“Letting tears flow does not mean that you have stopped being strong. It is a way to cope so that you can carry on being strong.”
The above words caught my attention as I randomly surfed the internet. Tears or the act of crying has always been associated with weakness in our society. Men are discouraged from crying because it makes them less manly and women are told it is a sign of weakness. The even more absurd notion is crying is associated with ill luck. I have always wondered, why is expressing an emotion forbidden to this extent. Is it because, as humans we see beauty in only what we deem perfect, a vulnerable person or a human in a raw emotional state doesn’t fit this perception of perfection, or is it our general intolerance to all things perceived as not beautiful?
Contrary to ill-conceived societal perceptions associated with crying, it is an emotion that can relieve the mind of pent-up pain and burden. Crying your heart out can prove to be the biggest cure to the stress or anger eating you away. Emotions exist to be expressed, then why are we encouraged to express only certain emotions and refrain from expressing others?
Crying is not a sign of weakness
In a world that increasingly believes in external appearances and doesn’t waste time in assuming that a person is exactly what they appear to be, most of us want to spare no effort in creating that image of ourselves as strong and perfect. But it is this perception of strong which does more harm than good. Why is a vulnerable and emotional person labelled weak? Are these qualities not essential for an empathetic individual? I have always wondered why would someone who is ready to accept their pain and anger and cries out the pain termed weak, isn’t that a big sign of strength? Life is never a smooth ride, there are bound to be obstacles, disappointments, heartbreaks, and grief. Not letting out that anger and frustration are going to do more harm than good. When tears are discouraged, the emotions get bottled up, resulting in a stressed and angry individual.
The first expression of a baby as it enters the world is its crying. It is symbolized as a sign of life. When the crying of a new born baby is treated as sweet music to the ears, why is the same baby discouraged from crying as they grow up?
Tears are not for creating drama
“You are crying again, don’t start the drama now” a lot of us, especially women would have heard this phrase at some point in our life. I have heard this so often, that when it is not uttered it feels odd. I am one of those people who involuntarily shed tears when I am angry or a conversation gets heated up. Probably I am ill-equipped a hiding frustration. But I have never used those tears as a means to deviate an argument or discussion to my advantage, despite which I get to hear this phrase all the time. I know that crying out the frustration calms me, so why should I suppress myself for other’s convenience. I also fail to understand why is crying termed a feminine trait and automatically perceived as a sign of weakness. Associating all feminine traits with one or the other form of weakness is a result of society’s misogynistic mindset, which wants to keep enforcing its perception of women being the weak gender. To associate crying with a sign of weakness forces people to mask their true feelings and emotions and put up a supposed façade of strength. This would mean fewer confrontations and fewer challenges to the status quo. If the frustration does drive a person to tears, they learn to shed it in private, never in front of others. Does that not make it convenient for those who wield the power in any given scenario?
Boys don’t cry
Little boys as young as 4 or 5 years old are discouraged from crying and the one line that they are sure to hear “stop crying like a girl.” From their formative years, their families feed it in their minds that crying is a trait of weakness and also that girls are weak. This can be termed the stepping stone to inculcating toxic masculinity. These boys grow into men who have been taught to bottle their emotions and who only find their vent in some form of violence. This also creates men who are emotionally unavailable and cannot connect empathetically with other humans. Their pent-up bitterness only turns them into people who have little to no regard for the emotions or feelings of others. Why should the expression of emotion be discouraged or be associated with gender? If a man is feeling low, disappointed, or let down he has every right and as much right as a person from any other gender to shed tears or bawl, expressing an emotion should have no notion of shame associated with it.
Crying is healthy
We are living in stressful times, more so since the pandemic stuck last year. Most of us have not stepped outside our homes in the last year and a half. The pandemic has wreaked havoc on many lives. In such a scenario the one advice being doled out in plenty is to stay strong. Yes, staying strong is important to pull through but the weight of the grief and fear and has to be unburdened and crying can be an extremely effective means of releasing the stress hormones. But crying cannot be a permanent relief to the stress or grief and professional help from mental health experts must be sought without hesitation.
Cry whenever you feel the urge to, cry without hesitation. If you see someone crying, don’t trivialize them, if you cannot offer support at least ensure you do not interrupt.