Your Emotions Are Valuable And Valid
As women, we hear it all the time: we’re emotional, weak, hysterical. And while it’s a stereotype that women are more emotional than men, there’s no doubt that there is a stigma in our society against indulging our emotions. Men hear it in many common phrases: “Man up.” “Don’t be a wuss.” “Grow a pair.” Everything in our society tells us that emotions are bad and should be repressed, avoided or ignored completely. There’s a fundamental problem with the way we view our feelings and our emotions in this society, for both men and women. And it’s influencing the way we form relationships with others and with ourselves.
Men have always had complicated relationship with their emotions. The strict tenets of masculinity make it clear that emotions are weak and womanly, and shouldn’t be indulged. Men who cry at their weddings are laughed at and scorned. Romantic men who shower their partners with the manifestations of love are derided and called “whipped.” Real men don’t show emotions. Real men are tough. Strong. Macho. Deviation from this prescribed tough-guy pattern often ends in embarrassment.
For women, having emotions at all is problematic. In history, women who were upset for any reason were called “hysterical.” The word means that there is literally something wrong with a woman’s uterus, that her baby-making parts were out of whack, and that’s why she’s freaking out. Today, we hear a lot of the same phrases: You’re overreacting. Are you on your period? Stop being crazy. The emotions of anger, frustration and even excitement are criticized by society, as if the only reason to show our feelings is if we can’t control our hormones.
As people, male or female, we have cultivated the tendency to ignore our emotions as weak and to distrust them when we should, as the saying goes, “trust our gut.” Emotions are scoffed at as untrustworthy and if you express them, there’s obviously something wrong. You’re not a real man. You’re not a feminist. You’re weak. Despite the rhetoric and the deeply ingrained ideas, remaining in touch with your emotions and creating a dialogue between brain and heart makes you a healthier, happier and more successful person.
In the simplest sense, our basest emotions tell us when something is wrong, or what decision to make in difficult circumstances. Whether to break up a relationship, which job to take, if you’re ready to have kids. Common knowledge tells us to “follow our heart” for a reason. This cliche is there to reinforce the true idea that our emotions can’t “lie.” While we may convince ourselves to make one decision or the other, it’s our emotions, our feelings, that clue us into whether we feel like this decision is best, and whether it will make us happy. We tend to think that logic should be relied upon the most when making decisions, but really, it’s our feelings that should be consulted first. Call it instinct.
When we constantly push down our emotions and pretend they don’t exist, we’re ignoring our basic emotional needs. Both men and women want to be loved and want to express that love. Why is that a negative thing? If we’re being mistreated, the instinct is to pretend everything is okay—maybe the feeling will go away. It won’t. If we have misgivings about taking a job we don’t truly want, our brains tell us to take it anyway and we end up sacrificing our happiness. Many people think that it’s the “right time” in their lives to get married or have kids, without being emotionally prepared for such huge commitments. We still don’t really get that admitting fear, hurt, anger or joy isn’t weakness. It’s strength.
By feeding our emotions we’re really building more genuine versions of ourselves, without filter, without succumbing to societal expectations or even pressure from our loved ones. By being in touch with our feelings we become stronger and more aware of what we need to be happy, whether it’s a fulfilling job, a more emotional connection in a relationship, or the knowledge that maybe having children isn’t the lifestyle we want. We have to stop feeding the idea that emotions are inferior and should be dismissed. Our emotions should be consulted first, and then our logic.
Darth Vader’s infinite words of wisdom come to mind: “Search your feelings. You know it to be true.” Luke had no way of knowing that Vader was his father; all he had were his feelings and his instinct to go on! And the Force…but that’s beside the point.