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It’s okay to cry when you need to. For too long, we have internalised this myth that crying is a weakness and something only women do.
I was going through a bad bout of depression. A friend called and I literally started howling on the phone like a school girl. She said, “I never expected this from you. I always thought you were a strong girl and look at the way you are crying.” The day my Dad passed away, a friend while consoling me said, “You are such a strong girl. Why are you crying like this?”
I agree and I am proud of the fact that my family and friends consider me a strong person. However, why is crying looked down upon as an act of weakness and not strength? The answer is – we relate crying to women and think, “women are weak and boys don’t cry because boys are strong”. SIMPLE!
Let me confess: the day my mom passed away almost twenty years back, I did not shed a single tear. I was a school girl and I wanted to stay strong in front of my family and especially my Dad. I knew that if my father saw me crying he would be broken. Therefore, I controlled my tears and pretended to be ‘strong’ even though every single cell in my body was breaking with pain. I was ashamed to cry because I considered crying an act of weakness. Here lies the biggest myth, the biggest misconception. Crying is not an act of weakness but a physiological reaction to pain. It is biological and it has got nothing to do with strength, weakness or gender. In fact, it takes immense courage to expose your vulnerability to the whole world.
For centuries we taught our boys not to cry. We taught them not to cry to stay strong. And girls like us who wanted to be strong also believed that strength equals not crying. Even though I am not a woman who starts crying at the drop of a hat, I have had my moments where I cried over silly matters. Later on, I felt ashamed of crying but now when I think back, I feel it was okay to let my emotions run free.
I remember in my first job I made a grammatical error in one of my storyboards and my boss called me and started yelling at me in front of others. I felt humiliated and tears started rolling down my cheeks. I was feeling embarrassed by my crying yet unable to control it. The same thing happened once in college. I often try to push these incidents under the carpet as I consider them my weak moments. However, those were not my weak moments but my ‘humane’ moments. Those moments showed that I am a woman who has emotions within me and at times they spill over and that is nothing to be ashamed of.
We should teach our boys that crying doesn’t make them weak or strong but crying makes them ‘human’. Crying is a gift we have to let the pain go out of our bodies. It is natural to feel pain. Crying is the first step towards compassion and empathy. To feel compassionate towards someone, you have to feel their pain. I often cry while watching movies. My husband laughs at it. However, honestly, I ‘love’ to cry during movies because that is the very basis of the performing arts, to evoke emotions within you, to lead you to catharsis.
Catharsis is the process of releasing and thereby providing relief from strong or repressed emotions. In Poetics, Aristotle used the metaphor of catharsis for the first time. He believed that a tragedy should clear our minds of all suppressed pains just like the way bad blood and pus is cleared by a doctor from a wound. While analyzing Aristotle’s Poetics F.L.Lucas said that literary tragedy helps us in purgation. “It is the human soul that is purged of its excessive passions” [ref: Lucas. F.L. Tragedy in relation to Aristotle’s poetics, p.24].
For ages, we taught our boys to be strong and girls to be ‘damsels in distress’ waiting to be saved by a man. Women like us who wanted to be ‘equal’ to men, therefore, misconstrued crying to be a ‘bad’ thing. We thought that being strong meant being ‘unemotional’. How wrong that was!
I hate it when anyone tells my son, ‘Don’t cry like a girl’. Never should ever one say this to a boy. That is how we plant the male-female binary opposites in them. How can men and women be equal if we keep thinking of them in binary opposites?
I was a tomboy and till date, I have more guy friends than girls. As I had more guy friends I always had this pressure to behave like a guy or else I would be left out of the group. Therefore I developed many so-called ‘manly’ habits. Now after completing four decades on this Earth, I realise that being vulnerable is not always a weakness, feeling pain or expressing it is not weakness; weakness is to pretend to be what you are not. Strength, therefore, lies in being able to express yourself.
First published at author’s blog.
Image via Pixabay
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