Updated: Oct 4, 2020
As transparent as I may seem, there is one thing that I have a huge problem with participating in – crying. I have always lived in this fear that if I cry, people will think that I am weak, that I didn’t try hard enough, that I am seeking attention, or manipulative. So, I am pretty good at stuffing in my tears and saying everything is fine. You probably do too, huh? Well, I have something to tell both of us—
"Stuffing in tears is not healthy. In fact, it’s weaker than actually crying."
We know this, because when we don’t address our emotions, it gets heavier and worse, right? Our head starts pounding, our heart races faster and heavier, our stomach turns in knots, our minds race like speeding darts—we know this isn’t healthy. So why aren’t we open to expressing emotions? If we know it will make us feel better, why do we do what we know feels worse?
Disclosure time – During the past two weeks, I struggled mentally and emotionally on my self-image and my purpose. I felt as if my spirit were not aligning with my actions or environment, so I felt broken and lost. I was triggered and tempted to go back to self-destructive behaviors because it was easy and familiar, and it made me look tough to the world, even though I was destroying myself from within. I found myself slipping into a depression and I did not allow myself to talk to anyone about it because of the negative perceptions I continued to harvest. There were a couple of times that I was afraid to go home because I was afraid it would trigger suicidal ideation.
The words above are words that flash across my mind when I think of crying or expressing my struggles, even as I currently type. I am terrified that others will reject my emotions or feelings—or even worse—that I will push others out harmfully in shame and guilt. I expect to be misunderstood, or for my emotional expression to come off offensive to others. Which, ultimately, leads to disappointment. Just imagine a flower, needing sunlight, pollination, watering, feeding, but it closes its petals for the fear of pesticides, bird droppings, or harmful pollution. Recognize this, and let it sink in:
If you close off the opportunity of negative consequences, you will also close off the opportunity for positive reinforcements.
You cannot choose which one you block. If you are wanting more love but are blocking your fears, then you are blocking love too. Therefore, on that list of things that happens when we express emotion, it should include:
I chose the word “courage” as the header because openness and vulnerability take building a sturdy bridge from the first set of words to the second set of words, and that bridge is courage.
Courage is recognition of the risks that are present in a situation, and choosing to build from those risks into the benefits, understanding that is a risk in itself, yet there is higher worth in the benefits.
I think a lot of people don’t tell you that part, because either we fantasize too much on how easy opening up is, or there is often a negative connotation on the term, “risk”. Risk is the chance, the opportunity, the hope, the faith. So, let me understand with you:
Being healthy is a risk in results. Being open is a risk in results. But, choosing to be closed off is an assurance in its results.
So how do we choose to safely risk in courage to become who we desire to be? Here are some things I try to tell myself (even currently).
Reframe your thoughts. Challenge your perspectives. A lot of times our biggest worries and fears are just negative imagination. With imagination, those thoughts are created from something. Maybe it was how your family views things. Maybe your culture. Maybe you are in a role that calls for you to personify in a certain manner. Maybe media and social media. Whatever the roots of your perception may be, it fuels into your imagination of how you perceive yourself, whether positive or negative. Challenge each thought. Ask yourself, “is this truly accurate, or is this based on perspectives I have adapted from others?”
For example, I thought it made me weak to open up about my emotions because my family shamed each other for crying during hardships. Also, I would express deep emotion to past friends and they would say I am a burden. Over the years, I learned that this perception isn’t completely true at all. I learned that I need to find people who are safe to open up to, and monitor on what things I open up about. The largest reframe I adapted was:
The reaction of other people towards my experience does not define my experience. So, don’t let it.
Let that sink in.
Allow time for healing. Past circumstances truly guide our next steps. If someone hurt us when we opened up in the past, we surely do not want to open up now. In fact, sometimes we go so far as to shaming others for being open because deep down, we wish we could be that vulnerable ourselves. So, allow time for healing. Again, having that hardened heart and those closed petals blocks the bad and the good. You know what else it blocks?
God. That’s right. God created all of the people and situations that have come upon your journey, and it wasn’t to hurt you but to teach you.
If you block yourself from the lessons of God, you block yourself from the love of God.
Therefore, by allowing yourself healing from past experiences, and reframing the perspective from those experiences, you can reach the endurance and energy to courage into positive reinforcements of opening up. Yet, there is one key guardrail that will get you there safely.
Use discernment. Be in tune. This calls for a lot less of everyone else, and a lot more than you. I am not asking you to open your heart and life story to everyone. Now, that’s just plain dangerous. But discernment means having the intuition and wisdom to know what is healthy and safe for you, and what is toxic and dangerous for you. How will you know that?
