Feeling versus Acting Like an Adult
Do you ever find yourself feeling like a child though you’re acting like an adult? Do you often have the sense that other people know how to make—and do make—effective decisions and that you don’t? This is a common dynamic with dysregulated eaters.
Talking with a client about her self-doubts, insecurity, and lack of self-trust, I thought it would be instructive for her to see if she actually had been acting in ways that ought to generate doubt and a sense of inadequacy. So together we assessed how she’d handled her life over the past few years. Here’s what she’d done: moved a few times, each time taking a better job and making new friends; gotten along far better with her very difficult father, even handling his temper tantrums; managed to visit and stay in touch with her mother who was deteriorating from Alzheimers even though they lived hours apart; finally ditched a mentally unstable boyfriend who continued to try to worm his way back into her life; and made plans to move in with her new boyfriend who seemed nice, mentally healthy, and an excellent match for her.
When I asked if she thought she’d been mature through these experiences in a way that made her proud, she heartily agreed. I asked if she thought other people would see her behavior as adult and she concurred with that too. She was amazed that because she’d been so preoccupied with life-long self-doubt and insecurity, she hadn’t realized that she’d actually been making excellent decisions for quite a while.
Which brings me to the point of this blog: Which is more important, the actions you take or how you feel as you’re taking them? Which is the truer picture of what’s happening? If, as I’ve read, Barbra Streisand gets stage fright before doing a show during which she knocks everyone’s socks off with a stellar performance, do we focus on her stage fright or the quality of the concert? If you’re anxious or unsure while engaging in self-care activities, which should you value more, the acts or your feelings while doing them?
Taking mature, adult actions doesn’t mean we always feel like adults when we’re doing them. This is especially true if acting rationally and maturely is new behavior. Beware of being so over-focused on your inner experience of habitual self-doubt that you totally miss out on enjoying your successes. Shift your focus from what you’re doing wrong to what you’re doing right. Remember that on occasion it’s okay to not feel like an adult (I, too, have my moments) and that if you’re acting wisely on your own behalf most of the time, you’ve earned the right to pat yourself on the back and feel proud.