Summary: Big Feelings By Liz Fosslien
Summary: Big Feelings By Liz Fosslien

Summary: Big Feelings By Liz Fosslien


There’s [an] art of being at home in the unknown,” writes author Rebecca Solnit, “so that being in its midst isn’t cause for panic or suffering.”

People who learn to become more comfortable with uncertainty tend to rely on processes to help them navigate chaos. Those processes usually focus on two things: decreasing the amount of risk we expect and boosting our belief that we can handle uncertainty. This takes practice, but over time, you can feel more confident and start to see uncertainty as less overwhelming.

When we confront a wall of uncertainty and anxiety, there isn’t a magical code word that will make it crumble away. Assume instead that the wall can be scaled by “a series of footholds of control,” writes Stanford neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky, “each one small but still capable of giving support.”

  • You cannot perfectly predict or plan for the future.
  • Face your anxieties and articulate them as specific fears or stressors.
  • Distinguish between fears or stressors that are within your control and those that are beyond it.
  • For the withins, create a plan from which you’ll deviate.



Too often, we draw comparisons that torpedo our self-esteem. But chances are, when comparison sends you down a dark spiral, it’s because you’re not comparing yourself enough. You watch a ridiculously talented pianist breeze through Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, tell yourself, “I’m so bad at piano,” and stop there. You don’t think about the fact that that pianist spends every day practicing for hours and has been playing since he was a preschooler. Or you focus only on how long it took you to get a bachelor’s degree, without giving yourself credit for what you achieved.

Left unchecked, comparison can make you miserable. Seeing people be better at something than you are can feel like a vicious uprooting. But with the right tools, you can use your envy to uncover what you value.

  • Deleting Instagram won’t cure your comparison woes.
  • Use envy to pinpoint exactly what you value and then make a plan for how to move on.
  • Avoid comparison hotbeds when you’re glum.
  • Remember: you’re usually only seeing someone else’s highlight reel.
  • Pick a broader baseline, and compare the nitty-gritty.
  • Look back at how far you’ve come, and celebrate your progress.



Anger is like water. No matter how hard a person tries to dam, divert, or deny it, it will find a way,” writes author Soraya Chemaly in Rage Becomes Her. When we internalize or suppress our anger for too long, it “threads itself through our appearances, bodies, eating habits, and relationships, fueling low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, self-harm, and actual physical illness.”

  • Anger is evolution’s alarm bell; listen to what it’s telling you.
  • Biases and stereotypes often cloud our judgment of who is angry.
  • Figure out your triggers to reduce future flare-ups.
  • Understand your expression style to better communicate your feelings.



Many books, articles, and experts describe burnout as if it’s solely related to how much we work—and suggest that if we take time off, we’ll soon bounce back, born anew. But a vacation will not cure burnout.

Burnout isn’t only about the hours you’re putting in. It’s also a function of the stories you tell yourself and how you approach what you do—in the office and at home. In fact, people who quit their jobs often find themselves, six months later, in a different role but feeling similarly depleted.

  • Burnout is not obvious: watch out for the early warning signs.
  • Take care of yourself before you’re completely fried.
  • Figure out whether you’re overextended, disengaged, or feeling ineffective.
  • If you’re overextended, get comfortable living at 80 percent and say no more often.
  • If you’re disengaged, seek connection and craft a more meaningful schedule.
  • If you feel ineffective, find ways to achieve clear wins and realign your life with your values.
  • If you feel all three, detach your worth from your work and embrace “garbage time”.
  • Managers and leaders: make balance a collective goal, offer emotional support, and avoid overworking your teams.
  • Remember that your health is what allows you to do meaningful work.



While perfectionism can show up in many small, private ways, it tends to present along similar lines of all-or-nothing thinking: “If I stumble over my words just once during my presentation at the next company all-hands meeting, I will never be seen as a leader,” or “If my friends see that my living room is messy, they’ll judge me and won’t like me anymore.”

People with perfectionist tendencies don’t realize that their success happens in spite of their drive for flawlessness, not because of it. “What I often say to my patients,” psychologist Thomas S. Greenspon told us, “is that if I could wave a magic wand and get rid of your perfectionism, you’d be more successful. Your success is due to your energy, your talent, your commitment, and none of those things would go away.”

  • You can have perfectionist tendencies even if you feel far from perfect.
  • Scrap the idea that perfectionism serves you.
  • Explore where you learned that you need to be perfect to be valued.
  • Poke holes in your perfectionist self-talk.
  • Replace avoidance goals with approach goals.
  • Recognize when good enough is good enough.
  • Move away from all-or-nothing thinking, and avoid the words always and never.
  • Name your inner perfectionist, and seek an imperfect role model.



There are ways to move through despair, but they should always go hand in hand with support from a professional, as it is very hard to work through this emotion on your own. Unfortunately, there is no secret life hack that will magically rid you of despair—and it takes time to go away. Some of the advice below is just about how to make it through a single dark moment.

  • Working with a mental health professional can make a world of difference.
  • Don’t judge yourself: if you’re suffering, you’re suffering.
  • To get through the day, chunk time and notice that your feelings can ebb and flow.
  • Set a (very) small goal for yourself each day.
  • Reach out to those who get it, and create distance from those who don’t.
  • Let go of the idea that your life needs to follow a specific track.
  • Find meaning in your experience; what that looks like will vary from person to person.



No matter what path we take in life, we all will have moments when we experience some level of regret about the roads we chose not to travel. But done right, dwelling on what might have been can serve us. Crying over spilled milk enables us to understand where we’ve come from, how we got to where we are, and where we want to go. Just make sure to limit how long you linger on the past.

  • A #NoRegrets life isn’t possible; there are always trade-offs.
  • When you forecast potential regret, consider several time frames.
  • Allow yourself to grieve what wasn’t.
  • Understand what type of regret you’re feeling.
  • For hindsight and alternate-self regrets, try to nip romanticizing in the bud.
  • For other types of regret, learn from the past to improve your future.
  • Be gentle with yourself; we all make mistakes.
  • Remember that regret will soften over time.