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Why did I feel that way?

Have you had anyone criticize your work? Or tell you that you have performed poorly at something? Have you had anyone praise your work? Or tell you that you have performed really well at something? Have you told a secret to someone and later found out that they'd betrayed your trust and told that to someone else? Have you watched your football team score a winner in the last minute? Have you given your best and still failed?

I have. All of it. And more.

Every time something like that happens, it evokes an emotion in us. It could be happiness, joy, sadness, anger, dejection, determination, etc. When that something is big, it is easy to attribute the emotion and say why we are feeling the way we are. But when that something is small or inconsequential, it still evokes emotions in us which we might not be able to attribute to anything in particular.

Then, there is another dimension to it.

When many people hear the same thing, they are not all affected the same way. I write everyday and take criticism on the chin and move on. But someone writing for the first time may take criticism to heart and react more strongly.

When one of your acquaintances got a promotion, were you less happy than some of your other acquaintances? When you got a promotion and realised that some others got it too, did that reduce the joy you felt? Or were you even happier that others were promoted too?

If you've used the Headspace app for meditation (which I recommend), you would have noticed that one of the things it says is to treat your emotions and thoughts as though they are cars on a highway while you are sitting on the side of the road and watching them go by. That's wonderful and helps you detach your identity from your feelings and let them go, irrespective of whether they are positive or negative.

However, while learning to let go is a vital skill to acquire, there is an added layer of utility that we can derive from these emotions - which is to understand ourselves better.

And I do that by asking myself, "Why did I feel that way?"

If I wasn't as happy as others when an acquaintance got promoted, it was probably because I didn't think they deserved it, or because I thought someone else that didn't get it deserved it more. And if I was happier after realizing more people had been promoted along with me, it was probably because I cared about them and saw them as equals more than wanting to show them I'm better than them.

Behind every emotion is a realization about ourselves waiting to be unearthed. All we need to do is ask why we felt that way.

While doing user research, I always trust what the users do more than what they say. In the same way, I trust my emotions to reveal how I truly feel than what my conscious mind tells itself.

Why did I feel that way? That's a powerful question to ask. 

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