Be honest: How often have you cried openly at work? We’ve all been there. As for myself, it’s happened more than once. It’s more common than you think – don’t think that the broski sitting next to you hasn’t shed a tear once or twice in his lifetime, too! There are benefits of a good sob fest. The answers to your most pressing problems might be flowing from your tears when you develop the awareness to recognize their meaning.
Up until recently, crying has been perceived as a sign of vulnerability and weakness, but when used wisely, you can use your sensitivity as a radar for picking up on the subtle nuances when something isn’t right. Tears are like the warning bells that trigger negative emotional invaders who are trying to hack their way into your mood. They serve as a barometer to identify the problem and to fix it.
Cry now, slay later
Let’s break down the crying process. Why do we cry? According to WebMD, emotional tears are real: “These arise from strong emotions. Empathy, compassion, physical pain, attachment pain, and moral and sentimental emotions can trigger these tears. They communicate your emotions to others.” You are; therefore you feel.
Emotional tears are a sign of vulnerability, a key ingredient for building meaningful relationships. Crying connects people to a common goal and allows others to be empathetic or compassionate to your cause. According to medical professionals, emotional tears contain more stress hormones and natural painkillers than other types of tears, serving a therapeutic role. Hence, the term "a good cry".
According to a study by Tilburg University in the Netherlands, statistically, women in the US reported a crying frequency (ECF) of 2.7 times during the previous month while men cried only once. Sure, we cry more, but men cry, too – just not as often, perhaps.
Although crying can mean many things, in my case, it stemmed from a feeling of excessive guilt and worthlessness of never being good enough to reach the pinnacle mirage of excellence. I came to understand that I became my own worst enemy by holding myself prisoner to impossibly high standards and it was making me miserable.
From workplace cry fest to business success
I first tapped into the power of my emotions when I worked as an Investment Advisor for one of the largest financial institutions in Canada. At first, I was super happy at the opportunity to build up a fruitful and stable wealth practice because I knew how to invest in the stock market and I couldn’t wait to show clients how to make their money work for them. I even remember patting myself on the back and saying: “Yeah girl, you made it! Finally!”
A couple of years in, after meeting impossibly high targets and feeling on top of the world, I hit a roadblock: The anti-spam legislation came into effect and our firm’s army of lawyers legislated a system that made it nearly impossible to email out prospect emails that I relied on for lead generation.
I got really good at writing engaging emails to business owners - most of whom were men. I inspired them to take action towards their financial wellbeing and they liked what I wrote. They would often respond to my requests for a conversation, eventually becoming clients. Showing compassion was my secret ammunition to drawing in business, but when outside barriers were installed, my business-attracting methods dried up and I was unable to reach my targets, leading to guilt and a feeling of inadequacy of not being able to maintain my stellar track record. Defeated, I cried and felt mortified by my tears and then I felt guilty for being such a wimp.
You see, I worked in a place where there were really high targets to bring in business. Most failed at this job which made me feel special. At first, I was able to achieve them, but when I didn’t, instead of attributing blame to the root cause, I blamed myself for not being “good enough” to maintain my level of output. My failure invoked the dreaded sob-fest.
I had a lot of questions for my tears and out of desperation to make them go away, I finally understood their role when I read a book called: “Emotional Agility”, written by renowned psychologist Susan David. She found that no matter how intelligent or creative people are, or what type of personality they have, it is how they navigate their inner world - their thoughts, feelings, and self-talk-that ultimately determines how successful they will become.
In other words, if you don’t acknowledge your feelings and listen to what they are trying to tell you, it could lead to epic failure – the very feeling you are trying to avoid. Eek!
Change begins from within. After reading this book, I developed a process for identifying the triggers that were preventing my success and that led to me crying in my workplace and that started by confronting my worst enemy and greatest bully: me. This was the reality: I was a micromanaging mean-girl boss and I was void of compassion for myself.
Traditional settings were always challenging for me after a while because I became frustrated with redundant processes and I knew this. Being one to contemplate the future, I foresaw the impact technology had all around me and feared becoming obsolete and this was a major pain point in my career that I was intent on ignoring. My intuition was trying to warn me of the danger.
I was confined to an analogue cage that prevented me from my success but my imagination came alive and I got sparks of joy thinking of ways to fix it. Curiosity around the problem helped to move me forward and I knew instinctively that I needed to take action.
