Midweek Share: I Don’t Want to Be Tough

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My sister-in-law sent me a link to this video by Glennon Doyle on Facebook yesterday. I had never heard of her, but I was intrigued by the intro “It’s braver to be Clark Kent than it is to be Superman.” I was hooked in the first minute or so when she said she was in recovery from bulimia, alcoholism and drugs. Here’s another woman – attractive, articulate and vulnerable – coming clean to the world.

A friend of mine asked me the other day why I was compelled to put my stuff on the internet. After I first went into a mini-spiral of shame, she backed up and said she didn’t mean it that way. She was just curious as to what motivated me to write such personal stuff on the web. I told her that I wanted to make sure people know that I wasn’t perfect, and they don’t need to be either. After all, I have heard all of my life how “together” I was. You are always so put together is a common compliment that I’ve heard all of my adult life. Thank perfectionism for that. It’s not who I really am. I am not put together at all. And, even though my inner self is dying to become put together and would literally wither and die from shame before admitting I wasn’t, I don’t want to appear put together. That’s why I bare my soul on the internet. I want people to know the real me … not the fantasy me.

I was in a shame spiral today, and I had a heated discussion with a co-worker over a mistake I made. It didn’t take much to put me over the edge, and I fell apart. Then, of course, I felt horrible shame about falling apart at work. “I want you to be tough because you are really good at what you do. I’m going to challenge you.” my co-worker said. It frustrated him that I was crying. I HATE it when I cry at work. It’s embarrassing. It’s inappropriate. It’s not tough. I was tough for the first 40ish years of my life. I felt nothing but anger. Punch me, and I’d punch back. I love Glennon’s description of recovery being like coming out of frostbite. All of those feelings that I didn’t feel when I was tough came to the surface. It took me two years to get my footing emotionally and to feel my way through the bottled up stuff that I had created with my tough exterior.

When I was in my 20s, I read a book called The Highly Sensitive Person. I suspected that I was very sensitive. It would be another 20 years before I stopped self-medicating long enough to really see how sensitive I am. I, like Glennon, have very high highs and very low lows in my emotional makeup. I am highly emotionally charged. I am sensitive. My ex used to tell me I was too sensitive. I’ll own that. I’d just take out the word “too”. I am sensitive, and that’s who I am. There may be days and situations where I’m tough, but, for the most part, I’m not. Some days I’m 8 years old. Some days, I’m 52. Today I was 8. And an 8 year old doesn’t navigate Corporate America very well.

I had a retreatment on a root canal this week, and they gave me a prescription for some painkillers. I knew I wouldn’t take any. I am tough physically. I ran 26.2 miles. I never take painkillers. They always sit on my shelf in my bathroom until they expire. I don’t even take ibuprofen anymore. Every time I take one I have to buy a new package because the old one expired. But, I do feel emotional pain really forcefully. I also feel love really deeply. I wish they had painkillers for emotional pain. That might be beneficial for me. I take that back .. for me, that’s called alcohol, shopping, sugar, and busyness. None of it was beneficial. I’ll just feel my emotions, thank you very much. A relative recently told me that I had a really kind and compassionate heart. She said that she knew that it really bothered me that I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve. She wisely reminded me that you can’t have one without the other. “Don’t let it bother you,” she said. “It’s a gift.”

4 thoughts on “Midweek Share: I Don’t Want to Be Tough

  1. Thanks for this posting. Two and a half years ago I learned to cry again, after abstaining completely for at least 20 years. However, truth be told, it was something I rarely did my whole life. It feels unnatural to allow myself to just truly feel my feelings, to let out my true emotions. I had lots of capes to take off, put there by myself and some layered on from my childhood. I was beginning to think, perhaps, I was wrong to let go of these emotions and allow myself to cry, whenever those overly positive and negative welled up emotions just came spilling out. However, this posting convinced me that it really is okay to feel my true feelings and accept them for what they really are.

    • I love my tears. I just wish I could control them a little more. But, when I have to cry, they force their way out. Good for you for learning to cry!

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