May 23, 2018

We all know those not-so-cute feelings—the ones we’re often tempted to suppress, because we’re not as comfortable sitting with them. That feeling of obsessive worry when we replay something we said. That feeling of overwhelming guilt when we realize we’ve let a friend down. That feeling of shame when we bomb a presentation.

Research shows that our usual defense mechanism for uncomfortable emotions is typically rejection—but it can do more harm than good. In fact, over time, trying to suppress negative emotions actually makes those emotions more powerful in our lives.

And in our gut, we know this, right? Most of us want to process our range of emotions, but we can fall victim to the, “Cool, I’m just going to puuuush this feeling under the rug until the next Game of Thrones season comes out—in 10 years.”

Culturally, we need a record-scratch-kinda-reset.

We need to encourage ourselves, and others, to embrace, and even celebrate, the very thing that makes us human: our emotions.

Imagine if we celebrated not just joy and gratitude, but feelings like worry, vulnerability, and so on. Imagine if we, as a community, rallied around the value in feeling and growing from it.

As part of our All the Feels Mental Health Month campaign, we wanted to bring that dream to life.

We teamed up with The Confetti Project—Jelena Aleksich's New York-based photography series that douses amazing humans with confetti—to capture entrepreneurs, writers, comedians, and influencers embracing the full range of their feelings, from amazement to worry to awkwardness.

What does our “dark side” of emotions have to do with confetti? More than you think:

“It's dangerous to put a hierarchy on emotions,” Aleksich says. “To strive to be ‘happy’ all the time really reduces the complexity of the human condition, because we all have the capacity to feel dozens of emotions on any given day or even moment—no matter who we are.”

For Aleksich, this series shows high-achieving individuals—people you may recognize from Instagram or Netflix—feeling all the feelings, even the tougher ones we so often try to hide.

“I want people to look at these photos and their stories and let go of any shame they have about their own mental health,” Aleksich says. “To remind themselves when they are feeling a certain way that someone else in the history of humanity has felt that way to some degree and that it does not define them.”

Check out the photos and stories below from the All The Feels photo series, and learn how to turn your feels—the good and the not-so-good—into your superpower.

Aparna Nancherla

Aparna Nancherla

I celebrate contentment

As someone who has lived with depression and anxiety, I feel like I've experienced emotions close to the vest. In some sense, I've muted the range of my emotions in front of other people, but I also love the ability to connect with others in a way that's authentic. In comedy, I feel like I can essentially be myself and do that.

I especially appreciate when I feel connected to people. That usually helps me feel joyful or content in the world. Even just sharing a laugh with friends— that's such a grounding moment for me. As someone who still deals pretty regularly with depression and anxiety, I've learned to appreciate those moments where everything is more neutral and at ease. It's an ongoing up and down so when it is an equilibrium it's very nice.

Melissa Dahl

Melissa Dahl
Senior Editor at New York Magazine's 'The Cut' & Author of 'Cringeworthy: A Theory of Awkwardness'

I celebrate awkwardness

I just spent two years writing something that I initially tried to write as a sort of “anti-awkwardness” book. But now I feel kind of protective over this odd little emotion. It can be so useful, if you look at it in the right light. I think awkwardness is the realization that people can see through the version of yourself you’re trying to present to the world.

Say you’ve been walking importantly around your office all day, going from meeting to meeting, and it’s only at the end of the day that you realize your fly has been down the whole time. That kind of thing. It’s not the most pleasant feeling, to see yourself in an unflattering light, and realize everyone else has been seeing you that way all day, too. But I think these moments could be looked at slightly differently: they’re the times when our real, unpolished selves slip through our carefully crafted personas.

Katrina Craigwell

Katrina Craigwell
VP Brand + Revenue Marketing at GE Digital

I celebrate worry

I worry all the time—and I hate worrying all the time. I worry about ruining the time I have. We live a very privileged life in this country. Sometimes, when there isn't so much to worry about, you start to invent it. I think part of it is human, part of it is survival.

The hardest thing I try to work on is to stop myself while worrying. It's like when you're having a bad dream, and you can stop yourself from the dream and say, “Wake up.” My coach, Kate Payne, always says to me, “Fear is false evidence appearing real.” What evidence do you really have that X or Y is going to happen? I try to practice that everyday. If you stop yourself while worrying, you can realize: none of this has happened, so I truly don't need to worry about it.

