“We are not emotional”

What if we added “but it’s okay if we are”?

I see this theme of women arguing that we aren’t emotional in an attempt to make us “sound better”.

Well, what if we just reframe the way that we view emotions? Instead of demonizing emotions as a whole then further emphasizing that men are un-emotional (which is both untrue and detrimental), let’s just frame it differently. I fully understand why we kind of have to say that we are not emotional, because not everyone will understand the importance of the reframe, and not even everyone will understand it in general…and it’s very catchy on social media, but I still want to break this down a little bit.

Because it’s time that we allow and accept emotions. It’s time that we stop pretending we don’t have them. It’s time that we stop shoving them deep down in an attempt to appear “normal”. I generally despise when people say to “normalize” something that most people already do not have an issue with, because it’s already pretty normal…and I do think emotions are one of these things. But I want to take that normalization a level deeper, because I feel like people either have an issue with others having emotions, or issues with themselves having emotions (myself being one of them)…and both of these are issues.

Let’s embrace emotions! Let’s embrace the fact that we can feel joy, peace, happiness, anger, frustration, jealousy — all things that can help inform our decisions. I’m not saying we ought to make all decisions based on emotions — I’m saying the opposite. Of course, some emotions, like fear, might let us make split-second decisions that can save lives. But other situations might require us to do the opposite of what our emotions tell us. Pain might naturally cause us to shrink back and avoid movement — but that very movement may be the thing that helps reduce that pain. We may feel angry and threatened when someone disagrees with us — but it doesn’t mean that we’re wrong or actually threatened. We may feel jealous or sad about ourselves when someone else is recognized or earns an award, but it doesn’t mean that we aren’t worthy of good things as well.

I have written these words so many times now, but here we go again: feelings aren’t facts (they are just information), but they are important and necessary and deserve to be understood. Understanding that feelings aren’t facts is important because understanding our feelings as a whole is important, and understanding that we have emotions at all is important. It’s the whole “admitting it is the first step” thing.

As an example, I have been working with my therapist on an evidence-based way of thinking — a very fun way for me to think about things. See, whenever I’m struggling to wonder if people like me, or wondering what they think about me in general, it’s pretty easy to spiral. It’s easy for me to hop on this train of thought and ride it to the last stop (and then some) — I start to think “well, this person didn’t answer me when I texted them to hangout, so they must hate me”. And it all goes downhill from there, so it’s actually more like the brakes on the train have broken.

What I’ve had to do is slow down and ask myself — is there actual evidence that this person hates me? What has been the general pattern? I’ve also had to remind myself that generally, people do not just abruptly decide that they despise you and don’t ever want to see you again (and if they do, well hey! Isn’t that a problem in itself?). And I’ve been reminded of that over time by multiple people in my life as well.

In these situations, my emotions are not very helpful because I start to panic. But I also generally find a way out of my wandering brain, and I am able to do this because I’m more aware of my emotions than I used to be and I know how they work. While I do need to stop my emotional thoughts from getting out of control, I’ve recognized that I’m going to have emotions no matter what. So I want to set myself up for success when it comes to dealing with them. I’m not going to succeed if I pretend that I don’t have emotions. And on the flip side, I’m definitely not going to succeed if I still think that my emotions are reality.

To clarify, my emotions are my reality at that time, but it doesn’t mean they are actual…reality. As an example, comparing myself to someone else in their journey (ex. someone else gets their PhD at a much earlier age than I will, or someone else gets married and has 2 kids at an age before I even knew what I wanted to do with my life) is going to cause jealousy, assumptions of my own inadequacy, etc. I’m going to feel these things and feel down on myself, when the reality is there isn’t anything wrong with the way I am doing things. I think the desire to compare myself to others is helpful at times because it kicks my butt into gear, but more often than not, it’s a self-deprecating hole. So I try not to let it go on too long.

I do think fighting the stereotype that women are excessively emotional is necessary, because there are definitely people who believe it and it can put us at a disadvantage. But we need to tackle the problem from the root and change the way that we view emotions overall. Some of us may need to have more grace for people who they perceive to be more emotional. Others need to understand that feelings aren’t facts and that emotions aren’t the reality. And I need to do both of these things.

We are emotional, but we know how to handle it.
We are emotional, but we are better for it (not like, better compared to anything else, just that it helps us be better overall!)
We are emotional, but it’s okay.

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Jen Xu

Jen Xu

Athletic trainer, coffee lover, looking for a hobby I don’t have time for. I write about fitness, mental health, being Asian-American, and personal growth.