The Deliberate Labelling of Feelings

The descriptor “shitty” has a lot of meanings

I felt shitty.

What does that even mean? I had to unpack that.

(The content here was originally part of a post called, “Naming Shame and Other Wizards”. I broke it off and rebaked it here so that the other one would read more clearly. Another benefit: More content. )

Image by Merriam Webster from Flickr

I’ve recently been more deliberate in my use of the word “shitty”. I’m mindful and say it less frequently. This intention is related to an overall goal to speak more precisely.

“Shitty” describes how a person acts and how a person feels, but it’s vague. It implies a negative feeling or action without identifying that feeling or action.


  • “I was a shitty friend. I’m sorry.”
  • “I have a headache, and I feel shitty.”
  • “I fought with my co-worker, and I feel shitty.”
  • “Stealing your girlfriend was a shitty thing to do.”
  • The [home team] is playing a shitty season.

You get the point.

I feel that the word “shitty” is an escape word. It allows the speaker to take responsibility in a half-assed way without owning up to their actual feelings.

The word “shitty” gives the illusion of transparency. It’s giving just a little bit away without having to go all in.

Speaking the word “shitty” humors our ego. It allows us to pretend that we’re saying something of substance without really saying anything of substance. It’s as deep as the fear will let us go.

Who likes to talk about feelings, right? Talking about feelings is shitty — I mean, uncomfortable. Doing so makes us feel vulnerable. There are lots of reasons why we don’t want to articulate our feelings at a particular moment. The moment isn’t always right to share feelings.

As Sally told Harry when she scolded him after a wagon wheel table triggered him,

Harry, you’re going to have to find a way to not expressing every feeling that you have in the moment that you have them….There are times and places for things.

(I just watched it again for quote accuracy. Harry’s apology right after their fight got me right in the feels, as the kids say. You’re welcome.)

When you find yourself thinking the word shitty, turn it over. Examine it. Look for its cause.

It’s like an ongoing game of “because, why?” except the question is“shitty, how?”

Dig deeper, you must.

— Or so, Master Yoda would say.

*Cross-posted from Medium.