Owning your emotions (Or why it’s OK to be a “mess” sometimes)

Last night, I caught part of an episode of Big Bang Theory. It’s not a show I typically watch. In this episode, one character (Leonard) gets irritated with his neurotic roommate (Sheldon) for revealing a big Harry Potter spoiler, which turns into a bigger argument. During the course of it, Sheldon tells Leonard he’s been whiny lately and proceeds to hypothesize it’s because Leonard started drinking soy milk, and soy is estrogenic. In other words, Sheldon tells Leonard he’s being an emotional, whiny girl.

This is probably representative of why I’ve never gotten into the show. But I think it’s also sadly emblematic of how we’ve been socialized to view women & our emotions.

Somewhere along the way, we’ve gotten the idea that it’s somehow inappropriate to be angry or upset. That our responses are overly emotional. That we blow things out of proportion.

We can end up internalizing those perceptions.

“I know I’m probably being overly dramatic.”

“I’m sorry I’m such a basket case.”

“I am such a mess. I need to get myself together.”

We belittle our own reactions. At least I know I have.

But here’s the thing: Sometimes the drama is real. Sometimes our reactions are in perfect proportion. We may be “emotional”, but sometimes we have very damn good reasons to be. Sometimes our anger is well placed, our distress justified. Yet we tell ourselves and others that we shouldn’t be feeling this way.

Fuck that noise.

I spent a while in a relentless cycle of admonishing myself and dictating how I should be feeling. I would get angry or upset. I didn’t like those feelings, so I thought they shouldn’t be there. I’d feel guilty for feeling those things. I’d tell myself I was making more out of it than I should. I isolated myself, because those were things I shouldn’t be feeling and shouldn’t be inflicting on someone else.

Finally someone got through that haze (or maybe it was just my thick skull). I realized that those “bad” feelings didn’t come out of nowhere. Shit had happened. I had good reasons to be angry. To feel hurt. To grieve. These weren’t ridiculous emotions or stupid reactions. They were my responses to difficult things in my life.

I understand it better now. I get to feel what I’m feeling. I try not to assign connotations or apologies or diminutions. I take possession of those emotions. I check them against what I’m experiencing. And then I get to decide what I want to do with it. Maybe I need to just let it go. Maybe I need to allow myself a few hours of “self-pity”. Maybe I need a good cry. May I can use it to somehow take a step forward, to grow, to heal.

Sometimes I am a mess. Sometimes I am an emotional girl. And I’m learning, that sometimes, that’s exactly what I need to be.

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16 Responses to Owning your emotions (Or why it’s OK to be a “mess” sometimes)

  1. geeka says:

    I think that everyone deals with emotion differently, yet we fail to recognize this as a society. I, for instance, when I am angry either get very weird (i.e. I once took a shoe off and banged it on the lab bench b/c I tipped a full rack of 1.5 ml UNLABELED minipreps on myself) or I cry, and I’ve gone on record as saying that it’s because I “can’t” punch something and the emotion has to go into something physical.
    We all emote, we just do it differently. I think that the important thing is to recognize that we A) have them, B) may have them differently than someone else, and C) that they are normal.

    That being said, there are sometimes when I am unreasonably emotional, there is no need for me to cry at commercials, but I recognize this as a biological phenomenon. 🙂

    (My go-to movie for a good cry is Shopgirl.)

    • biochembelle says:

      I agree everyone expresses emotion in hir own way. But I think we often associate anger & distress as negative & inappropriate. Yet there are times, particularly when dealing w major (emotional) trauma, that these emotions are very appropriate and can perhaps even be used constructively. We should allow ourselves that. And in general, as you point out, we should understand that we will have emotions, & there’s nothing inherently good or bad about them.

  2. Klara says:

    When I’m extremely angry or frustrated, eventually I cry… That happens once a year maybe. For me, it’s not a problem, it’s a relief to let it out.. I always thought it might be a problem for those around me though and flee to a bathroom before breaking down.. Wouldn’t want to do that in front of the boss! So yeah, I think emotions are fine, they just don’t always have to show immediately.

