I had a Bloody Good Cry yesterday. A 'BGC', if you will. My friends will tell you that I am a pretty good crier. A sweepstake was taken at my wedding to see how long it took before I welled up (I confounded the lot of them by not shedding a single tear on the day and then bawling like a baby a week later on honeymoon when we renewed our vows with Elvis in Vegas. Go figure.) I cry for many reasons - hormones, tiredness, frustration, happiness, acts of kindness. I used to be ashamed of it. It isn't good to cry, so society will tell you. Big girls don't. Babies do. It's weak, unprofessional, manipulative, selfish, makes other people feel bad and you look bad. So many reasons to bottle it up, keep a stiff upper lip.
But these days I am not ashamed of it, and here's why:
Crying is one of your body's ways of getting rid of chemicals that you don't need, and generating those that make you feel better. When you have a BGC you shed hormones and chemicals that make you feel bad and are terrible for your health. Not least cortisol, the stress hormone, the one some of you will know I am not a fan of. Of course, the preferable thing is not to get stressed. But everyone gets stressed. Everyone. The Dalai Llama, people on Instagram who type #blessed after every post, the Duchess of Cambridge, everyone. Those who say they don't are big fat liars.
Last week I had a pretty stressful week. No big event, nothing significant. Hard work, greater than optimum amounts of crap to shovel, greater than optimum amounts of travel, less than optimum amounts of sleep. Some worrying news, bad traffic, a front garden that needs weeding, three loos that need cleaning, copious amounts of laundry that refuses to wash itself, a study that refuses to redecorate itself and a 10 year old Goddaughter's birthday party completely forgotten amongst the maelstrom listed above.
So I had a Bloody Good Cry. I washed out the frustration, the tenseness, the guilt, the tiredness. I freaked out the husband and the cat but they'll recover. I expelled as much cortisol as my little eyes would let me. It felt good, calmed me down and rid my body of a degenerative toxin. Win.
Women and children cry. Its hysterical, emotional, irrational. Girls cry. Don't be a girl. Men don't cry. I'm convinced that one of the reasons that crying is so frowned upon is that it is inextricably linked to the 'weaker' sex. After all, it's as fundamental a human function as breathing, evolved over thousands of years to regulate our systems and protect us from stress. It is good for us. Yet it's frowned upon. And I think its frowned upon because women do it more. So, like hugging and talking about how you feel (two other things that women do more of and that are scientifically proven to be good for your health) we belittle it. If we do it at work, we are unprofessional. If we do it in public we are causing a scene. For a woman to do it just proves how they aren't up to the job. For a man to do it is the beginning of the end. It's more acceptable to hit someone or yell at them than it is to cry. Those two are masculine. Crying is feminine. Ergo, unashamedly owning your crying is a feminist statement. Eat your heart out Pankhurst.
It's my job
This is the main reason I'm more open about my propensity for tears recently. It takes the pressure off other people. In a leadership role you occasionally come face to face with people who either need or are in the midst of a BGC. They always apologise. Always. And I always tell them not to and mean it. If someone's body feels that the best thing for them in that moment is a Bloody Good Cry, then why would I stand in the way of that? If I know that cortisol impairs both immunity and cognitive function, and crying reduces cortisol, why would I turn down the opportunity to facilitate that little bit of neurochemical magic? A healthier team, who think better? Yes please.
So, if my team see me cry I am OK with it. I know that I'm not meant to be. I'm meant to role model emotional stability, impenetrability, levels of self-control and resilience for them to aspire to. But I don't see crying as contrary to resilience or emotional stability - for the reasons I've listed above. I see showing honest emotion myself as one of my ways of telling the people I lead that emotions are OK. They're normal. They are what make humans human. They keep us alive. And an alive team is infinitely more preferable to the alternatives. If I think someone needs a bloody good cry, sleep, meal or holiday I will encourage that. Because it's my job. Ensuring that they are taking care of themselves at the basic level is the very least I should be doing. A Bloody Good Cry; Its Bloody Good for Business. You heard it here first.