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In defense of the crybaby

By PATRICIA MANARANG, The Philippine STAR Published Jan 22, 2021 5:00 am Updated Jan 22, 2021 5:31 pm

I’m the first person to call myself a crybaby. I can cry over anything and everything: a sappy commercial that hits a little too close to home, a heartwarming story from a complete stranger on the internet, or even seeing someone else cry.

It’s actually a happy (maybe kind of sad) coincidence that I sobbed to the point of hiccupping before sitting down and writing this article. I used to consider crying too much my greatest weakness, so whenever I felt the tears fall I would mentally scold myself for allowing them to. The big bad world out there would (un)kindly remind me so often of how frowned upon this was.

It’s insane how many times I’ve heard “Stop crying” growing up. It didn’t help that my self-defense method was to cry. Every argument or misunderstanding I had with my parents would result in me drowning in tears, even if I meant to just explain myself calmly. It felt like I was losing a fight, that the act of crying was like waving a white flag and admitting that I was in the wrong. These moments told me that I couldn’t be strong and a serial crier at the same time.   

I’ve learned how to suck it up, although I wasn’t very good at it. It was ingrained in me that feelings of despair were only reserved for truly devastating moments, like a death or something to that degree. Sadness wasn’t something I should be feeling on a normal day, something I wasn’t allowed to hold in me. How could it be, when I should be happy and grateful for what I have? 

Now, though, I realize that maybe being a crybaby isn’t that awful. After numerous unsuccessful attempts at trying to damper this part of me down, I’ve started recognizing all the positives that come with it, and how I’ve been using it to cope with my troubles.

Instead of dwelling too much on the hurt, crying allows me to keep it in a certain timeframe. Crying has become my first response to setbacks; I see the problem then let the emotions wash over me immediately. I’ll be out of commission for at least five minutes to one hour at the most. After that, I’m able to push aside the feelings to try and analyze what to do next.

Once, I failed a huge exam that made up a large part of my overall grade. Doing horribly on it was like basically sealing my fate. I mourned for future-me for a couple of minutes, enabling myself to wallow in self-pity and regret. I thought of worst-case scenarios and how this would affect the trajectory of my academic career. After berating myself, I stopped crying and muttered, “Okay, but what now?” Realizing I still had the opportunity to take a remedial exam, I was able to clear my head and start planning on how to salvage my final marks.

It takes guts to admit that you need to cry, and most of the time vulnerability is a difficult thing to show. In a world where too much positive thinking can get toxic and resiliency is associated with forcing ourselves to trudge through hardships with a smile, it’s okay to acknowledge when things are getting bad sometimes. 

We tend to see someone who cries a lot as unable to control themselves or how they react to things. I like to see it as being able to have authority over my actions.  

It’s a great stress-reliever too. I find that trying to keep everything in while going through something is actually much more stressful than just letting it out in the first place. I had conditioned myself, for a brief time, to be more “objective.” Wanting to think before I feel, I took to barreling through the many school responsibilities I had plus other extracurricular ventures in college without stopping to take a breath.

I wanted to just cry out because of how overwhelmed I was, but I had convinced myself that I didn’t have the time to. It was only after a friend had pulled me aside — a quick “Are you okay?” between classes — when I realized maybe I wasn’t. Then and there, I let loose. After apologizing for crying, she told me that there was nothing to be sorry for, and that I was hurting myself more by holding myself back. “If crying helps you deal with all the stress, then why stop?” 

Yes, it’s important to know how to hold yourself together, especially during moments that might require you to deal with things right away, but it’s all too tempting to “act strong” even when you’re alone. Emotional tears could possibly come with health benefits. Some studies suggest that crying has a self-soothing effect, and that it might even help release stress hormones. Repressing isn’t healthy in the long run, and if we keep hiding our thoughts and feelings away then that could all come crashing down when the buildup gets too heavy.

Whenever something sets off the waterworks, I try to assess afterward what prompted me to start crying. Was it a buildup of things, a result of too much stress and me being too busy to notice my deteriorating mental health? Was it because of something touchy that I brushed off because I said it didn’t bother me, but it ended up just simmering quietly under my skin?

Crying has helped me become more in touch with my emotions and figure out what makes me sad or happy. The things that are important to me come to the surface, and I’m able to understand myself a little bit more. It’s a small way to keep tabs on myself, knowing what affects me can help in cataloging my thoughts. It’s like I’m also preparing myself for future emotions, so I know what to expect and how to adapt. When feelings start to get more complex, I’m comforted by the fact that I have some slight experience with navigating through them.

I stand by the saying that crying is not a sign of weakness. It takes guts to admit that you need to cry, and most of the time vulnerability is a difficult thing to show. In a world where too much positive thinking can get toxic and resiliency is associated with forcing ourselves to trudge through hardships with a smile, it’s okay to acknowledge when things are getting bad sometimes. 

When my friends start apologizing over the phone for shedding tears over academics or problems at home, the first thing I tell them is to just pour it all out. Let yourself feel, don’t be afraid of your own heart. Face it: we could all use a good cry these days.

Banner and thumbnail photo art by Hannah Rey