in grad school or are just in a particularly busy and stressful time of our life. If you are in a time like this right now, I sympathize. I have been there before, too, and I am sorry it is a hard time for you. It will eventually pass. Focus on getting the sleep you can get, give yourself the gift of breathing deeply, which can help us feel better immediately, even if we don’t get enough sleep the night before.
Here is an easy breathing assignment: Sit or lay down. Close your eyes if you feel comfortable (or keep them open if you don’t feel comfortable closing them). Slowly inhale through your nose and breathe deeply so your belly rises. Exhale through your nose or mouth. Repeat this ten times. If you can, do this once or twice more throughout the day.
Four: Treat yourself like a pet and practice basic kindness. When we feel disgusting, it is easy to neglect ourselves and engage in other harmful habits. In these times, consider that at the very least, you deserve the same kindness you would show a pet. So give yourself some nourishing food and water and maybe take yourself out for a walk. Or maybe curl up in bed with a blanket and sleep for a while or give yourself a special treat like you would a pet (of course, give yourself food and treats appropriate to a human being.) You don’t have to feel good about yourself; you can just make a decision to act with kindness.
Take a break from thinking about all your flaws and just pretend you are a pet you need to take care of. Doing this may or may not make you feel better immediately, but it will build a good foundation that allows you to feel better later.
Five: Realize that certain businesses profit from making you feel disgusting and intentionally try to make you feel this way. If you pay attention to the media for a while, you will notice that it bombards us constantly with images of clean, very slender, happy people buying all sorts of products and living their best lives. If we do see people in the media feeling badly about themselves, they are usually the cautionary tale or the “before story”.
These images intentionally communicate to us that if we buy the right products, we will never have disgusting days, and we will be happy all the time. They also communicate that if we do feel disgusting, there is something wrong with us.
These ideas are not based in truth or reality (see items one-three above), and they are specifically engineered to make us feel bad about ourselves so that we buy stuff. Realizing this can help us gain distance from our feelings.
To gain distance, we can pretend to become a neutral observer like a detective or philosopher or sociologist. We can become curious and express wonder about these strong feelings that surface from time to time: Wow, these feelings are really powerful. I wonder why I have them? We can ask questions about the causes of them and, through courage, practice gaining distance.
Six: Distance yourself from media that makes you feel bad about yourself or take periodic social media breaks. Pay attention to how the movies, TV shows, and social media accounts you follow make you feel about yourself. It is easy to consume all kinds of media mindlessly, and when we do this, we often don’t realize when these media influences make us feel bad about ourselves.
If we constantly watch shows or follow social media pages that are filled with images of perfect, flawless people living exotic lives, we will likely feel bad about ourselves. Nobody’s life is perfect, flawless, and exotic all the time, and if we hold ourselves to that standard, we will feel horrible about ourselves. Watch shows and follow accounts that are based in reality and help you feel good about yourself. Also consider taking social media breaks from time to time until you feel more balanced.
One way we can practice adventure is to take a break from something that seems to affect us negatively. We can take a short or a long break and experiment with how our break makes us feel. Breaks like this often teach us a lot about ourselves.
Seven: Move your body to be kind to yourself, rather than to lose weight. Sometimes when we feel disgusting, it is because our body would profit from moving more. Frequently, however, we associate movement with exercise, and many of us associate exercise with weight loss, which makes it feel like a punishment. This makes us want to avoid movement, even though it might make us feel better. It is important to realize that no matter our size or shape, our bodies crave movement, and it is possible to enjoy movement for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with weight loss. You can read more about this here.)
If you cannot move much because of a disability, breathing deeply often brings the same benefits as movement. (See #3). In addition, if you suffer from a disability, you might like reading this story about my mom who is a paraplegic and in a wheelchair and who finds a lot of relief from swimming and water therapy: A Story about My Mom: On Paraplegia, Swimming, and Resilience
Eight: Consider sitting or walking in nature. There are some interesting studies that suggest that being in nature helps us to feel more kind, compassionate, and creative. (You can read more about this here.) When we feel kind, compassionate, and creative, it tends to soften the feelings of disgust we have for ourselves. So, if you are having a disgusting day, consider going to a park and sitting beneath some trees, breathing deeply, and looking at the leaves and the blue sky. If you feel like it, walk for a while in the park. You don’t have to go outside because “it’s good for you”. Rather, consider hanging out in nature because you are biologically wired to crave nature, and your mind and body and emotions often feel more alive in natural settings. These vibrant feelings combat feelings of disgust.
Nine: Consider using a medically documented, naturopathic technique called tapping or EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). Tapping is a mind-body technique that draws on some principles from eastern medicine, but its effectiveness has been documented in western medical studies as well. Tapping is a technique in which you become mindful of the painful emotions you are experiencing by rating their intensity on a scale of 1 to 10. You then tap on different energy points on your face or hands while repeating a self-soothing phrase (or affirmation). A typical phrase is something like this: “Even though I have these painful feelings, I accept myself.”
Some people also talk through their painful feelings, either silently or out loud, while they are tapping. Many people who use tapping find that it helps to drastically decrease or even remove the intensity of painful feelings they have over a specific situation. This relief sometimes happens immediately, and sometimes it comes the day after tapping. You can read more about tapping here. (The article at the hyperlink is very thorough and covers studies documenting the benefits of tapping, and it also shows you how to do the process.)
Tapping can have a positive effect on anyone, but many therapists have found it to be especially helpful in treating clients with PTSD or trauma, like war veterans. It has gained attention in recent years because of this. While some people do tapping with a therapist (this is especially a good idea if your painful feelings come from significant trauma), you can also do tapping by yourself in the privacy of your own home. It can be a helpful tool for self-soothing or calming. (If you would like a step-by-step guide to tapping, you can read more about it in item #5 in this post.)
Ten: Remember that your goal is not to be a certain size or to look a certain way. Your goal is to be you. You know those businesses I mentioned in number five that profit from making you feel bad about yourself? One way they do this is to make you feel like you are supposed to look different from the way you do. This is not true. You are not supposed to look one way—like skinny or voluptuous or muscular or rail thin. You are not supposed to have a certain type of hair or a certain facial appearance.
You are supposed to look like you and to be you in all your complexity. For instance, a bird is not supposed to look like a gazelle, and a gazelle is not supposed to look like a squirrel. Different animals are supposed to look like themselves in all their complexity. You’re like that, too. This adds beauty and diversity to the world.
Bonus: Remember that people who treat you cruelly are acting from their inner sickness. You never deserve to be treated with cruelty or disgust. No one does. We all deserve basic respect because of our humanity. Basic respect means treating people with kindness and compassion, and it also entails communicating constructively in conflict. Unfortunately, sometimes in life we encounter people who say cruel things to us, which makes us feel disgusting.
Please note that when people treat you with cruelty, they are vomiting toxic emotions on you. (Sorry for the graphic image). Just like you don’t deserve to be barfed on physically, you don’t deserve to be barfed on emotionally. When you are, it is because people are not dealing with their inner sickness and are taking it out on you. If you can, distance yourself from people like this. If you cannot, remember that people’s inner sickness is not your fault.*
There is no one else on earth like you, and as you authentically live all the moments of your life, both the ones that feel good and the ones that feel bad, you bring something good into the world. We understand more what it means to be a human being by learning from you.
I’m sorry you feel disgusting today, Friend. This will pass soon.
*Of courses if you have contributed to people’s inner sickness by being cruel to them, you need to apologize and make amends.
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