Marah Lidey & Naomi Hirabayashi

Naomi Hirabayashi Marah Lidey
Co-founders and Co-CEOs of Shine

Marah: I celebrate coziness

As an adult, I enjoy the intentional spaces I've created for myself. My favorite moments are when I'm either home alone with a glass of wine and I've made something and have my music going. Or it can be game nights or movie nights with our Shine team, or movie nights with friends. It’s doing things that don't require a lot of energy, thinking, or talking but are universal joys that you can savor without extra effort. I definitely feel off-kilter when I don't get a cozy, homey moment in my week.

Naomi: I celebrate vulnerability

Vulnerability is such a buzz word right now, in an amazing way because of Brene Brown and what's happening in our society. When Marah and I first met, we wanted to contribute to breaking that spiral of silence by helping someone else not feel weird. Usually, what we're all suffering quietly with is what unites us.

I love having conversations with people that are vulnerable. I think those are much more interesting than when we're pretending, so I savor that. I love that at Shine, we’re using the human experience to bring people together.

Kevin Kreider

Kevin Kreidler
Fitness activist and model

I celebrate sexiness

Asian masculinity is not seen as attractive or desirable. Those stereotypes really affected my self-esteem growing up. When you take away someone's sexuality, you take away one of the most creative, beautiful energies we have as a human being.

Right now, the emotion that I love to savor is feeling sexy. I love the sensual feelings that come with that. Trust me, I'm still awkward at times, but it's because it's so new to be able to say, “Woah, asian men are sexy.” We can be. It's really uncomfortable talking about masculinity and sexuality for a guy, because we think we know what it is but it's so much more. Sexy and sensual for me means playfulness with sexuality. Trying not to take yourself so seriously but owning your identity, your body, your energy.

Reshma Saujani

Reshma Saujani,
Founder of Girls Who Code

I celebrate amazement

I'm always on a journey to get in alignment. My coach recently said this to me: “What if the more joyful you are = the happier you are = the more fun you'll have = the more success you'll have?” I've lived my life completely the opposite way. I've lived as a martyr in many ways—work, work, work, work. I woke up and I realized I love to dance: When was the last time I danced? I actually have to practice being more joyful and celebrating the wins.

Right now, I savor laughter and amazement. It's so attributed to my three-year-old. I'm so grateful to watch him doing something or seeing something for the first time and feeling that amazement along with him. I'm so into how he's feeling, and it makes me so happy that I kind of can feel his feelings a little bit. It's like bliss.

Heben Nigatu

Heben Nigatu
Writer and Co-host of 'Another Round' Podcast

I celebrate joy

I’ve been learning a lot about my emotions in therapy.

Anger is an emotion the world does not allow black women to express. I’ve also only come to recently realize it’s an emotion I don’t allow myself to express. I am angry! I have A LOT to be angry about! I’ve learned that unexpressed anger can be very toxic, so I asked my therapist for suggestions of healthy ways to express or channel your anger. One of the things she mentioned that I really want to try is putting a bunch of pillows on your bed, grabbing a baseball bat, and just going HAM on those pillows, yelling out whatever you want.

One of the other things I’ve been working on in therapy is acceptance of my emotions, acceptance of sadness in particular. The thing with depression is that it often feels like not only are you sad, but that you will live in this deep pit of sadness forever. “This is just the way things are,” your brain tells you. But that’s not true! Your depressed brain frequently lies to you. But of course, it’s hard to fight your brain! I am learning to stop trying to fight my brain so much and accept what I’m feeling in the moment. To trust that this is not permanent and the more you let yourself feel your emotions fully, there will be an end.

I savor any morsel of joy I can find. Joy to me is a really good croissant, laughing with your friend that you haven't seen in years, or seeing a baby in little baby rain boots on the subway. I am jealous of babies—I want their joy. When you're depressed, it doesn't help to frown, but that's all you're doing. So even just taking selfies and smiling and taking a second: "Here's my face. Thanks sun for shining on me!” I have also been reading a lot about mental health which has been really helpful in giving me perspective. Learning how other people have dealt with these things and seeing the ebbs and flows from the outside instead of just feeling them has been so vital. I am so, so grateful to anyone who has ever shared their mental health story. Thank you!

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This Mental Health Month, join Shine as we highlight All the Feels and share how others like you have embraced or coped with their feelings.

Read next: In Honor of Mental Health Month, Let's Get Real About How We Feel)