The other day I cried so hard in front of a group of people someone asked me if I was going to throw up. And then I couldn’t respond because I was crying so hard, so it looked like I was. That’s the thing with crying, how do people expect you to cry and talk at the same time? It’s like sneezing and driving. That’s how accidents happen.
Regardless—I thought I had truly embarrassed myself in front of these friends. Oh look, there’s Ali, that psycho who can’t keep it together. I had no intention of ever seeing them again until I got a call thanking me. Thanking me for the first time in my life, showing some semblance of vulnerability and emotion.
In person, I always want to give the allusion of fine-ness. If you were to ask me how I am doing, I will without a doubt say that I am “doing ok” or “great” because those are the socially accepted answers I’ve been told. I put on an outfit and I smile through life and I repeat “everything’s okay!” like a Stepford Wife when, in reality, I do feel broken. Vacant. Sad. Angry. Entitled. Depressed.
But then one day it eventually all bubbles over. And someone says something that inspires me or makes me nostalgic or frustrates me or I stub my toe or bang my elbow or a song reminds me of an ex or my pants are too tight and I think it’s about those things but really it’s about none of them, it’s about me holding in all my emotions for so long, and I cry, inconsolably, at a dinner party.
And people loved it.
Here’s the thing. We aren’t robots. And we aren’t zombies (HAPPY ALMOST HALLOWEEN.) We are living, breathing, human beings who are affected by things, who have opinions, feelings, memories, and reactions. Why was I afraid to be sad?
In an effort to be likable and connect to others, I was withholding the one thing that made me easy to connect to: my emotions and humanity. The best way to relate to others is to be relatable, and in order to be relatable you have to seem human. And humans are not perfect.
Why are we so afraid to be imperfect, to get down and dirty and maybe even “ugly” cry?
Think about the things in life you are drawn to. Most likely, they are a little bit imperfect and a whole lot vulnerable. Our favorite songs speak to us because they are honest and often painstakingly so. Our favorite comedians make us laugh because they poke fun at situations we’ve been through that are painful. We watch our favorite shows because they recreate situations we’ve been through. We like people who open up to us and are candid with their feelings. We are attracted to things that are honest.
Does our generation have a fear of exposing our truest selves? We cover everything from our faces to fish tacos with a filter. We choose our soul mates by swiping—based on attractiveness alone. We may just be putting up appearances instead of putting down our guards. In an age in which it’s easiest to connect with others (through social media,) are we really even connecting at all, or are we just branding ourselves into oblivion until we can sell the most perfect version of ourselves?
Don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s okay to make mistakes. But one thing I’ve learned is it’s important not to seek them out, flaunt them, use them as bragging rights or badges of honor. Try to turn that embarrassing moment into a learning experience (like the time I cried at a dinner party, or the time I said I was the voice of quarter-life struggle while on a discussion panel.) Turn a difficult experience into an opportunity for growth by asking yourself:
- What have I learned?
- What can I do next time to change the outcome?
So, I challenge you (and myself) to be fully and utterly you, whatever that means. Disclose your fears. Talk about your past. Be honest with others and yourself. Don’t wear makeup. Let your hair dry naturally. Compliment a stranger without feeling weird about it. Cry in front of your friends, or help a friend who is crying. Be positive and overcome whatever it is that you’re going through. You might be surprised at how people react.
It’s only good things from here.