Do you remember Rainbow Fish? The coolest cat in the sea, that gave his scales just to make friends. He learned the value of putting others ahead of himself, but what what happened after that? Did the other fish still judge him as harshly even after he had given them his scales?
Sometimes I cry. It’s not my fault and it’s not anyone else’s, it’s just what my body decides it needs. So before you go shaming the person crying on the train or in public, just think about all the times you’ve done something that you couldn’t control. We’ve all had that day when we’ve had to cover up flatulence with a cough, stomp or anything convenient. When we’ve ripped our pants, tripped and completely made a fool of ourselves, gotten rejected, said “Hi!” to someone and they ignored/couldn’t hear you, or (my favorite) thought someone was talking to you when they were talking to someone behind you. All of these things are mortifying. The difference is, these things aren’t treated with the same sense of concern or stigma as crying in public. So let’s take these steps to stop shaming other people about crying, as well as other things, together:
Step 1: Remember how different each person is!
Some people are more prone to crying, just like some people are predisposed to being athletic. If you want to enjoy more of the world around you, just try to open up yourself to the wonderful differences of those around you. That woman screaming into her phone on the train, could be yoga instructor who plays poker in her free time. How many other interesting stories are you missing out on by prejudging people? Check out the many different types of cryers.
Step 2: You’re not special.
Everyone around you is working just as hard as they can, to do the things they want to to do, to live the life they want to live. You have no right to look at someone in one interaction and summarize all that you think you need to know about them. People are as rich and deep as the oceans. You are just as special as everyone else, but you will never see how special you are until you know the depth of the people around you. That person crying in front of you is sharing a moment with you, what are you going to do with that moment? Will you respect it, or will you pocket it as a shameful scene or a story to tell your friends? Be better than the person that you think you are.
Step 3: Crying is complicated
When you cry, it is usually a sign that something is wrong, or there is something you need to address. Overall it is an action that allows your body to release an overwhelming emotion. Do you want to share that overwhelming moment with a bunch of strangers who will immediately think something is wrong with you? No, not really. You will then have to spend hours and days, re-building your reputation as a stable human so that people won’t treat you like a faberge egg. When someone is predisposed to being emotional, they’ve usually had trauma in their lives in which they found solace in crying. Let’s put it this way, what if someone found solace in drinking, or in some other activity that you weren’t around for? In a way, it’s a lot safer to cry in public, when you feel the need to stop after a while.
Step 4: Don’t be afraid to ask.
If someone is crying in public, don’t be afraid to ask them how they are feeling. If you notice that someone is beginning to get upset, give them an out, walk them out of the room. Just don’t make it obvious. Good phrases to get the conversation going are things like:
“What’s going on?” ,“Hey, hey, what’s up?” or “You want to talk about?”
The point is to shake them out of the thought process they are having without putting them on the offensive. There isn’t one person who wouldn’t benefit from being a good listener. These people are vulnerable, and you need to give them that space, let them know its okay to have these feelings and to let them out. After it’s over you will have the opportunity to share their moment of strength with them. When they pull themselves together and get back to reality, that is the most powerful thing a person can do. If they don’t seem to be getting back to themselves then you should probably seek outside help. Contact the counseling services at your school, tell a colleague, or a teacher you trust.
Step 5: Shame is Negative Nancy’s game.
If you have a thought, that is negative, condescending, rude, judgmental or the like, you are shaming someone. We’re not perfect, we all slip up and pass judgement over others. However, why would you want to? It’s a hard habit to break, I know. But it’s poisoning your mind. The more you allow yourself to have negative thoughts about others, the harsher you will be in judging yourself for a moment of humanity. Remember those embarrassing things I mentioned earlier? Fun fact: No one was judging you nearly as harshly as you were judging yourself then, people don’t have that much time to put effort into caring about something embarrassing you did. So when you are judging someone else, just remember that they are judging themselves more harshly than you could. Why would you waste your time on negative thoughts and energy? You have more important things to do with your time, trust me.
So the next time you see someone who is crying in public, or maybe rocking an especially epic outfit at Walmart, remember how much courage they have. Remember your own humanity, and the colossal waste of your time it is by judging them harshly. You’re alternative is celebrating how incredibly different this person is and what kind of amazing stories they probably have. And if you are still having trouble understanding this, just go read Rainbow Fish. And think about how happy he was once he stopped thinking he was better than the other fish, and celebrating how happy they were with their new scales.
Shout out to Little Blue Fish.
Image via Harvard Math via “Der Regenbogenfisch”