Google Header -->
Skip to main content
Curly Nikki

Crying In Public: Sign Of Weakness Or Strength?

Crying In Public: Sign Of Weakness Or Strength?
By: Maya Wright
I’m an emotional person, if that’s what you want to call it.
It’s not something I apologize for (because, why should I?)—but I do feel sorry
for it; that is, when I allow myself to be that kind of vulnerable with someone
who simply wasn’t worth my trust.

I had a pretty rough week last week, and I let myself cry in
front of a friend on three different occasions. After the first time, they
assured me that I could confide in them and that I didn’t have to bear my
burden alone. It was comforting and I felt honesty in their admission; so a
couple of days later, I cried in front of them again and then once more the
next day. I thought everything was cool and confidential until we were watching
a movie with a group of friends (who I have never cried in front of) and the
friend I had trusted suggested to everyone that I was emotional. Everyone got a
good laugh out of it and I played it off, but I was pretty hurt. It caught me
off guard that they would betray my trust like that and I vowed to never cry in
front of them again.

But it caused me to really consider: Where did this notion
originate, of not wanting to cry in front of other people?


And it’s not really
crying itself, but crying openly—publicly—just feels like a major no-no. In
other words, it’s okay to cry as long as no one else sees it. And growing up,
my mom never let me cry in public. While those tears were usually associated
with something I’d done wrong, it ingrained in me a discomfort with public
displays of vulnerability. My mom was a soldier and a single mother of 4; I
didn’t see her cry until I was a teenager. She was hard on the exterior—hard to
relate to, hard to understand, but I knew she loved me. And now, in my adulthood,
I understand her plight. Being a woman in the army, she was forbidden the
freedom of crying, so it was only natural that she instinctively taught us the
same behavior.

So I learned how to keep my feelings to myself and that if a
person was crying in public, they had failed to do exactly that. Even now that
I know better, I would still say that sometimes seeing a stranger cry in public
feels strangely invasive. It’s like I’m seeing a part of them that I shouldn’t, because vulnerability has a way of making you feel stripped, open.

Especially in black culture, crying just gets a bad rep. It
is considered to be the very manifestation of weakness. Whereas strength
conjures up images of physicality, determination, and often aggression,
weakness presents itself as being emotional, crying, and showing physical
incapability. But this attitude towards crying is nothing more than a
societal-inflicted impression that is actually 100% false. In fact, tears show
that the person is mentally strong, in control of their feelings and unafraid
of societal expectations.
says, “tears signal a need for help and comfort, help relieve stress, and may
bring us back into emotional equilibrium.”

Which is good because I cry a lot. I cry when I pray, when I’m angry, sad, anxious, worried, or
venting. I cry when I’m really grateful about something or just reflecting on
how blessed I am. I cry while watching TV or a movie. I cry when I feel lonely,
left out, confused. When I try not to cry, I just don’t feel “free.” I need to
cry sometimes and there’s no point in risking a headache when I can quite
easily just let myself fall apart for a few minutes and be done with it.

Still, crying is something I only choose to do
privately—alone, or with someone I trust. When I get to know a person and they
cause me to feel comfortable enough to think I can allow them to see that part
of me, I almost always get let down. They either suggest that I need to ‘suck
it up,’ call me ‘weak,’ tell someone, or bring it up randomly in public
conversation. These days, the comfort of confidentiality and respect is a rare
find, but still worth searching for.

What some people fail to realize is that even though they
are sometimes listed as synonyms, ‘weak’ and ‘vulnerable’ are not the same. Something or someone that
is weak is lacking in power or strength; easily damaged or influenced.  Vulnerability is choosing to let your guard
down, despite the consequences.

Vulnerability is a choice, and if someone is willing to let
you see them cry—which is probably the rawest expression of emotion that
exists—be worth their time. Don’t make them feel like crap. See the beauty that
is present in their tears and be there for them.

Because vulnerability is a gift—not a handicap.

Leave a Reply