It starts from a young age. We are told not to cry, not to be a sissy and to be tough enough to hold everything in. If you do cry, you are shamed, thought of as weak, irrational or even worse— girly.
There are so many things wrong with this message.
First off, an emotional person isn’t an irrational person. We need to stop labelling people who express their emotions. There is nothing irrational about articulating one’s own feelings, even if it involves crying. These notions shame people who are experiencing emotions into hiding them, apologizing for them or justifying them. This has a negative impact on a person’s mental health because it questions their rationality in a time of vulnerability, on top of silencing their concerns.
Being called a “sissy” or a “girl” because you communicate your emotions shouldn’t be an insult.
Secondly, we need to challenge the devaluation of emotions. Unfortunately, displaying emotions is largely seen as a weakness or as something that gets in the way of “rational” judgement. On top of that, being emotional is often labelled as “girly,” and because displaying emotions is seen as irrational or weak. And by association, women are devalued. Being called a “sissy” or a “girl” because you communicate your emotions shouldn’t be an insult.
Lastly, these messages have a tremendous impact on boys. Boys, especially, are taught not to cry, but are instead encouraged to display emotions such as anger or aggression, as seen in sports or TV. This is often reinforced by telling boys to “man up” in emotional settings. This denial of boys’ emotions not only has a negative impact on their relationships, but it can have devastating effects on their mental health. Men are 3 times more likely to die of suicide than women. I wish I had the space in this blog to go in-depth about how these messages reinforces a narrow and dangerous definition of hegemonic masculinity, but the documentary The Mask You Live In does a much better job. I encourage everyone to take the time to educate themselves on this issue.
[Emotions] should be seen as a source of strength.
Now in order to address this matter, we have to stop looking at emotions as a weakness. On the contrary, they should be seen as a source of strength. Emotions are what make us human. Expressing varied emotions helps us connect with others and helps to promote positive mental health. We shouldn’t be afraid to express ourselves or to be labelled “emotional.” This can only be done by validating our feelings and those around us.
If you feel like it, cry. And don’t be ashamed to do it. It takes strength to cry, to be vulnerable, especially in front of others. When was the last time you cried or consoled someone who was going through a tough time? With finals right around the corner, take the time to tend to your mental health. Everyone needs the time and space to feel heard. Be that person that makes the time. Because you never know: it could save a life.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling or would like to know more about campus support systems, please see:
And if you are worried about a friend, a colleague or a student, please see: Helping Individuals at Risk (HIAR)
Student Voices is a WOA blog feature that presents the experiences and viewpoints of current Arts students. Through their posts, you’ll experience the creativity and passion of our students as they present glimpses into student life. The views and opinions expressed within these posts are solely those of the authors.