I was thinking this week about emotions. Some people let it all hang out there, no guessing, and others, keep it nice and buttoned up. Emotion is a funny thing. Often times, we’re told not to be so emotional; told to stop crying; big girls don’t cry; told that negative emotion is wrong, or that we shouldn’t show it. I know for me, anger is an emotion I am very uncomfortable with in myself and others. Sadness isn’t on the top 10 list either. The truth is, I don’t know what to do with those emotions. I think society tells women that anger is not good and that we’re seen as weak if we’re sad, or crying. I’ve tried for a long time to live by that standard.
So how’s that working out for me? Crappy. I’m not perfect. Not by a long shot. And stuff makes me angry, and it makes me sad, as well as a wide range of emotions in between. But what do I do? Push it down, ignore it, redirect, try not to acknowledge it. I get frustrated, or irritable not angry, and at the other end, I am off, or out of sorts, not sad. Call a spade a spade Lisa, you get angry. It’s not a lot different for sadness. The deal is, in my striving for perfectionism (oh did I mention that? Yeah, got that going on too), I see those emotions as “less than.” In my mind, they show cracks, they show that I don’t always hold it together. And I do try to hold it together. I try to keep them on the inside. But as a result I don’t let people see the “real” me. That just leads to people knowing someone that I’m not, but if I show the real me? Well fear tells me they might not like me. So I keep shoving the emotion in.
I also think about my perception when I see those emotions in others. Sadness in others I can understand and have empathy for. Although truthfully sometimes the voice in my head wants to say “suck it up.” And at the other end of the spectrum, when I visibly see anger, it unnerves me. Literally, it causes me to feel enormously anxious and for knots to form in my stomach, even if it’s not directed at me. I wonder in my head what could be so wrong that you show that much emotion, that you would let anyone see you be angry. It’s seemed out of control to me, because, well, if you were a “good girl [or guy]” you wouldn’t let anyone see it.
I’m learning more and more that hiding my true emotion doesn’t help anything. I’ve experimented with letting myself show sadness, show that vulnerability, the tears. But it wrecks me. I’m exhausted. But I’m no less exhausted by trying to hold it all in. I’m starting to wonder if the people who show their emotions might be on to something. They’re being authentic. Showing how they really feel. That said, I think there’s a balance between expressing how you feel while respecting those around you.
In the end, I’ve concluded there’s nothing wrong with showing emotion. I know that when I share my emotions, by and large I end up feeling more at peace. We’re all on a journey and whether you see emotion on the outside or keep it tucked away on the inside, it’s still there. So we, I, need to remember that. Emotion is not bad, or wrong. Refusing to show emotion? Well that just keeps me hidden and “safe” but not known, not really understood. I’m choosing to show up, to let people see who I really am, cracks and all. It might be messy, but at least I’ll be true and real in the mess.
And then? I can ask others to help clean it up with me.