What exactly does it mean to minimize your emotions? Minimizing is a form of abuse towards yourself and others. It is when you tell someone to stop being such a drama queen. It is also when you talk down about your accomplishments, hardships, or even yourself. People minimize themselves every single day without realizing they’re even doing it. “You look beautiful today!” “Oh no, my hair is a disaster and I feel like a fat lard.” This is an example of minimizing yourself. If you look beautiful and someone tells you that, they mean it.
What if something bad happens to you? Say you were in a terrible accident and you acted like it was no big deal. That is also a form of minimizing. When I tell people my story about being suicidal, I’ve minimized it in my mind so much that when people hear about it for the first time, they’re in shock that I can tell them that and shrug it off like it’s no big deal.
By minimizing the things that happen to you in life, you’re not allowing yourself to fully process your emotions. This will in turn come back to bite you in the butt later. It usually ends up being much worse than if you were to deal with the emotions in the first place. Many people who have experienced sexual abuse, especially as children, will go through this. They cannot fully process what happened to them, so they minimize it and detach from it to protect themselves from the current pain they’re feeling. Your body will eventually have to get rid of that pain somehow. Normally years down the road it will manifest and come back as a bad case of anxiety and depression.
Here’s why you minimize your problems:
You minimize to avoid sounding “dramatic”
My Grammy passed away last week. You want to know the first thing I said when my co-workers and Trent asked how I was doing? I said, “I feel like I don’t deserve to be sad because all grandmas die.” I was worried that if I talked about how sad I was about my Grammy passing away that people would think I was being dramatic.
Growing up, I was called a drama queen as much as I was called by my first name. If you were the same way, you know as well that you will do anything you can to avoid being called those two words again. There is a big difference in being dramatic versus allowing yourself to feel pain. I’ll talk more on that later though.
Those that have grown up being called dramatic are always going to be very insecure about how people perceive the things they say and do. We will always make sure that we are playing down our emotions to avoid causing any problems, embarrassment, or drama.
You minimize to protect yourself
This is what I was talking about earlier. You minimize your emotions because if you allow yourself to feel them, it usually hurts. A lot. You can train your brain to do anything you want it to. This includes convincing yourself that painful life experiences aren’t a big deal. Why? It’s an issue with control. If you can control the outcome of how something makes you feel, then it’s less likely that you will get hurt from it.
Very quickly, this can turn into self-shaming and abusive tendencies towards yourself though. Say that your significant other cheated on you but expects you to forgive them. A person with a minimizing mind will sometimes play the cheating down in their mind and convince themselves it wasn’t that big of a deal. It is though. When a significant other like that sees you minimizing your emotions towards something so painful or playing it off like it isn’t a big deal, to them, that is permission to do it again and again.
Or maybe on a different note, say that something amazing happens to you. You reach a personal goal or you win an award, maybe? People will minimize their successes as much as they do their disappointments. This is to protect themselves from possible failure in the future. By minimizing your wins, it allows it to hurt less in case you have to take an L later on down the road.
You minimize to stop your anxiety and depression
This is an extremely common one. If you struggle with anxiety and/or depression, you will really work hard to minimize the events that happen in your life. This allows for you to feel less pain. It also makes it easier to put on a mask so others don’t see you struggling.
This is a huge problem with mental illness. People who struggle with minimizing have struggled with having their emotions validated in real life. They never had a constant person in their life tell them it’s okay to experience these feelings. Instead, they felt that they had no one to confide in, therefore believing no one will ever care if they are hurting. While this is untrue in 99.9% of cases, try telling that to someone who has spent their entire life convincing themselves otherwise. Telling themselves that no one cares so their feelings must not matter. It’s a difficult thing to do.
This will always be their core mindset. When stressors happen that they cannot rationally overpower, this is the mindset they will revert back to. Fortunately for you and your support team, it IS possible to have your mindset changed. It takes work and a lot of self-validation to build your confidence back. If you work for it though, you will see that people care and people do want you around.
You minimize to avoid sounding “braggy”
Unfortunately, some of the most successful and exciting moments in my life have been hidden away from others. I have never wanted to come of as if I’m bragging about something good that happened to me. I play it down to be not as big of a deal in my head and tell myself that anyone could do what I just did, even if they couldn’t. For example, I’ve spent my entire Masters of Social Work program developing a therapeutic technique that hasn’t been explored yet. I did enough research and wrote a 40-page article over the summer on it and it is now in the process of being published.
Sadly, I was too embarrassed to tell anyone because I didn’t want them to think that I was trying to show off or brag. I told myself that anyone could do what I just did and that I’m just full of myself for thinking that I could actually make a difference. I didn’t allow myself to be proud of what I had accomplished when it was actually a pretty big deal.
