Why do we hide our struggle?

You got to work this morning and, for some reason, could do nothing but stare at your screen for the first five minutes of your workday. You then went up to grab some coffee from the other room, but when you got back to your desk, you felt only marginally better. Slowly, but surely, you’re reaching a point of indifferent numbness. Every problem in your life – your father’s sickness, your mounting credit card debt, your failing relationship, and whatever else there may be – came crashing down on you last night as you tried to sleep. But now, searing mental anguish has melted into a calm indifference.

Why? Because you’re forcing it to.

“You okay?” a coworker asks as she peeps into your cube. She may or may not be legitimately concerned about your well-being, but you’re not going to dignify her question with a proper answer anyway. To do so, you believe, would be inappropriate.

“Oh yeah, I’m good,” you answer. It’s always some variant of that. “Fine” is another common one. It’s never the opposite.

And so, it’s back to work you go.

We are expected to not only hide our emotions, but prevent them from slowing us down or affecting our daily obligations in any way. Displaying emotion is a sign of over-vulnerability and acting on them is a sign of brashness, they say. We are to never cry in public. We have to “act normal” around people we meet for the first time, even if we are having the worst day (nay, year) of our lives. We are never, under any circumstances, allowed to admit that we are taking a day off of work due to anxiety or depression. Such acts exemplify weakness, or at least that is the position our society has taken.

Is this real weakness, though?

The best connections I have are with those whom I’ve seen at the bottom of the abyss. Those who have laid their hot, tear-stained cheeks against mine. Those who have just been embarrassed in front of a huge crowd during a presentation. Those who I’ve seen reading a text message and promptly throwing their phone against a wall after witnessing a partner’s textual indiscretions. Those who have had to swallow and stutter in between every word to tell me a story about their past. Their struggle wasn’t concealed – it was on display for me to see, absorb, and practically experience second-hand.

To me, completing or witnessing these acts means that you’ve reached the pinnacle of human connection with someone: exposure of the raw self. If someone is willing to show you their innermost thoughts in action, it is very likely that you are one of the most important people in their life. It takes more bravery to convey this self to someone than to do almost anything else on an emotional level.

Of course, I fully understand that there is a time and place to express certain emotions, and that there are definitely times where the intensity of the expression can afford to be dialed down a bit. But I’m one of the crazy ones who prefers a world where authenticity trumps all. Am I alone in this? I would love to hear what my readers think about this subject. Let’s come up with a good discussion in the comments below!

Can’t wait to hear from you,

-H