  3. chall says:

    Emotions are scary for many, me included, especially anger and letting people know they’ve disappointed you. I totally think that the important thing is to acknowledge the emotions. Not repress them nor disregard them since that usually (imho) makes it so much worse once they really come around. Often at a bad time, which makes it even harder. That said, I’m the first to admit I try not to cry (at work and in personal relations) since somewhere in my head there are these thoughts “it’s weakness to show emotions – gives control to people”.

    I remember a conversation last year when I mentioned that in my cultural tradition it’s considered OK to cry (silently) at the funeral in the church but once outside of there usually try to keep it to yourself “stiff upper lip and all”, while a friend of mine talked about how upset their family would be if there wasn’t “loud whailing, crying and expressive emotions” inside and outside when a burial happened. (like old school Greek professional ‘griefers’/’cryers’). I guess it’s part of that “we are now civilized people who aren’t animals and therefore we can control our emotions?”. Especially when looking at it from a “workplace point of view”?

    • biochembelle says:

      It seems some of my intention was lost in writing. There is an element of knowing where we can safely express emotions. Here I meant to speak to the tendency that I (and others, I think) have to tell myself that I shouldn’t be feeling a particular way, even when I’m completely alone. I am prone to feel guilty about experience certain emotions, even when they are precisely what someone might expect in a response to a situation.

      We can choose where to let it out. But, I think, we – or at least I – have to take care not to berate myself for experiencing those emotions.

      • chall says:

        Oh. I see. Yes, I missed that part of the post, sorry. Maybe because I interpreted it in “my own head” or that I am working on acknowledging my feelings and why I feel them rather than telling myself “it’s nothing, I’m just being silly/over sensitive”.Like you say in the last sentence of your answer to me – dead on!

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  5. powerperson says:

    This was a very helpful post. I all my life suppressed all my emotions. Allways thought i was powerless or not in control if i showed my emotions. Now im finding it difficult to talk about my feelings and let it out because im scared that my friends and family will think ive cracked it. In the back of my mind i have lately had inappropriate thoughts that dominate my here and now and im scared to tell people. I have taken from this post that its ok and normal to be upset or down and the sooner i talk about it the less power it gives the thoughts. So thank you for wording it so well that i could easily understand you because it really does make sense. thankyou

  6. c says:

    Man I needed to read this. Whenever I was upset about things growing up my mom would say “oh stop being so dramatic! Get over it! Stop crying!” So now I just don’t tell anyone about how I feel because everything I feel is stupid and an over reaction. Well right now I am feeling sad and alone and I’m going to cry about it long and hard because these are MY feelings and I can do with them whatever I want.

  7. Needshelpdesperately says:

    A lot of the time when I’m going through hardship, I ball up inside until I can’t care about anything anymore. It was good to read this post.

  8. j says:

    I am 34 years old and I am such a mess emotionally. Reading this blog made me feel a bit better to know that there are others like me, but will it ever get any better? I gotta keep positive and positive.
    Since when did I become so scared of challenges and new opportunities, and since when did I stop feeling the hunger to strive for more? I used to be so fearless and just head-on with my fears, but it feels like I have to relearn to do that all over again. Is anyone out there feeling the same?

    • biochembelle says:

      I’ve definitely been there. And some days still am. It’s taken time and learning “new” ways to process and deal. I hope you find something that helps you to reach where you want to be.

  9. Anonymous says:

    i grew up in a home where we learned to “just deal with it” now as an adult i am tired of dealing with it….i want to know, No i NEED to know i’m not alone…i’m still learning how to deal with myself and getting to know ME….not the expectations of society…its a fucked up world for sure..

  10. Anonymous says:

    I grew up being told I’m too emotional. And always feeling like their was something wrong with me. And what I’ve learned is that their is nothing wrong with me. It’s everyone else that has a problem. The truth is I’m sick and tired of defending my emotions. I’ve told family members and my husband. That this is the way I am and they need to except it. End of story.

  11. Gerri says:

    I am so in this same place where my feelings for 1st time ever I am trying not to deny! Have made excuses blamed myself ect and see that now as adding to my low self esteem. No need to express to others; just fully acknowledge to myself . Likely lead back to stronger clearer; connected sense of self!

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