Emotions are a tricky beast. I don't consider myself particularly sensitive (unless when it comes to furry friends). Sure, I tear up at the occasional documentary or rom com, but in general I don't wear my heart on my sleeve. Instead of being a bleeding heart I find myself getting emotional in peculiar situations such as when I'm angry, feeling nervous, confronted, or even happy. I realize I'm not a robot and all of this would be fine...well fine..until it comes up at work.
Last week I was having a particular frustrating day at the office. I had just been told I had to switch offices and pack up all my junk and move it downstairs. Not a big deal I know but it was annoying and I probably took it a little too personal. I was in the midst of packing all my piles of paper into boxes when my boss walks into my office and shuts the door. This is a rare occurrence on its own so it already had me on edge. He begins to explain that he could tell I was upset about the situation and started to go down a philosophical road about how in life you can't take anything personal and should never assume anything. Disclaimer: I take most things personal (I can't help it) and can be defensive. As he's talking I'm making eye contact, nodding, and inserting the occasional "ok". I have it all together until I start to feel my face and neck heat up. I instantly know that I am beet red. This spins me even further because I HATE that my emotions can be seen (literally) all over my face. I try to take slow breaths because I know too well what is about to happen. He's still going on and gets to a place where he's actually complimenting me on my work and potential. Then I feel it. I start to feel that tingling in my eyes. The feeling that can only mean one thing---I know that any second my eyes are going to start welling up. The ONE thing I do not want to happen in this situation. Mentally I am trying with every ounce of my being to hold back the waterworks that I can feel building up. I can tell that he can see that I'm uncomfortable and likely puts me out of my misery and quickly ends the conversation and leaves. As soon as he walks out I spin around in my chair and feel the tears pour out of my eyes.
Let me make this clear, I am not embarrassed to cry and think that showing your emotions is very healthy. But in this particular case being it was at work and the fact that there was no specific reason to cry I was so frustrated with myself. It's an all too common dilemma. As a woman in the workplace you have to walk a delicate tight rope. You have to be tough and thick skinned and being overly emotional makes you "unpredictable" and "unstable". However, if you're too rigid you're seen as a bitch.
What is the happy medium? I don't necessarily feel like I lost respect that day by having my emotions take over. But I can definitely recognize where problems could occur. Lawyers are supposed to be tough, cutthroat, and not afraid of confrontation. However, it's not just in law, most careers have similar standards. I'll be the first to say that those traits do not come natural to me but I've gotten so much stronger over the last 2 years. I can't help to think though whether this is a step backwards for women. Granted, nobody needs soppy emotional messes in the workplace. But, the beauty of a woman is in her strength as well as softness. The duality is what makes us special and powerful.
I would love to hear your personal struggles in this area. What are your thoughts on being a woman and walking the fine line with your emotions?