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It wasn’t the act of being self-assured that was giving me the feels I was feeling — it was the act of being self-assured over and over again.
Quick note: Hi friends! Did you know there’s a whole WANT ecosystem beyond these posts and emails? If you haven’t yet, make sure you’ve checked out the WANT website, which is filled with tips, tools, resources, books, links, and more — and if you’re a podcast person, there’s the WANTcast: The Women Against Negative Talk Podcast on iTunes or Spotify! There’s so much more goodness in the WANT world, and I’m so honored you continue to show up, join the conversation, and make these big SHIFTS happen in your own life.
Have you ever done something really really well — articulated yourself exactly how you wanted to, acted on the thing instead of just thinking about acting on the thing, been a badass in general — and then felt your stomach drop when you thought about it later?
This happened to me this week, on a day when I had a sequence of meetings one after the other about my upcoming book launch (more on that soon!!). They were meetings that meant a lot to me, with people who I respect deeply.
I spoke steadily, not too fast and not too slow. I only tripped over my words once, and by some grace of the cosmos I was able to brush it off and move on instead of ruminating it for the next 12 hours. I was just detailed enough and just succinct enough. I was present. I was engaged. I had ideas. I was awesome. If I was writing this reflection back in 2013, I might have said I was hashtag-girlbossing or whatever. But I know better now and I know I was just bossing, period.
At the end of each meeting, I said goodbye, walked out, and miraculously, sustained the same type of confidence and presence as I moved onto the next one. My signature “replay-ruminate-spiral” trifecta was nowhere to be found. I felt nothing but steady, solid, satisfaction. I wondered: Is this how normal people feel after things go well? Weird.
Once the meetings were all over and the day went on, though, I started to feel like something was…off.
It felt a little like dread, but not quite. A little like overwhelm, but not entirely.
I checked myself.
Was it self-doubt? I wasn’t questioning anything.
Fear? I wasn’t nervous.
Panic? My heart wasn’t racing.
I just felt………….tender.
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…is a term I literally just made up.
But it works, right?
According to Mayo Clinic “Whiplash is a neck injury due to forceful, rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck, like the cracking of a whip.” There’s a laundry list of sign and symptoms, including…
If you’ve ever experienced whiplash — maybe you were in a car accident, maybe you rode a roller coaster — you know that the symptoms usually don’t happen right away. They come on gradually, over the course of hours or days. You might not even realize you’ve gotten whiplash until way after it’s happened.
Confidence whiplash, then, seems like the perfect term for what I experienced, and what maybe you’ve experienced in the past too: when you’re so genuinely confident and self-assured — especially over and over in rapid succession — that it leaves you feeling tingly, tired, and tender after it’s all done.
CONFIDENCE WHIPLASH vs VULNERABILITY HANGOVER
Brené Brown coined the term Vulnerability Hangover to describe what “occurs after one is open and honest with others about how they are feeling.”
When I first started to feel those *off* feelings I described above, I told myself that what I was experiencing was a vulnerability hangover. It felt good to put a name to what I was feeling. Whew! Love a name!
But the more I sat with it, the more I started to feel like it was the wrong name. Because that happens too, right? Certain phrases/words get lodged into our heads and hearts, and while we sometimes use them accurately, we also use them when they’re not-quite-it but close ENOUGH to what we actually want to say. (It feels good to know what to say, even if what you say isn’t totally accurate.)
Was I actually experiencing a vulnerability hangover?
Well, in order to answer that, I had to first ask:
Was I actually feeling vulnerable?
And the answer was:
It wasn’t the act of being self-assured itself that was giving me the feels I was feeling.
It was the act of being SO self-assured, and sustaining it.
Think of it like lifting weights at the gym. Walking over to the weight rack and picking up the weights was not the challenge for me in this situation. The challenge was eking out multiple sets of reps when I’d been used to doing one light set and calling it a day.
I knew I could be outwardly confident and assertive, sure. But not until this week did I realize how out of practice I am when it comes to sustaining that confidence/assertiveness over and over.
So no. It wasn’t the exposure of vulnerability I was feeling.
It was the tenderness of a muscle that was being challenged to get stronger.
The words we use matter. And it’s not just the words we use to describe others or talk to someone else — the words we use to tell ourselves our own story matter a GREAT DEAL.
If you’re using a word that’s “close enough” to how you’re feeling, you run the risk of never addressing what’s actually going on underneath.
If you’re feeling a pang in your heart and call it “anger,” you might not ever recover from the sadness that’s really there. If you’re feeling a buzz in your body and calling it “love,” you might end up confusing the excitement of newness for depth of connection. I used to say I was “busy” a lot — in reality, I wasn’t busy, I was just super overwhelmed and over-stimulated, I just didn’t look hard enough to notice. Go figure, I kept getting myself into situations that just overwhelmed and over-stimulated me more.