You must know yourself. Well.
This is perhaps the hardest step because sometimes if we do not stay in tune with ourselves, we may miss obvious signs that lead us to danger. Our guardrails are knowing what is healthiest for our minds, spirit, body, and soul. In my case, I often put myself in danger because I valued others’ perspective of how I should live my life over my own. I cared about winning over the approval of others and not winning over myself. I took time in making sure that I understood and fulfilled everyone’s needs, but never did that for me. So, because of this lacking relationship, I led myself into dangerous situations and circumstances.
Even the subtle dangers like allowing someone to cut off my sentences, saying “it’s fine” when it wasn’t, dressing in a way that doesn’t represent who I am, allowing myself to live a lifestyle that is comfortable to the world but harmful to my spirit. I have control of that, and so do you. We can make the decision to learn more about ourselves and stage our lives to discern from harmful things and be filled with the fruitful enrichment of our lives. But we must first be in tune with ourselves. This can include prayer, meditation, quiet time, indulging in hobbies, and anything that helps to understand our needs and desires.
If we do not prioritize this time to know ourselves, we are not prioritizing our livelihood.
Give yourself time. Practice. Being open is not easy. And, often, we are not exactly sure on the tools needed to open up and express emotion. So, even if you don’t get it right the first time, don’t shut down from there. Keep practicing, and recognize what went well and what different thing you could try next time to make the experience much healthier for you.
Recognize Your Strength and Resilience. Society often, and quickly, gives a label of weakness to almost any emotional expression, including things that make us feel very happy or really sad. Therefore, it is essential to recognize your own strength of even facing this situation or circumstance, and even more how strong it is to open up your petals and face the hurts and the blessings of the world.
Now, that is truly brave. To look your hard times in the eyes and say, “you will not stop me from experiencing love from others. You will not stop me from healing. This may hurt, but I will not let you stop my life!”
Often, we are told that avoiding and pushing past something is strong. But truly, there is a ton of strength in expressing emotion and allowing yourself to heal. Plus, it is way more rewarding. This goes back to reframing thoughts: expressing emotions is not a weakness, it is actually a strength and a catalyst towards healing. You are strong for facing, enduring, and healing through this!
Create a Safe Village. In order to effectively practice your expression in a non-harmful way, it is helpful to have a safe community around you that you can pour into. Preferably, these are you green friends (mentioned in a previous blog, your close circle of friends) because they have voiced and shown an active investment in your well-being. They can help you stay accountable of your challenging thoughts and perspectives, and support you on your healing journey.
The most critical part is being willing to advocate for what you need, and believing you deserve it.
I struggle with this because I am such a helper that I refuse to allow people to see that I need to be helped. Therefore, this is where reframing perspectives comes in and challenges to say, “I am not weak or less capable because I need help. I can find valuable, and qualified people, to support me in my journey towards healing.” See how all of these steps come together? We must tap into our discernment and our awareness of our thoughts to allow ourselves the time, energy, and support to heal.
Trust Yourself. The most important step of them all. In my difficult season, recently, I followed my action plan of reaching out to my safe village. I prayed and gave myself time to think on, and reframe the negative thoughts. I knew what I needed, and knew that if I wasn’t getting that, I can call someone, or participate in an activity that will bring me back to a healthy place.
I had all of the tools in place, but, the most important part was that I have to trust myself that I can use them. Which was scary.
Trusting yourself takes time, just like trusting others. For someone who has tried to take out her own life countless times, and who has willingly put herself in unhealthy situations on purpose, I had a lot of proving to myself to do. Nonetheless, just as in any relationship, when you know the person a little better, you trust them more. If you don’t know them at all, you don’t care too much what happens to them. I didn’t know her then, but I definitely know her now. Truly know yourself, so you can build trust with yourself. It truly is that simple.
Over these two weeks, I’ve learned that even after I learn and apply these healthy skills, I must practice them and maintain them. I must work actively and daily to make sure that I am opening up my branches, and receiving all of the things coming towards me, knowing that I am strong and wise enough to fight off the bad, and resilient and humble enough to intake the good. The key is that you must believe that you are worth the light. If you believe, you will truly fight through anything to receive it. Once you get to that place, keep practicing, and keep loving yourself (1 Corinthians 13 4-8). Opening up and crying is never easy, but it is courageous. It is connecting. It is healing. It is freeing. It is love. Bee a little more open on our journey.