At a professional development seminar, a young career woman asked me something like, “How can I stop myself from crying in front of my boss?” I thought, “How sad”. I recall crying in front of a number of safe managers and supporting others as a manager myself. If I want to cry, I want to!
My daughter, who lives with disabilities, works in a wonderfully understanding environment. When her coworkers or managers see tears in her eyes they step in and give her a break. They realize that her feelings are bubbling up and affecting her ability to think clearly and act effectively. That little break lets her release, regain and bounce back.
A Good Cry Researched
The biochemist William Frey, author of Crying: The Mystery of Tears, concluded that nearly one-half of tears shed are letting go of sadness. Sometimes tears express fear, anxiety or anger and often happiness. Many of us cry until we laugh or laugh until we cry. Frey also concluded that tears, along with perspiration, urine, and exhalation rid our bodies of toxins and other waste. It is healthy to cry!
Even more, I don’t know about you, but I love to watch a classic sad movie like Beaches with Bette Midler. I enjoy becoming teary eyed.
Crying Tears Taboos
Yet, our culture has strong taboos about crying. “Don’t be a wimp!” “She couldn’t hold it together,” “You’re a cry baby,” and the famous Donald Trump line “You’re fired! Especially if you cry!” So what’s a working gal supposed to do if she has a boss who overtly or covertly enforces a crying ban?
A Side Note: The cultural taboo about crying is even stronger when it comes to males. “Boys don’t cry” let alone “Big boys don’t cry.” And if he does we are told, “He broke down.” Interestingly enough, someone wrote in response to Harvard researcher, William Pollack’s book, Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood. “You will need courage, dedication, and willingness to be seen as the local lunatic who allows his son to cry.”
Contain Your Tears . . . if needed!
So, what did I tell that career woman? I offered her some options you will see below.
Tips to Manage Crying in Unsupportive Environments:
- Breathe: If it is risky for your manager to witness tears, breathe deeply, feel your feet on the floor and look up towards the ceiling. Looking down tends to take us deeper into feelings.
- Bubble Yourself: Imagine a bubble around yourself. As you breathe in focus on strengthening your solar plexus.
These first two strategies will help you contain tears until you can take them somewhere emotionally safe.
- If you can NOT manage to contain your tears follow these steps:
- Say, “Excuse me, I will be back in five minutes.” Go have your cry, blow your nose and drink some water.
- Next, find a nourishing and safe person and/or place to have a good cry. Let it out.
- If the tears are stuck in your stomach, chest or throat, have a bubble bath, watch a tender movie, read old love letters or curl up on your sweetie’s lap. Relax until you can weep.
Whatever you do, do not swallow your tears. As my mentor, Gwendolyn Jansma said, “Better to cry on the outside than drown on the inside.”
What are your crying stories and experiences?