On Crying: Letting go of Shame
I’m not sure what caused it, but I have always hated crying. Maybe it’s a Midwestern thing, that old ethic of stoic by-your-own-bootstraps ideology that’s caused generations of people to push down feelings and lock them away. Maybe it’s sexism, and the repercussions I’ve experienced being seen as weak because I’ve cried publicly. Maybe it’s a childhood thing, being called “cry baby” too many times. Regardless, I have been “a crier” for as long as I’ve been alive, and I’ve hated it for nearly as long. I cry when I’m sad. I cry when I’m happy. I sympathetically tear up when someone else is sad. I rage cry. So help me, God, I just cried at a coffee shop because someone sent me a link to a video of a corgi trying to share a bone with his own reflection.
It’s not that I hate crying, exactly. It’s that, whenever I cry, I feel shame, and I hate feeling shame. There are a lot of reasons for this related to my personal and relational history. I feel it most keenly when I cry in public, and when I cry because I’m angry. Those are moments when most often, other people try and step in, trying to help out of a sense of chivalry or responsibility, out of a desire to help or out of their own baggage. This makes me feel like I’m being seen as weak. Which pisses me off. Which makes me cry.
There’s a lot to unpack in those encounters, and, each time I have some kind of experience like the one above, it might be the case that all of those dynamics are at play. Or it might be that none of them are, or somewhere in between. I also recognize the real impact of vulnerability in specific places, that there may be times when it is not safe, or not wise to be vulnerable or cry, because not every experience is safe and not every experience is about me. Yet, regardless of the choices I make on how to act in the moment, my life and my soul are not served by allowing shame to be the navigator of my feelings. Vulnerability is an act of courage, and in being brave, I am embodying more fully the kind of person I want to be.
What experiences or feelings make you feel shame? What might be it’s causes? Perhaps we can each embrace the courage of vulnerability, and name and reclaim those parts of ourselves being held prisoner to shame. How can you be brave today?