I was on a panel of speakers a month ago for international women’s day hosted by Lululemon, called Movement for Change. A woman in the audience was teary eyed and asked our panel of ladies, “how do you not show emotions because being emotional is a sign of weakness?” This brave young soul got up and asked her question to the whole audience although she was shy about asking, told me later in a separate conversation after the event that she was called to ask it. I told her emotions are great! Sharing your scars, rather than your open wounds, allows you to be vulnerable and through your openness will invite others to be more vulnerable as well. Then you can connect heart to heart rather than mask to mask. In this way you both can connect and inspire each other to begin having real and deeper conversations. But sharing ALL your emotions and baggage, like word vomit, just to share it, with anyone, may be too much. Only share when the person has your back and cares for you.
So, it got me thinking. Being “emotional,” although often labeled as a female thing, is actually a human thing. No one is free from emotions. Okay, maybe except those rare psychopaths. There are people who may consciously or unconsciously choose to not partake in emotions, but we all have feelings – some more sensitive than others. Our emotions and feelings are not a sign of weakness. Society has placed unfair stereotypes of what strength looks like for a man and a woman, and it’s our job to unpack the meanings of them and see if they limit us or liberate us. The stereotypical definition of strength for men is that they are supposed to be strong not weak, not supposed talk about problems but fix them and showing emotion is a sign of weakness. Women are supposed to be natural nurturers, fit and youthful, happy and quiet.
All of these rules limit who we are and how we are supposed to show up in this world.
When we can divorce ourselves from these stereotypes and societal rules, we can then comprehend we have both feminine and masculine qualities and that men and women are more similar than we are different.
Showing emotions, having deep conversations, talking through our problems, crying – these are all traits of courage. Being vulnerable is a courageous thing because not a lot of people do it. Most people hide from an uncomfortable conversation, or shove their emotions under the rug or put on a mask to portray something they’re not – does this sound courageous to you?
So my invitation to you is to check in with what stereotypes you have bought into and are these really serving you? Are they holding you back? So, take some time this week to redefine what courage means to you – what does that look like in terms of certain qualities like being vulnerable, showing emotions and how can you show up to embody them?