On Brain Chemistry and Self Imposed Impossible Standards

This post will centre around two big points of my current existence: the legitimacy of crying, and my need to not feel stupid.

It has been pointed out to me that I have a negative connotation when it comes to crying. Until this was pointed out, I didn’t realize people could feel positively about crying. I have always wanted to either a) hide my crying from every other human being, or preferably b) suppress crying all together because I hate doing it. I have always thought that if I am crying, it means I am weak. It means that I am not good enough. The perplexing thing is that I don’t hold anyone but myself to this standard. If someone I know (or even don’t know) is crying, I don’t feel any embarrassment or shame for them (like I would for myself). I have compassion for others, but not for myself.

Added to this complicated way of living is the fact that sometimes, during the winter climate, when I walk outside, I instantly want to cry. I am extremely displeased by this, because I don’t view “I want to cry because my body hates that it is winter and I have terrible Seasonal Affected Disorder side effects” as a legitimate reason to cry. It takes a large amount of energy to suppress this want to cry so that people do not see this illegitimate need on my face. It is exhausting, and it makes me want to not leave my bed, let alone my house, but I get up, regardless, because I don’t want anyone to know that I feel so wrong.

Wouldn’t it be more of a show of strength to just cry when I need to? This line of thought was proposed to me, and I would love to fully accept this premise but feel a blockage due to my long-standing phobia of me – and just me – crying. I have always associated crying with not being strong. I fear the reactions of people seeing me cry. I fear them knowing that the reason I am crying is stupid.

That leads me onto the next subject – my overwhelming need to not feel stupid. I am intelligent and I want to keep that a fact, so anything that threatens that title feels like a personal attack on me as a good human being. I have many things to offer (I’m sure of this, even if I have trouble identifying these things) but my brain power is a skill that I focus on because it is a trait that is seen as being valuable and attractive for people to possess. It is because of its status as an attractive skill that I can hone it with endless learning while staying true to myself. I find it in great juxtaposition to the attractive quality of beauty, in which I do not classically score as high (but only in the sense of classically good looks). Although intelligence can be seamlessly enhanced through learning, beauty – when not given as a genetic gift – is so often manipulated into culturally accepted manifestations and not “true”. There are two different ways to look at beauty – being pretty (the state that can be physically manipulated) and being beautiful (the state of being your wonderful self).

I struggle with the idea of feeling pretty versus the fact that just by being myself, I am beautiful. I see beauty in being true to myself. I know that I am beautiful. When I feel like crying because it happens to be a certain season, I don’t feel pretty. I don’t feel I am classically pretty – although I do clean up nicely – and I also don’t feel like I should have to alter my appearance to be accepted as pretty. When I don’t feel pretty, I struggle to find my own beauty, which is something entirely different and yet commonly thought to be linked.

Since season change doesn’t seem legitimate in my mind as a reason to cry, my brain tries to come up with reasons from my life as to why I should be feeling like crying, which results in massive blows to my self-esteem and some very detrimental lines of thought. I think of classic reasons for people to be upset – such as reasons of not being loved by a partner or failing at something important, and take on those mindsets. I still don’t allow myself to cry, but at least now my reason doesn’t seem stupid; unfortunately it comes at the cost of now being terribly upset that I’ll never fall in love, get married and have children because I have failed in some important aspect of my life (for example; the so-called legitimate reasons for sorrow change day by day, but if I don’t deal with them and identify that they are crap my brain invented as a way to process an odd chemical reaction, then I get incredibly depressed).

I am working on identifying them and changing the story I am telling myself, but it is hard. I don’t choose, for the most part (at least during this annual chemical imbalance) to see myself as a negative being. My want is to be better, because I know I can be, which is part of why I am hard on myself. I need to figure out the rest of why I am hard on myself and cut that shit out. It is not serving me. There has to be a way to motivate myself to continue to improve without making myself feel like I am horrible and somehow should seek redemption.

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2 thoughts on “On Brain Chemistry and Self Imposed Impossible Standards

  1. Crying can be cathartic for many people – a way to visibly and almost literally rinse out some of the bad feelings from your body. Even though you’re writing about not crying as being a problem you’re also signalling that you (still) think it’s a weakness to cry. I don’t think that’s something that’s going to change easily…

    So have you thought about maybe shifting things around a bit, to put yourself into a scenario where it would be okay to cry? I barely ever cry myself, partly for the same reasons as you, partly because of reason I don’t quite know myself – But one thing that, pretty much without fail can make me tear up is: Disney movies. No, not those, the animated movies. And no, not really the Pixar ones either (I do enjoy them though), but stuff like the Lion King and whatnot.

    I’ve come to embrace that as just this illogical thing that I do, and I’m okay with that. It’s one of those situations where, in my brain, it’s okay to tear up. Maybe you can find a trigger like that? A scenario where it would okay – I know that it’s just transferring it onto something else, but it’s a softer start to being okay with crying than the fundamental change in approach that you’re mentioning.

    • Dan, this is an amazing suggestion. I will look for something like this for myself. I know that cathartic crying feels amazing, but I’ve almost always had trouble setting up a situation in which I cry and feel supported while doin so.

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