I remember the day I vowed that I would never cry in front of others; that I would never show them that they had affected me.I knew I didn’t want to be shamed for crying, so this was the only way forward. I made that vow as a 9-year-old.
Over time, I became separated from my feelings to the point that I didn’t understand why a friend was crying about her boyfriend breaking up with her. I didn’t understand why another friend was frantic about his friend being ill and in the hospital. I thought they were making such a big fuss over something that wasn’t in their control.
I presented myself to others as worldly, confident, and immune to the turmoil of life’s storms. I was in control of myself.
However, no matter what I presented to the outside world or admitted to myself, tempests brewed and rioted inside of me. Anytime I felt moved by beauty or felt suffering around me, tears would spring to my eyes, and my throat would constrict but I wouldn’t allow those feelings to betray my vow. Instead, I would bury them as quickly as they arose.
On the occasions that I didn’t succeed, I’d run to the bathroom to hide the flood of tears and upset.
Thankfully, over time, the walls came down and I found my way back to myself. I reconnected with my emotions and recognized my empathic nature.
This healing journey included an important piece wherein I learned the value of apologizing and doing repair work. I’ve had to let go of the idea that saying sorry made me less than perfect or somehow fallible. Of course, I’m not perfect and of course, I’m fallible.
If I could go back in time, I would apologize to my friend for minimizing her experience of feeling loss when her boyfriend broke up with her. And with the other friend, I would say how sorry I feel for not recognizing how scared he was that he was going to lose his best friend to a tenacious disease.
I would say to both of them that I’m sorry I didn’t offer you comfort and support in your time of need.
And to the 9-year-old, I would say, it is ok to cry.
I am no longer that child. I can speak up when someone hurts my feelings or disrespects me. I no longer think that I’m weak or deficient in some way when showing emotions. This makes me stronger and gives me more capacity to be empathic towards myself and others.
How about you? What differences do you observe between your childhood priorities and worldview and your perspective now? In what ways have you grown and what areas do you think need your attention?
Today, I encourage you to contemplate these questions in order to discover how far you’ve come and to see where you may want to go from here.