Whether it's because of a bad day, break up or even a sad film, nothing beats a really good cry to get all the feels out of your system. Yet, crying is often deemed a sign of weakness or fragility as opposed to a normal coping mechanism – especially among men.
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In order to help break the stigma around crying, HELLO! spoke to leading life coach and author Michelle Elman, a self-proclaimed cry-baby who believes we should all be proud criers.
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Michelle is shining a light on why we need to normalise crying and discusses how society has conditioned us to hold the tears back. Keep scrolling to discover more about the common misconceptions sbout crying, the effects of gaslighting, healthy ways to express emotion and more…
Michelle Elman is a leading life coach
What are 5 common misconceptions about crying?
1. Crying means you are weak. Crying is the ability to feel your emotions and especially when negative emotions arise, it is easier to squash them down and ignore them. To feel them and the pain that goes along with them requires strength, courage and bravery.
2. Crying means that we are sad. People can cry out of frustration, from stress or overwhelm or even because we are happy. We shouldn't assume someone's emotions simply because the tears are visible.
3. Crying is embarrassing. We get taught this as early as we get told 'don't cry' and that tears are something that should be reserved for privacy but it can actually be really comforting to let someone be there for you when you are crying. Even if all they do is hug you or hold space for you, allowing yourself to be seen in a vulnerable light can actually help heal.
A common misconception is that men do not cry
4. Only women cry. Of course this is not true, we all have emotions, we all have tear ducts and the only reason why women are seen to cry more often is because they have been given more permission societally to access their sadness, in the same way men are allowed to access their anger more readily.
The same way a crying man makes people uncomfortable, so does an angry woman. Instead we need to allow everyone to have their whole range of emotions.
5. Crying means you win the argument. Tears can be weaponised within an argument to end the conversation faster but most the time, it won't be being used manipulatively.
If you are able to recognise that their emotions are not your responsibility than you can continue the disagreement even if the person is upset. Just because one person is crying does not mean they are more upset or affected than the other.
Michelle is trying to break the stigma surrounding crying
Do you think sensitivity needs to be seen as a positive trait?
To say it is a positive trait would be a judgement, instead we need to accept that it comes with inconveniences like being more easily affected by other people's opinions and strengths like empathy, being able to read a room and generally greater self awareness.
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What do you think needs to be done to normalise crying among men?
We need to stop seeing being emotional as weak and seeing ration and logic as mutually exclusive. You can be rational and emotional at the same time. We need to understand that emotions are physical energy within our body and when we don't process them and release them in some way, they will arise in another situation, likely at a more inconvenient time and at a time out of your control.
Crying is a good sign that you're in touch with your emotions
Since with men, anger is more socially acceptable than sadness, anger is usually used to cover emotions they feel and it will leak out in more socially acceptable situations like road rage. It's not a choice between crying and not crying, it's a choice between feeling your emotions now or later.
What advice would you give to people who are gaslighted for crying/being sensitive?
If you are constantly being told you are too sensitive, it is worth asking yourself if it is simply because the people around you are not being sensitive enough.
Even if you are more sensitive and more frequent crier than the rest of the population, so what? We are all different and we are allowed to have different sensitivity levels without one person being better or worse than another. When someone tells you that you shouldn't feel a certain way, or you shouldn't be crying, set your boundaries by saying, "I am allowed to feel how I am feeling and I would appreciate it if you let me have my emotions". Your emotions are not anyone else's business.
Other ways to express your emotions include exercise and journaling
In addition to crying, what other ways to express your emotions would you recommend?
As long as it doesn't hurt yourself or anyone else, whatever way you express your emotions is a healthy way. One of the fastest ways to release emotions is by moving your body as it allows that emotional energy to release, this could be a run or dancing or even just shaking your body out.
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Some people find screaming into a pillow a release and some find punching a pillow satisfaction. People get scared of someone exhibiting aggression like that, but as long as it isn't aimed at a person, then punch away and get that energy out.
Michelle Elman is a five-board accredited life coach, boundaries expert and author of ‘The Joy Of Being Selfish’ .
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