As I transition into adulthood, I’ve found myself more and more in uncomfortable situations in which I am forced to grapple with unsolicited opinions about my personhood as a woman of color, my progressive values and ethics, and especially my future career as a public interest lawyer. Most of the time it comes from well-intentioned relatives, challenging professors, or unimportant strangers, and I’m capable of taking the comments with a grain of salt and enduring the criticism with a smile. But just because I can does not mean I have to.
Recently I’ve been told, multiple times, that I cannot cry because I cannot show weakness. But I disagree. Crying is not a sign of weakness. Being sensitive is not a sign of weakness. Bottling up your emotions is not a sign of strength. Masking your anger and frustration to spare others’ feelings is not a sign of strength.
To say that we cannot show weakness is insulting to our very nature. Nothing in this world was created to weather every storm, and we are no exception.
For children, crying is expected. They eventually learn to cope with the stressors that would have caused them emotional turmoil before, but there will inevitably be days when they will feel the need to cry again. At what age does that suddenly become an unacceptable character flaw? At what age does emotional vulnerability become equated with fragility instead of natural instinct?
Sure, there are times when I wish I wasn’t so sensitive—when I wish I could just hold back my tears and put on a brave face. But being sensitive has allowed me to be observant, self-reflective and self-aware. To be creative (and write this post in the first place). To connect with my ancestors. To find joy in the smallest moments. And most of all, being sensitive has allowed me to be empathetic to others and let that empathy guide me in my personal relationships as well as my profession. For that, I am thankful to be sensitive.