Because emotionality and sensitivity are frequently looked down upon, while their opposing character traits are heavily romanticized in the Western world, people often have a disturbed image of their own emotional behavior. We are constantly under pressure to restrain our emotional selves. We have been taught to apologize for our feelings, to be ashamed about our tears, and to fear being called hysterical or dramatic. But if you immediately discard your feelings as a weakness, how will you gain understanding of the complex nature of your psyche?
Why is being emotional seen as a weakness? It is easy to mistake sensitivity for insecurity for example, but these are two very different things. I often feel that I’m strong not despite my emotionality, but because of my emotionality. It is the reason that I’m empathetic, resilient, and spirited. This sounds counterintuitive, but think back for a second. Have you ever had a heavy emotional response to something, maybe even cried, and next immediately felt refreshed, clear-headed and determined? My emotional responses are a way to process things fully, to thoroughly examine them, to channel my energy, and to let them go.
“Crying isn’t just about sadness. When we are scared, or frustrated, when we see injustice, when we are deeply touched by the poignancy of humanity, we cry. […] It doesn’t mean we’re weak or out of control.” – Julie Holland
What helped me immensely with accepting my emotionality is realizing that it’s all part of the same sensitivity. Let me explain: I’ve always been grateful for being very empathetic. I have a highly developed sense of what’s going on in people’s minds, and I easily see underlying processes of their behavior. I’ve always thought this was my most valuable quality, and it’s why everything I’ve done in my life so far has led me to being a life coach.
At the same time, I used to feel embarrassed and guilty for my heavy emotional responses. I cry when I’m upset. I’m hurt when I’m attacked. I take everything personally and it takes some logical reasoning for me to discard a negative comment. I’ve been getting a lot better at keeping my inner peace, but the initial emotional response is the same.
I know now, though, that both my valuable skill and my heavy response are part of the same thing: A higher emotional sensitivity.
I process everything more thoroughly, both the positive and the negative. I am easily overwhelmed, but I’m also very creative, aware of nuances in meaning, and I have a complex inner life. With that realization I don’t mind the heavy responses anymore. It’s just who I am, and it has made me able to help many people understand themselves better already.
You can’t beat yourself up for crying over a sneer, while at the same time being proud of your understanding of others, as they’re two outings of the same response.
Emotions are very valuable, even the more uncomfortable ones. They make us who we are and allow us to experience life deeply and thoroughly. It’s incredibly important to accept your emotional sensitivity, for the sole reason that it’s not something you can get rid of. If you were to try, and maybe you have, you’d simply be suppressing or numbing yourself.
What you can do, however, is gaining inner strength. As Rick Hanson explains: “On average, about a third of a person’s strengths are innate, built into his or her genetically based temperament, talents, mood, and personality. The other two-thirds are developed over time. You get them by growing them.” We all have challenges and vulnerabilities, and inner strengths to counter these two. “For example, the challenge of a critical boss would be intensified by a person’s vulnerability to anxiety, but he or she could cope by calling on inner strengths of self-soothing and feeling respected by others.”
The answer is not trying to suppress your emotionality, it’s finding a way to develop the strength to deal with the stress and anxiety it causes.
Don’t waste time and energy on self-blame and wishing you were less emotional. Accept yourself as you are, and work on your inner strengths to take the blows of emotional outbursts.