By labelling the problem for what it was, frustrations with the technology and a horrible boss, I was able to confront my struggles face-to-face and come up with a solution to move me forward and stop the onslaught of tears. In essence, I learned to accept the emotion and let go of controlling factors that were not correlated with my own level of skills or abilities. Instead, I reflected from within, developed self-compassion and embraced the discomfort. I internalised the message my feelings were trying to convey and found a way to adapt my learnings to my reality.
Take a break and see the forest for the trees
The original English proverb is by writer John Heywood and it goes, “I see, ye can not see the wood for the trees.” What this means, is that you get lost in the details and fall apart, losing sight of the grand vision. John came up with this beauty of an expression in 1546 - so don’t feel bad. Problems are centuries old.
Sometimes, you just need to get away from it all…literally.
Whenever I felt stuck, going into nature and seeing water and smelling the trees, the water and the wind always managed to invigorate my senses. It turns out that this is a common practice called “foresting”. According to Harvard Medical School, “foresting” or shinrin-yoku started in Japan in response to a rise in stress-related illnesses linked to the increased use of technology in the 1980s.
When you leave and experience some forest therapy, you breathe in volatile essential oils called phytoncides that are given off by trees, reducing the antimicrobial properties that may enhance immunity and inflammatory frustrations brought on by corporate environments.
When I left for a new brokerage that let me write my emails again, I had to deal with a whole other bunch of tech-averse people who were very afraid of the internet and social media of any kind. They discouraged me from marketing online because according to them, people with money didn’t use the internet. I was shunned for “finfluencing” and became an outcast in their corporate culture. It was devastating and suffocating.
I needed to catch a break and some fresh air to escape from these invisible bureaucratic bars and to let my mind experience the world’s unlimited vastness. I needed to see the forest for the trees. I felt as though I was stagnating at my current place of employment and I worried that I wouldn’t have a role in the career I had worked so hard to build for myself.
Frustrated and emotionally drained, I took a vacation and went to the coast of Croatia and saw the forest for the trees through some olive groves. I was also able to catch up on my reading and I began to read a book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb called: The Antifragile.
Being out in nature is a cure with tremendous benefits A) because you get an escape from an environment that’s no longer serving you, B) because you can recharge and C) because you can let go and absorb some new information that helps your perspective.
In this book, by Nassim Taleb, I came to the section about “The Fragilista”. At first, I sensed he was talking about me. As I kept reading, I realised that, in identifying with his words, I understood that I had been gaslit for being sensitive in the past. It was at this moment that I realised that I was an eagle stuck in a chicken coop and that I was in the wrong habitat for my well-being.
When you’re actually able to fly and see the world as it’s meant to be seen, you can see the forest through the trees, because you have access to the top of the tree line. Sometimes you need to be in a new habitat to realise that those tiny cagy walls, although comfortable, don’t provide a fulfilling environment for you to thrive. Once you’ve tasted the freedom, breaking free doesn’t seem so scary. Don’t sweat the tiny details, instead go to the forest to get some answers.
If the door was never locked, open it and leave.
Almost every situation has an out. If the environment is not comfortable, there’s always the option to move. Sometimes you’re the one blocking the doorway to your happiness and progress. Getting a new perspective can help you find your path and more importantly, can help you forge a new path by leaving a road that’s full of tears and achiness behind. I left and decided to start my own company that combined all of the things that I loved: human compassion, helpful investing strategies and useful technology. You can do it, too.
In my conquest to fight my tears, I learned a lot about emotions and the important role that they play in regulating happiness and fulfilment. Now that I reflect back on this, I realise that my optimism about achieving grand results no matter how difficult or improbable, set me up for failure.
Instead of working tirelessly at a corporation, I could transfer those skills into building a whole new company from scratch even with its uncertainty because I would own it. The risk was worth the reward and if I cried doing it, then so be it! I had to accept that it would not be perfect but that as long as I was moving forward, then everything would be ok.
To soothe me during rough moments, I leaned on music to get me through. Finding a good playlist to match my mood often led to inspiration and prevented monotony. I got “songspired” to move on and to create something new. Try it! Put on a flow playlist and ride the beats...
Emotion is like a circuit that needs to be grounded. Emotional breakdowns are like short-circuits and once you replace the fuse, you can recover and get emotion flowing to provide the light back into your life. Grounding your emotion through your senses by creating tangibility creates visible results.
It was through my own emotional journey by acknowledging my senses of sight, smell and sound, where I was able to take my emotions from their erratic intangible state to a grounded, tangible state with an actual physical company. I turned my emotions into reality.
Please share any comments or personal anecdotes about yourself and how you used emotion to get ahead. Let’s support each other on our paths to growth, together and if you need a good cry, I’ve got you!