My manager looked in my eyes eyes and thought she was handing me a gift. “This is a company where we make ourselves vulnerable. It’s a safe space and I want you to know you can be open with your feelings here. It’s a different kind of workplace.” I’m sure she believed this–that her brand was different from the rest. A place where she could feel embraced for being open and emotional with her managers. It was the kind of statement I wanted to believe, the kind of line that seemed too good to be true. I steeled myself, worried I’d seem ungrateful. “I know you think that you’re helping me to acclimatize sooner but I’m not a vulnerable person,” I told her.
I’ve read too many articles debating whether or not women should cry in the workplace. One of my favorite assertions came from a CEO who said whenever she started to get emotional in meetings she would stop to tell colleagues that she cries when she is frustrated or angry as this was the result of her dissatisfaction with their work. I suffer from the same problem. I become overwhelmed when I’m the subject of harassment, belittled or undermined in my company. Crying in public is the pinnacle of humiliation.
I don’t hold the same regard for when staff members cry in the workplace. I’m a strong advocate of the open door policy and it’s ridiculous to think that our personal lives don’t bleed into our careers from time to time. Yet there are circumstances where tears are appropriate, just like there are moments where it’s best to keep your feelings under wraps. Sometimes becoming emotional is unavoidable. It’s still imperative to be selective to who we show our true feelings to and who is kept in the dark about what’s troubling our minds.
I’ve heard it both ways where I struggle to know exactly how I’m expected to react when faced with a public audience. Naturally I’m a private person who believes in living a private life. I don’t care for social media outside of work or with propagating an image of myself onto the world that feels false. I do speak my mind however. Mostly when faced with injustice when the moment is hot to strike. If I’m unhappy, frustrated or enraged it’s written all over my face. All you have to do is ask for the the biting caustic syntax to spill from my mouth. I give my opinion freely; as I get older with more trepidation but still grounded in my own beliefs. It’s safe to say my opinion, like most others, isn’t always welcomed or appreciated.
Showing that I care through assertively pushing forth my views in no way prepares me for intimately demonstrating my feelings to those close to me. I become a feeder where I push food, cups of coffee or tea on unassuming individuals. I prepare large meals turning into a fifties housewife prototype offering to mend buttons or run errands to ease the lives of those around me. Telling others how much I appreciate or care about them makes me feel foolish so I overcompensate in everything else. Of course this has backfired more than once where I get taken advantage of now and then, but if it’s the only way to show I care then somehow it seems worth it in the end.
I think about all the people I’ve known who I never had the chance to show how much they meant to me and the missed opportunity I’ve had to make those declarations unreservedly. It’s all hypothetical but it keeps me up at night wondering where they are and what we might be doing together had I been more aware of their presence when they had been around. Now I try to recognize moments of significance that need to be commemorated. If it makes me uncomfortable I push myself away from acting as a impenetrable force towards making the effort to manifest the love or friendship I feel into something substantial.
People deserve to know their worth. It goes both ways. Bigots don’t deserve second chances and too often the self-sacrificing get overlooked. My low tolerance to deal with poor behavior as if it’s acceptable has led to hot water. Claims that I should be more accommodating have left me with no place to put my disdain leaving me confused as to how I’m expected to stand by the side idly while being pushed around by others. They look at me and see stubbornness. I look at them and I see cowards.
For so long people were told to hide their emotions. Be guarded and discerning to get ahead where any sign of weakness was evidence of an inability to lead effectively. Especially for women. We’ve been conditioned to think of ourselves in society as nurturers, as mothers that take care of family-not people in positions of power who make the difficult choices to get us by. Society is shifting. Being vulnerable and open are desired qualities that are celebrated. How to reconcile both expectations–that I should be forthcoming and emotional while also being competitively focused on my work internally drives me insane. There’s hardly ever a balance that I can speak to without letting others onto personal stresses or anxieties that I’d rather keep to myself. Knowing the amount to reveal each time to certain people that I can trust is a tightrope act with only a prized handful hearing my true thoughts blatantly come out of the woodwork without invitation.
It’s important to show that we care when we might not have another chance to demonstrate how we feel. When we are up against ignorance and faced with letting others spread ideologies that promote hate. We should show we care in whatever way allows us to feel that we’re doing justice to our emotions. There’s a hundred and one ways to be kind so we’re not lost for ideas on how to make the world a better place through our actions. By the same token we need to cast aside the notion that we all have the same priorities and agenda. We won’t all value the same achievements or milestones. We can’t possibly be expected to all want the same things or find pride in the same work that others do. We’re built to strive with a hunger towards our own goals, no matter how they’ve been conditioned within us, and if we don’t care for something we need to move on before those negative feelings eat us alive.
Take today to make one person feel your appreciation. If it’s family or a friend write a note, bring them lunch, or surprise them with something they love after work. If it’s a colleague make them know how much you value them in your career path and how they support you in the office. Take another minute sometime today to be honest and put your needs over someone else (within reason, I don’t want to cause an uprising). Not only because you’re not the Giving Tree, but you are worthy of the chance to put yourself first once in a while. Try to mark the difference between caring and not caring to live in the middle where there’s a happy medium to just be yourself.