Not to mention, if you use those “close-enough” words to describe yourself to others, you run the risk of being misunderstood — which can be super frustrating and tough on everyone involved if those misunderstandings keep happening. How can you expect other people to understand you if you’re not putting in the work to understand yourself?
Yes, I get vulnerability hangovers. And now, I also have the phrase “confidence whiplash” to add to my Feelings arsenal. Knowing how to accurately describe how I’m feeling, even if it’s with a made-up word or phrase, is the first step in knowing how to effectively respond to how I’m feeling.
For example: I know that when I’m feeling a vulnerability hangover, I need my “primary support people” as my therapist calls them, and I need their pep talks and loving boosts. Even if I can’t be around my people, I need to be around people, period. Even if those people are characters on a TV show, I need to redirect my focus onto someone or something other than myself. Time alone or “doing nothing” is volatile to me in the middle of a vulnerability hangover.
But confidence whiplash is different. Kind of like actual whiplash, I need REST. I need open space in my schedule, or if not open space, very little “people-ing” — and if open space and solo time aren’t possible, then I need to be able to show up and stand back and do the bare minimum. Just like the muscle metaphor, I need my recovery time after exerting all that effort.
This day/week/month, I’d love to challenge us all to take a beat to check in with “how we’re feeling.”
I’d love for each of us to expand our emotional vocabulary, and instead of picking the closest (but wrong) word when a description doesn’t feel like the right fit, dig deeper and try to describe it differently.
You can get your wheels turning (pun intended) by perusing through an Emotion Wheel (there it is), or you can totally make up a word or phrase that feels accurate.
Today is a new day, and while I’m still resting, I’m feeling strong and self-assured. What would have happened if I had misread myself? Would I have misdiagnosed the situation and misprescribed the balm? Would I be sitting here confident, or would I be stewing in self-doubt? Probably the latter.
Because when it comes to our self-perception, we are what we say we are.
And while vulnerability hangovers make me nervous that I misspoke or overshared, confidence whiplash makes me proud I stood by my own side so faithfully.
Leave a comment in Substack and let me know: do you have any words or phrases you use often that aren’t exactly accurate? Any words or phrases you’ve caught yourself saying and then shifted to something else? Any that you’ve made up entirely? I wanna know! Plus, there’s a very good chance you’re not alone, and someone else might see your comment and either help out — or get inspired to make a shift in their own life.
Check out the latest WANTcast episodes, and more, below. Thank you so much for spending time with me today here in your inbox.
Move forward fearlessly, spread the good word, and be the you you know you’re meant to be…
WHAT’S NEW ON THE WANTCAST:
The last two WANTcast episodes have been a DREAM to record!! I got the honor of spending an hour with two of the women I admire and respect the most in the world of “wellness”-related things. And when I say wellness, I mean actually living well and what it realistically takes to do that. Have been getting such incredible feedback from you all — if you haven’t listened, this is your sign to subbscribe/follow the pod and download these episodes ASAP:
Episode 155 on Going Beyond BODY POSITIVITY + Toward BODY LIBERATION with Chrissy King (one of the most powerful conversations I’ve ever had, online or off, personally or professionally, about the way we relate to our bodies and each other)
Episode 156 on Decoding DISINFORMATION + Rethinking WELLNESS with Christy Harrison (absolutely essential listening for anyone who participates in or follows “wellness culture,” especially online — whether you love it, can’t stand it, or are simply curious)
And if you love the WANTcast, would you take 30 second and do the pod a favor? Go to the podcast’s home page wherever you listen, tap Subscribe or Follow, and leave 5 stars recommending it to future listeners — it sound so silly but those stars and reviews really help, especially for smaller independent pods like ours!
I cannot stop thinking about the death of Jordan Neely here in NYC. I also cannot stop thinking about by the fact that when I went to go look at the date…thinking, there has been so much gun violence and so many hate crimes since then, this most certainly must have happened last month….…no, it happened last week. Almost as tragic and chilling as his death is how quickly so many other tragic and chilling things have happened.
(btw, Jessica Elefante of Modern Bullshit wrote an important piece here, which I definitely recommend reading.)
I was, once again, reminded of the importance of Bystander Intervention Training. And how important it is to be trained in intervention well before you think you will ever need it, because you truly never know when you’ll need it. Right To Be is a fantastic resource and has a ton of free online trainings and materials. The best anecdote to feeling hopeless is taking action, and this is a powerful action to take that ACTUALLY can make a difference.
My mom sent me this video and I’ve watched it about a bajillion times. Balm for the soul. Life can be hard and it can be crushing, but it’s so important to find the moments of joy where and when we can. May we all experience this type of delight, deeply and often.