By Olivia Montes
Elm Staff Writer
When we look back on the last time we cried, chances are we were in a closed-off space. Perhaps, silently within our dorm rooms so none of our neighbors would hear or grow concerned, a box of tissues waiting nearby when we needed to wipe however many tears away.
But the last time we cried in public, whether that be in class, at lunch, or even at work, we cannot easily trace out. This memory is repressed because we instantly label ourselves weak for releasing a private part of our inner selves for the public to scorn.
People label their teary-eyed experiences as embarrassing because they could not hold in their feelings long enough and allow themselves to have this catharsis. But why do we continue to deny ourselves the opportunity to cry openly in front of others? Because we do not understand the benefits that await us when we do.
“Crying is more than a symptom of sadness; it’s triggered by a range of feelings—from empathy and surprise to anger and grief, [with tears being] a signal that others can see,” Mandy Oaklander of TIME Magazine said in 2016.
Because the action itself releases plenty of emotions beyond sorrow, crying permits us to openly express and match the complexity of what we are feeling at that very moment without explanation. It could be because of receiving harsh criticism from a peer or a less-than-stellar presentation, or one of the multiple other triggers that could pour out those emotions through tearful reactions.
And one of those main triggers: our overwhelming desire to be, look, and act perfect all the time.
With the cultural sweep of individuals striving to be flawless in both their private and public lives, it is tearing everyone up inside when they fail to meet those impossible standards, compiling all those emotions into a giant ball of unmanageable stress.
“The rise in perfectionism is especially troubling because it has been linked to an array of mental health issues — a meta-analysis of 284 studies found that high levels of perfectionism were correlated with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, deliberate self-harm and obsessive-compulsive disorder; this constant stress of striving to be perfect can also leave people fatigued, stressed and suffering from headaches and insomnia,” Christie Aschwanden of VOX Media said in 2018.
This consistent need to be ultimately perfect in every way, shape, and form can be mistaken for healthy strives to success within both required courses in college and the complicated office hierarchy, which threatens our abilities to actually cry, or even free our internal frustrations from forming massive cynicism through our daily lives.
Perfectionism sets impossible standards. We are setting ourselves up to fail. In addition, holding back tears also affects human connection by not allowing ourselves to be vulnerable with those who care.
With this in mind, we need to remind ourselves that we are, as human beings with shared human emotions and experiences, allowed a good cry regardless of where we may be at the moment we decide to do so. We should be granted the opportunity to do so without immediate prevention and ridicule from those around us.
The next time you feel upset at work and feel the need to cry those emotions out, do not bottle them up until you isolate yourself from the rest of the world.
Instead, if you feel your eyes welling up, calmly alert those in charge that you are still open to proper criticism, but regardless, the tears just need to come out anyway; and if you need to find a private, quiet space to let them out, that works too.
As long as you manage to realize that your tears do not define you as being weak, nor are they something to be ashamed of, and allow you to feel better about yourself because you released those feelings in a healthy manner, you can continue to keep striving to be the best in your own right.
And remember that you are not alone in your wave of feelings. Deep down, everyone around the office and beyond longs to let out a good, healthy sob — they just need to find the courage to do so.