“I am not good. I am not okay. You may think that I am, but trust me, I’m not. I only say I am because I don’t want other people to worry. I don’t want to be a burden. My emotions are my problem. I can deal with them on my own.”
This is a dangerous thought process that is, sadly, very common. People aren’t honest about what they are feeling because they think they can deal with everything on their own. Or worse they fear the criticism of their true selves. Fear is a strong motivator, and sadly, it’s preventing physical health, mental health, true success and happiness that comes from allowing yourself to be vulnerable.
When you don’t honestly express your emotions and choose to keep them to yourself, you could be doing serious damage to your health. Harvard Public School of Health and the University of Rochester found that people who bottled up their emotions increased their chance of premature death of all causes by 30%, and their risk of being diagnosed with cancer increased by 70%. Another study by the University of Minnesota shows that keeping emotions pent up inside can “create chronic stress, which upsets your body’s hormone balance, depletes your brain chemicals required for happiness, and damages your immune system. Chronic stress can actually decrease our lifespan.” When you don’t share what you’re truly feeling, you are not only hurting yourself emotionally, but your also putting yourself in an unhealthy situation.
Being open with how you feel helps you be more open to new ideas and perspectives. “Accepting new perspectives and ideas means acknowledging that your experiences are not the end-all, be-all of life,” says Jamie Wiebe for Talkspace, “And that can be difficult! There is no shame in not wanting to set aside your beliefs, even momentarily, but you have to think bigger than yourself.” Whatever you are feeling right now, it’s not the end of the world. Life still goes on, and you have to choose whether you want to move along with it.
Expressing your true emotions can build and strengthen relationships in ways that may never have occurred otherwise. Sharing more of who you are fosters trust and creates more opportunities for better connections. Renowned author and researcher, Dr. Brene Brown, explains that sharing our struggles can be a strong way to build trust. “We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable, powerful selves to be deeply seen and known.”
One popular excuse to avoid vulnerability is not wanting to burden others with your problems. A lot of people say that they keep things to themselves because they don’t want to be a burden to other people. Susi Ferrarello from Psychology Today disagrees. “Putting ourselves in a position of emotional self-containment closes the door to what it means to be human—to both yourself and others. In fact, in doing so, we are preventing ourselves from bonding with others, feeling empathy, touching our own enthusiasm, and experiencing a number of feelings that help to keep us alive.” She goes on to say that “Opening up does not equate to becoming insensitive or inconsiderate of the person sitting next to you. If anything, the act makes you more considerate, because, by being more in touch with yourself, you can better understand how the other human being in front of you is feeling. Opening up means putting in some work to connect with your emotions and then showing your vulnerability to others.”
Another common argument against vulnerability is the possibility of getting hurt. While this is a legitimate concern, you have to be aware that people aren’t looking to hurt you. Most of the time, there is someone around you that wants to help you and make you feel safe. Plus, you have a 100% chance of hurting yourself if you don’t get your feelings out in the open. It can also prevent you from growing in your relationships and developing depth and trust.
Opening up to other people about your emotions is difficult, but there is much more to gain from overcoming that fear. Not only is it better for your physical and mental health, but it helps to create stronger relationships. Keeping things bottled up can only lead to disaster, for both you and everyone around you. You should express your emotions instead of keeping them inside, where they can fester and boil until one day, they explode. Some ways to avoid this are to talk to a trusted friend and tell them about something that you may have been thinking about, and encourage them to do the same. Journaling is also a very productive way to get your emotions out. And of course, trusted teachers and counselors are always good resources when it comes to talking about these types of things. Use these examples or come up with your own, but it’s very important that you get your emotions out. Don’t keep them inside, it’s better for you and everyone else.