Our society has a stigma against crying.
A child gets hurt in gym class and runs away crying while others pretend not to notice. An upset woman screams, "don't look at me!", as she ugly cries into a tub of Ben & Jerry's in a TV comedy. A father holds back after his son is born because real men don't cry.
All stunted and depreciating those experiences for us. Sending subliminal messages to ourselves and those around us that this is not OK.
But, what if it were OK? What if it was not only OK, but it was the answer to truth, love, and healing?
I think we've misunderstood the power in a good, honest cry. And the magic that can happen when you share it with others.
For starters, it ALWAYS makes you feel better. ALWAYS. It is a natural way to relieve stress and even a healthy thing to do. It is a release of those emotions that hit us so deeply there is nothing else to do with them. Trying to ignore feelings or fight off tears can actually create a greater stress and emotional pull on you.
What I want to talk about today, is the power that comes in a beautiful cry. A true, unwavering tear that appears in your eye when you open up, let yourself be vulnerable and hit on the very truth of your being. Something that moves you to your core.
In my experience, when I talk about something important and meaningful to me I start to feel my eyes water and my throat gets tense. And for the majority of my life thus far, I've tried to fight those tears. I was embarrassed to let those around me see the emotion. I thought it made me look weak.
When I approach those situations from that place of the inner critic, instead of being present, I'm consumed with the appearance of the scene. "Stop crying", "I can't believe you're crying right now", "This is so embarrassing". Thinking like this only makes matters worse, I can't get any sort of reasonable message across and the crying becomes the self-pity kind instead of the powerful, meaningful, purposeful, kind.
Recently though, as I've been practicing authenticity, tuning into my intuition and being vulnerable, I have learned to use watery eyes as a sign of hitting on something REALLY IMPORTANT for me. They represent either a belief in my heart, a core value I hold close, or a truth I have just discovered and felt in my body for the first time. It's a place to explore and get curious, not a place to run away from. And when I can stand confidently in my tears, and boldly continue to communicate with others, magic happens.
These type of tears are quiet and dignified. I have even learned to smile through them (this makes others more comfortable as well).
It's a way to show others what is important to your heart. There is an instant understanding that they have when they can see how authentic and truthful you are being. And it actually inspires them to lower their guard and authentically open up as well.
As a coach, some of the most profound moments of enlightenment I see for clients is when they first make that meaningful connection out loud and it brings them to tears. In that moment, my job is to pass the kleenex and hold the space for them to sit with it. Not to awkwardly look away while they compose themselves or try to distract them with something else. THIS is where the growth happens.
For myself, one of my bravest moments of tears and transformation was last summer when I was doing my intensive coach training. The instructor described a coaching NLP exercise he was going to demonstrate with a student. As he described the benefits of this technique my heart started racing. An immediate sign that this was something I needed to do. It was an exercise to help someone break a habit that is getting in their way. The way he described it, I knew for me that this meant my habit of being socially anxious - most notably felt in large crowds.
When he finally asked for a volunteer, my hand shot straight up before he could even finish the question. By this time, I was shaking.
I jumped up to volunteer and as I sat down at the front of the class my heart was racing, my arms were full of goosebumps, I was shaking and my legs couldn't stop swinging from the bottom of the stool. This was a big moment. We were going to be tackling a large gremlin of mine.
The TAs in the room could tell and offered me tissues before we began - which I appreciated. The instructor asked me a variety of questions related to this fear and I was honest and vulnerable. As we got closer to the root of the matter the tears were starting and I was embracing my beautiful cry. I was lucky enough to be in a room full of amazing, caring coaches who I loved - but I still had to tune them all out to allow myself to really feel what was going on for me. The instructor asked if I needed a moment but I smiled and said "No." and encouraged him to keep going.
We carried on and I pushed past the scary parts into the amazing parts with new confidence and strength. The whole class was pin-droppingly quiet and I could tell how this experience was affecting them too. It was truly life changing for me. Apparently, after the exercise, when the class was practicing, everybody brought their A-game both as coach and client. Seeing my vulnerability and expression of emotion allowed them to show theirs.
If I hadn't let myself go there, if I hadn't raised my hand when I felt something, and if I had tried to fight the tears I wouldn't have had such a powerful result.
I mentioned this was for social anxiety... you should have seen the way I floated out of that class room into the packed marketplace that is Granville Island at lunch time on Saturday. Radiating, beaming, being completely myself and completely comfortable with everyone around me. Even smiling at people and saying "Hello!" A totally new experience for me.
In another post, I will let you know the copious progress I've made with my social anxiety since.
I wanted to share this with you because of a great podcast episode I heard recently on gender gaps in the workplace. There was a line at then end that irked me. They mentioned that many managers hate giving feedback because (as a generalization) they are scared that the men will get angry and that the women will cry.
Then they said, "Practice not crying", as advice to women.
Obviously, I disagree. I say PRACTICE CRYING! And practice letting others see you cry. And practice noticing what that crying teaches you about yourself.
You will be surprised of the power and results that will turn up from a strong cry. Every time I do it, I walk away stronger and more aware than before.
If a masculine energy leadership style is dominant and competitive, perhaps a feminine energy leadership style is vulnerable, honest and emotive.
Next time you see someone crying, don't shy away. Embrace them, listen to them, and encourage them to keep going so their soul can sort itself out.