Really though, with how much negativity is going on in the world today, people love seeing good news! Your followers want to know what’s going on in your life or they wouldn’t be following you! I don’t know about you, but it makes my heart so happy to see good things happen to people I follow. Get a promotion? Having a baby? Did you take a big trip recently? Awesome!! People want to see that stuff! Be proud and share it! This isn’t high school anymore. People on your feed love to see you succeed.
There will always be jealous people, but don’t let them keep you from sharing your awesomeness. It just means you’re doing something right!
You minimize to avoid hurting or bothering others
Do you ever find yourself keeping your mouth shut and telling yourself to “stop overreacting” if someone you care about does something that bothers you? I know I do. It sucks. I always find myself worrying that if I say something to one of my loved ones I’ll either hurt or bother them. What I’ve found is the exact opposite. When you minimize your feelings towards someone’s actions, it causes resentment. That resenement then manifests and ends up coming back in an explosive manner sometime later.
If you would have just told them how they made you feel in that moment, you wouldn’t have had to put up with all these negative emotions AND you would have been able to better your communication skills with that person. I guarantee you that your loved one has NO idea that what they said even bothered you. So you can sit there and stew all day or you can just let it fall out of your mouth like word vomit.
That’s how I had to learn how to speak my mind. I made myself stop thinking and just let it spill out of my mouth to Trent before I even realized what I had said. When I started doing that, fights started becoming much less emotional. Our communication skills improved, and many times Trent would say, “Oh man, I’m sorry. Didn’t even realize it came out that way! Here’s what I was trying to say.”
By forcing yourself to play down what happened because you don’t want to annoy your loved ones, it ends up causing more problems than it would if you were to just say something. This bottling keeps building up pressure, like if you were to shake a soda bottle and only open the lid just barely enough to let in enough air for it to start fizzing. Eventually, that fizzing is going to become stronger. Before you know it, the cap falls off and you explode out of nowhere! Leaving your loved one is standing there like, “What in the world just happened?”
How to stop minimizing your problems:
Find someone who makes you feel like a big deal
I think this is one of the most important things you can have in your life. My husband and I always celebrate even the littlest accomplishments for each other and that’s a big deal! I had a blog post go viral? Heck yeah, ice cream cake for dinner! He hit a new personal record at the gym? Even better! Let’s go get a new gym outfit!
It is so crucial to find somebody, not even a significant other, who will root for you and be proud of you no matter what the outcome may be. For someone who spends most of their time minimizing their successes in life, it’s extremely vital to have a support system who will root for you and make you feel like a hot shot! Eventually, you won’t need them to feel like a hot shot anymore and their support will be an added bonus to your successes.
Talk to a professional of some sort
Many people I talk to say that they don’t get help because they can’t afford therapy. I call that making excuses. You do not need to seek a therapists help to talk to someone. While that is preferable, there are plenty of other trained professionals you can talk to for free.
- Your pastor/priest/minister/chaplin
- Crisis hotline (completely anonymous and you don’t have to be in crisis)
- Sign up for a free account on 7 Cups of Tea and talked to a trained active listener
- Your guidance counselor at school
- An HR representative at your place of employment
Those are just a few different options and there are plenty more. I know it’s very scary and difficult to talk to someone you hardly know about these issues. Once you get it out in the open, you will feel much better and things might start looking more clear after a few sessions.
Convince yourself that what you do/experience is important
My Grammy died, I said I didn’t deserve to be sad. I lost everything I ever knew or owned in an EF-4 tornado, I said I didn’t deserve support because my family could afford to replace things. I was stalked, sexually assualted, bullied, and more, I said I wasn’t worthy of being treated better.
The article I wrote that’s being published for a therapy technique I designed, I refused to tell anyone. When I went viral on my blog multiple times, I told myself that it was just a fluke. I got to travel the world with the man of my dreams, I was embarrassed to tell anyone because I didn’t want to sound like I was bragging.
All of these events in my life I listed above, and more, are examples of me minimizing events in my life. This is what I was talking about earlier when I said you minimize to protect yourself from pain now or in the future.
For me, something that really had to change in order for me to get better, was for my to convince myself that I was important. What I have experienced in life, maybe others have too, but that doesn’t mean I deserve to feel less than others. Some things that have happened to me are actually a really big deal and I should be proud of overcoming them. That takes a lot of confidence building and positive affirmations to finally allow you to see how awesome you really are.
