There are some things about me that will never change. I will always be a bit of a geek. I will always giggle when I’m nervous. I will always choose a hug over a handshake. I will always allow tears to flow when they need to – whether out of sadness, happiness, anger, or the unknown.
I have come to realise that there is no shame in crying. I’m a naturally empathetic person and, as a result, my emotions are always close to the surface. For a long time, if I needed to cry, I would disappear off to hide, force myself to shake it off, and return as if nothing had happened. But, in doing that, I found I was hiding one of the elements that makes me the person I am. I was afraid of being vulnerable.
The truth is, I cry when I’m sad – when I miss someone and it makes my heart ache. I cry at art and music – when I’m overwhelmed by the beauty of a lyric or a performance, something connects with me and moves me. I cry when I am happy – tears of joy and laughter are one of my favourite experiences. I cry when I’m angry or frustrated – like a pot of water boiling over. I cry with relief – when something I have dreaded is over or never came to be. I cry when I’m tired and need some peace – both physically and mentally.
And sometimes I cry without knowing why – only that, in that moment, I need a release.
I don’t need comfort or attention in my tears. I often just need the moment to pass and for my heart and head to feel the strength of the emotion at that time before moving on.
Wearing my heart on my sleeve like this is an exercise in strength and courage. I’m brave enough to be vulnerable.
So often we are afraid of being vulnerable – of opening up to people and being completely, unapologetically ourselves. We are afraid of giving out more than we will receive. We’re afraid to feel deeply because it opens us up to pain. We’re afraid to open emotional doors for fear of them being floodgates that we cannot control.
Yet, our fear of vulnerability closes us off to so much of the human experience. Sometimes the things we do to avoid vulnerability can cause us more pain than vulnerability itself. We need sadness in order to feel joy. We need to understand the reasons for our anger to feel forgiveness. We need to admit our weaknesses to truly know our strengths. We need to be vulnerable to understand who we truly are.
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as risky as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” – Brené Brown