When We Do Bad Things to Feel Good
By Z Zoccolante
We’re sitting on cozy white couches as the sun reflects off the white marble outside and the deep blue water of the ocean spreads out in the distance. The conversation is about responsibility, how we define it and how that definition effects the way we think about ourselves and our past selves.
Responsibility can be a tough one because we’ve all done things we might not go back and do again. Some of us have had things happen to us that we didn’t want and others have been caught in a toxic cycle of some sort. Maybe you’ve gone down the path of drugs or alcohol for a time. Maybe you’ve slept around or let people sleep with you because you didn’t know how to say no.
There’s a hundred million ways in which we can shame parts of ourselves, look back and be disgusted with the things we’ve done. If things have been done to us there can be more confusion and shame. There can be a looping that happens of circling like a ferries wheel of feeling bad about ourselves.
How does this stop? Or if we’re doing “bad” things how do we stop doing them?
She tells me that insight changes everything. Growing up her coping mechanisms were taken away. She escaped in sports until her parents didn’t allow her to play. So when she left for college partying became her outlet but she did that too often and too hard and found herself, similar to almost every woman I’ve talked to in college, in risky situations.
The root of it was that deep down, under the pretty face, the smile, and wanting to please people was a little girl who didn’t feel as though she was worth anything.
Years after a tornado stream of choices she remembers telling a group her story of how when she was little something happened and if that happened then how could she be worth something? The response from others afterwards, wanting to hug her and tell her nice things, or share their stories showed that vulnerability could possibly be safe.
Insight changes everything.
She noticed that afterwards she’d do her things, but some of them that were on the path of feeling like she wasn’t worth anything, began to feel incongruent.
And so she started doing different things instead and those felt better.
Here’s the simple, profound truth she shared. . .
We all do things to feel good and she, like everyone else in the world was doing her best to cope with things and do feel good. Sure, the choices she made were not ones she’d make now but she was trying to feel good.
Now that she’s in a different place the choices have grown and other things feel good to her instead. Now, she doesn’t need the old things because they are incongruent with the person she has become. Those old things fit with the person who thought she was worth nothing, But the new things align with her now, who is worth something.
We both take a breath and I think about my life and some of the “bad” choices I’ve made these past few years. Then I realize that I was also working through aspects of my self-worth and I too was growing.
Yesterday I remember how I sat in the car and had a loving conversation with an old part of me that made some interesting choices around men and I was feeling a little junk about it. But after the conversation I did see that I was working things out and that I made the choices at that time that I was capable of making and also to feel good or appease parts of me.
Are they the same choices I’d make right now? Nope. And that’s ok. These old parts of me are allowed at the table, allowed to be present. Like the metaphor that Liz Gilbert uses in her book Big Magic – they can be on the road trip in the car, but they’re not allowed to drive.
The best way to keep ourselves safer and happy is to love all parts of us. They are all us and they’ve made the best choices they could at that time given everything they knew and all their coping mechanism and raw spot. Now, we get to be kind to all parts of ourselves and continue to do the things that make us feel good, but in healthy, happy ways.