Now, I am so pumped to share my travels with everyone. I share my struggles in life and have found so many others can relate. You have gone through what you’ve gone through for a reason. Use those life experiences to help others.
When you catch yourself minimizing, stop yourself
STOP! When you catch yourself minmizing what has happened to you, yell the word “STOP!” in your head. If you’re alone, yell it out loud. Immediately say three nice things about yourself or the situation you’re minimizing.
If you don’t respond well to stopping your thoughts with other thoughts, ground yourself by snapping your wrist with a rubberband or hairtie.
When I say “ground yourself”, I don’t mean no TV for the rest of the week. To ground yourself means to help stop your racing thoughts by bringing your mind back to reality. This distracts your mind from what it was freaking out about and allows you to come back down.
A very common grounding technique after you either yell STOP or snap your wrist is to find:
- 5 things you can see
- 4 things you can hear
- 3 things you can touch
- 2 things you can smell
- 1 thing you can taste
Take five minutes or so to focus on your senses and what they are experiencing. The more you practice, the easier it gets to completely stop your mind. Distracting yourself from further self-destructive behaviors really helps you to move on with your day without feeling worse about yourself.
Why does your pain matter less than everyone else?
Answer that for me. I don’t want any of those self-destructive answers like, “No one cares about me” or “I’m not worthy.” I know that’s how you feel and I know that it hurts a lot. What I want to know though is logically, why does your pain matter less than anyone else’s pain?
It doesn’t. If you rationally look at it: you are both hurting. You both deserve a support team that can help you through it. You both have experienced circumstances in life that no one else will understand. The only difference? They’re reaching out for the help they need while you minimize yourself and speak of how unworthy of help you are.
There is NO reason that Susie or Bobby Joe deserve to hurt less than you do. You deserve to feel the same way as everyone else in life. You are allowed to be in pain and you are allowed to ask for help.
Positive affirmations can rock your world
I’m not talking about the cheesy, “you are awesome”, “you are beautiful”, “you are strong” kind of affirmations. You already are those things!! I’m talking about personalized positive affirmations tailored directly to what you want in life.
Here are some of mine that really helped me grow and move forward with my mental health:
- You have been blessed with these burdens to help save the lives of others
- You are going to live a life better than you could have ever imagined
- Your experiences in your life are going to help you to become even more beautiful
- You eat that extra slice of pizza because you need it to help grow your booty
- You should be proud of everything you’ve overcome
- You’re going to spend your life traveling the world and not stuck in a 9-5 office job – you’re better than that
- You’re an amazing writer
These affirmations need to almost be based off your goals in life instead of describing words. It becomes more empowering when you tell yourself everyday “you are good enough to become a ________ and you are going to acheive it.” for me that blank would either be motivational speaker and/or full-time blogger. Tell yourself these goals every day. Write them down and hang them up where you will see them.
Positive affirmations don’t have to be completely based off goals, but definitely need to be something that isn’t generic and will build up your self-esteem. It sounds so weird to say these things to yourself, especially in the beginning. You’ve put yourself down for so long that telling yourself these positive statements that are true feels like you are being conceited. You are not. It’s just telling the truth and you need to become more comfortable with saying them out loud. The more you tell yourself these affirmations and practice them, the more you’ll stop minimizing yourself.
Write your minimizing thoughts down and read them to yourself after you’ve calmed down
I’ve made myself cry before by doing this. When I start feeling really down, I turn to writing. I start writing out all the thoughts I am having and I don’t stop writing until I’ve got them all out. Sometimes it’s half a page, other times it can be 15 pages. When I’m done writing, I put up my notebook and walk away. A few hours later or the next day (whenever I’m feeling 100% again), I go back to my notebook and reread what I’ve written. You will break your own heart.
When you’re stuck in that self-degrading mindset, it’s almost impossible to see any good in yourself. This brings us to the emotional/logial/wise mind mindset. When you’re in an emotional mindset, all you can comprehend is what you are feeling. When you’re in a logical mindset, you have a difficult time comprehending things that have to deal with strictly emotions. To have a wise mind means that you are able to see things both logically and emotionally at the same time. This is where you want to strive to be at all times.
So when you’re looking back at your list, your end goal is to be able to read what you wrote about but counteract the statements with wise mind answers.
IE: “I understand that yesterday I felt worthless and that nobody would care if I were even gone. That was a horrible feeling to have, but now that I’ve calmed down, I understand that my family would miss me terribly if I were to disappear.”
When you allow yourself to feel your emotions while you’re having them, but can bring yourself back to reality, you have achieved a wise mind. It’s difficult to accomplish and comes in time, but it is so worth it.