You wanna cry or be strong? Both, actually.
We all know how pain feels. We all know those moments, when it feels as if an elephant is standing on your chest, refusing to get up. We know how it feels when we try to push it away and the sadness and anxiety that comes with it. We have all experienced it, whether we’re honest about it or not. It doesn’t matter if it’s loss, trauma, a breakup or unrequited love. It’s part of our lives. (If you already feel uncomfortable reading this – please go on, I get it, but this is exactly why I wrote this text.)
It’s part of the lives of those who never talk about it, who always seem happy, strong, and have it all figured out, as well as those who seem to cry easily. There’s no such thing as a life without negative emotions, we just deal with them differently.
I am not here to tell you what to do or how to live your life or how to solve your problems or how to deal with your sadness and pain. This is also not one of those “This is why my life was so hard and how I made it out of there and why I am good now“ stories. It’s not like I have it all figured out, nor do I think that anyone ever really does. And if I am wrong and you have, congratulations, please teach me. I firmly believe that there’s a million different approaches to dealing with the stuff life throws at you – whatever it is this time.
But I did go through a lot, and talked to a whole bunch of people about how they deal with emotions. And I made a lot of mistakes on my journey of getting better. This is why I decided to write down what I believe is true for the majority of people. It doesn’t matter if you’re a rational thinker who does not believe in emotions or if you are someone whose heart makes all the decisions. It’s all about vulnerability.
If you’re thinking about closing this page now – STOP: I know you. I’ve been you: ‘‘Vulnerability is for losers, for the weak ones, for those who don’t get their s*** together.’’ This is the mindset I spent the majority of my life with. Give me a chance to convince you to think about other approaches. Just hear me out.
I always imagined tough life phases as a bridge. This bridge holds all of the negative emotions, all of the fear, the anxiety and the excruciating pain. It seems endless at first, before stepping on it there’s no way you can even see where it leads. You don’t even bother making the first step because you’re afraid you’re not going to make it to the other side. You’re too afraid to never make it out of this pain again, especially if you can’t be sure what’s waiting on the other side. You better stay where you are, even if it’s not your best life. At least it’s comfortable and familiar. You numb your negative emotions, which feels alright, but you can’t selectively do that, so you numb the positive ones, too.
I get it. I ran from that bridge the last ten years of my life. I lost my mum when I was 16 and was basically on my own afterwards. I had to be strong. I wasn’t ever going to look where it hurt the most. I had to keep it together. Well, this did not turn out so well. (I will spare you the details, but the sum I ended up spending on therapy would’ve been way less if I had the courage to cross that bridge sooner).
The courage it takes to start dealing with your pain, to start walking on this bridge, is scary. Being on the bridge sucks. But reaching the other side feels better than you could ever imagine.
1. F* being strong
Not crying is not being strong. Not talking about the pain you’re in is not being strong. Showing no emotions whatsoever is not being strong. Always offering a shoulder to lean on but never leaning on anyone else’s is not being strong. Not ever having any sort of negative emotions is also not being strong. Not talking about your feelings is not being strong. This is being afraid.
When we tell others to be strong, what we actually mean is: don’t fall apart, don’t cry too much, don’t crumble, don’t go over there where the pain is because it will be uncomfortable for both of us. We have a hard time watching people we love suffer. We like positive emotions and we like stability. And because we cannot take vulnerability, we tell others to be strong. You’d be surprised with the bonds that form with others, once you start talking about how you really feel. Openness with your emotions can deepen existing relationships. Giving up “being strong“ and starting to express parts of what is happening inside you can be life changing. Trust me.
2. Be honest with yourself
Okay, talking about your feelings with others is a huge step. So let’s start small. Start talking and being honest about your feelings with yourself. Do you often pretend you’re fine, even if you’re not? Do you want other people to stop crying because you feel uncomfortable? Do you ever feel like crying but wouldn’t ever let it out because you’d be ashamed? Then there’s some stuff going on you should consider thinking about. Believe me, you’re not alone. The first step to getting over negative shit is to trust yourself enough to be honest about it. And I know, it’s scary, but the other side of the bridge is waiting, remember?
And how do you think your negative emotions will resolve if you’re even afraid to acknowledge them to yourself? See? It doesn’t really make sense.
You don’t have to do it all the time. Just try it out once. Try putting your feelings into words or writing them down and see where it leads you.
3. Head vs. Heart
Ah, yes, one of my favourite topics. I’ve tried it all. At first, I thought the right way to live is by being only rational, because your heart can always get hurt and that’s not what anyone could possibly want. Then it turned upside down and I was sure that the heart always knows best. Now I don’t think that any of these extremes actually work. If you decide 100% rationally then you’ll never be able to feel this authentic, honest, exhilarating happiness. But if you let your heart decide 100%, there are chances you oversee your own boundaries, boundaries that keep you from destroying yourself for others. This is not what your heart is all about. I think one of the greatest challenges in life is figuring out how much heart you can pour into your own life and your relationships, and figuring out how much you can give without losing or destroying or hurting yourself for the sake of others. Put yourself first. This is the only way you can make yourself (AND ALL THE PEOPLE YOU LOVE) happy in the long run.
4. Crying is amazing
Remember the elephant? That crushing feeling, like your heart is literally hurting, making it hard to breathe with tears finding their way from your belly up through your gut behind your eyes. But then you swallow and spend all this energy on pushing the elephant away. The worst part is over, but the feeling is still kind of following you.
This is exactly what pushing away your feelings and numbing away your pain is. This is not being honest with yourself and it is trying to be “strong“. This sucks. All these feelings start piling up, believe me. And sooner or later, you’re going to implode. Have a nervous breakdown. Have a hard time sleeping. Develop a mental illness. I am dead serious here – I’ve been there and watched many loved ones running up against this exact wall. You think it’s different with you, you don’t need to feel or to cry or to talk about it, but you do, we all do. And THIS IS OK. Negative emotions are okay. They are part of the game. We need to accept those negative emotions as we do the positive ones. So next time you feel this way, try letting one or two tears roll down to your chin and tell yourself, “Okay, this hurts. I am sad. But it’s okay.“ And see what happens.
5. PUT. YOURSELF. FIRST.
I might have already mentioned this but I’ll do it again: put yourself first. I am not talking about an egoistic or narcissistic approach. Learn to be honest about your thoughts and feelings (first to yourself, then to others). Learn to express them. Learn to listen to your gut and to trust yourself. Take care of your mental health, learn how to say no, do whatever feels right for you. Because in the end your pile of shit is going to catch you. It will, sooner or later, it will. Stop trying to run from it. Choose courage over comfort. Because only when you take care of yourself, can you figure out how to be the best version of a friend, a spouse, or a parent.
All the points I mentioned lead to one thing: authenticity. Your thoughts aligning with your feelings aligning with your words. These are the steps I learned to follow on an everyday basis. And I screw up a lot. I try being strong, numbing with drinking/working/distracting, refusing to talk with friends. But more often than not, I actually follow my own advice. And honestly, I never thought that I would actually ever feel so good about myself, my relationships, and everything that’s ahead of me. I feel an authentic, wholehearted happiness and it is genuinely the best. feeling. ever.
About the Author
What connects people most are stories, whether it’s telling a story or hearing one. It makes us understand each other and we always learn something new. This is why Amanda loves writing and has since she was a little girl. For her it’s the easiest way to express herself and to give others a piece of herself.
Born in Austria, living in Vienna since 2010, working as a Personal Trainer at Fitness Unlimited since 2016, she found her passion in helping others improve themselves, physically and mentally. You can follow Amanda on Instagram @0amandarine.