I'd been in my emotions for almost an entire day when I saw an Instagram post that said "It's okay to feel sad when you've done the right thing." At that moment, I started to cry.
Doing the right thing isn't always easy, and this much is common knowledge. There's a David Cottrell quote that goes:
"Doing the right thing isn't always easy and what is easy isn't always right."
We all can agree and accept this as reality, and yet when we do something right, that wasn't easy, we are often surprised when we still feel sad about it.
When we do something right, that ends up being hard, our expectation is that the feelings that follow are:
And even that we will be validated in our righteousness for having done the right thing.
These emotions are often warranted in times where the hard decision was to leave a dead end job to step into a passion project, or when we spoke up for someone who had been wronged.
So what happens when we do the hard thing, like honor a boundary to have your needs met, or remove ourselves from a harmful behaviour, and those "good" feelings don't come?
Think about all of the times where you had to do the hard thing and you ended up being hurt or hurting someone else in the process.
This may have been a time where you had to end a relationship that you knew wasn't right, or when you had to tell a family member that you were not going to communicate with them.
What feelings came up?
I'm willing to bet that they weren't feelings of confidence, joy or pride. Rather, you likely felt a lot of sadness, grief, and even guilt.
Despite this decision being one that honored your needs in the long run, you may leave the experience feeling hurt in the interim.
I had the blessing of learning a hard lesson after going to Peru a few years ago with my partner at the time.
At this phase in my journey, I still hadn't fully learned to express my needs and boundaries and despite not feeling called, I agreed to go an Ayahuasca retreat.
For those who are not familiar with the term, Ayahuasca is a powerful psychedelic. It is a beautiful plant medicine, but it often needs to call to you and you need to meet it energetically with your willingness to show up and surrender.
We spent 8 nights in the jungle, sleeping on a thin foam mattress in an open air hut, without access to running water or electricity. In those 8 nights, we did 2 ceremonies with Kambo and 4 ceremonies with Ayahuasca.
My resistance to the journey and the painful need to learn the lesson of setting boundaries resulted in a deeply traumatizing experience.
This particular lesson, around knowing when to say no to what I don't feel called to, has been something that I've danced with ever since.
It's been the most prevalent in my intimate relationships, where I've had to stand up for myself and express my needs in ways that I haven't ever before.
Although massively healing, it has been scary to dance with and scary to step into.
I had the honor of sitting in ceremony with a very close friend of mine and my wonderful husband.
My friend had created the space and guided us through a psilocybin journey, in which I had one of the most challenging experiences I've ever had with plant medicine.
I felt and experienced pain, hurt and sadness in ways that I didn't know were able to be experienced. This journey and the awareness of the deep pain that I have carried was so hard to hold that I spent days wondering how I would go back to "normal".
The days following were challenging, and I felt the fears around losing my partner, friends, and overall life as I genuinely didn't think I would be able to return to the Brooklyn I desired to show up as.
I've sat with and worked through the experience enough that I feel sturdy in myself in this moment. It's not completely understood, but I can recognize where the lesson has begun to been learned.
My close friends had decided they wanted to sit in ceremony together.
I danced with the idea of partaking back and forth all the way up until a few hours before, when it was very clearly exposed to be out of alignment with what I needed.
In that moment, I knew that stepping away from the space, and not joining the ceremony was the "right" thing to do.
I knew that I had to honor my boundaries and honor that this particular experience or journey was not for me.
And yet, rather than feeling pride for having made the "right choice", or confidence in myself for being able to know what is good for me, I felt sad.
I felt the childhood abandonment wounding of all of my friends being at something that I wasn't a part of.
I felt the deep sadness that my teenage self felt when she would skip doing something she didn't want to do, only to realize that the decision to step away created distance in the relationships.
What I can recognize now, that I couldn't recognize back then is that it's okay to feel sad when the right thing is done.
There's so much space for grace, compassion and kindness towards ourselves when we get to this sticky place.
In the place where we don't feel like we deserve to feel sadness, we can allow ourselves to feel it with gentle compassion for our emotional experience.
For the most part, in these situations we are feeling the emotions that our inner child didn't get to feel when they faced parallel experiences.
The difference between then and now is that we are blessed with the emotional capacity to look at our experiences with greater discernment. We can step back from the emotions we are facing and see them for what they are, with expansive curiosity.
Any emotional experience that comes from your decisions to stand in your boundaries and in your power is valid.
There is no right or wrong answer, no good or bad reaction to your action, it just is.
When you do the right thing and feel the pride, confidence and inner fire, step into that. Honor it. Build it by fueling that fire with continual steps further in the right direction.
And when you do the right thing and you feel hollow and broken, honor that too. Hold the parts of you that need to be held with grace and love. Allow them to get as big as they need to and allow them to be fully experienced on hour journey of healing.
It's okay to feel sad when you do the right thing.