So often we feel it is not good to be angry—particularly at work, where we’ll be seen and judged. We fear our anger is unbecoming, and that if we let ourselves get angry, we won’t be liked or that we’ll be labeled the dreaded “B-word.” Instead, we tell ourselves we should be pleasing, approachable, not threatening, and accommodating to all of the nonsense.
To make sure you are acting the way you should, you watch the reaction of others to gauge if what you’re doing is acceptable (and God forbid you aren’t acceptable). You adjust your voice, maybe making it sound less threatening and younger. You watch your posture and the way you walk.
In short, at work and in other parts of your life, you put those hard-to-put-a-finger-on society forces that I’ve dubbed girly thoughts in charge of your career—a terrible idea that I discuss in The Girly Thoughts 10 Day Detox Plan.
Don’t Get Angry and Cry: Instead, Get Smart
When you are afraid of being angry, a terrible inner tension is created, and you become frustrated. As a result, especially in important meetings when you feel your anger beginning, you may feel your tears welling.
But instead of trying to figure out if you should cry at work or not, perhaps the better question is: Why is crying the first feeling up when you are angry? It is fear of crying that many women cite as a reason not to speak up, because crying at work would make them be seen as weak, as lacking leadership qualities or as undependable.
Not only does crying at work feel risky, but it has an awful side benefit, too; crying keeps you in the role of needing to be rescued, yes, even at work, while your anger, well, that will have others look at you as a “B”—and your girly thoughts do say that is even worse.
So what to do? Be smart:
- Realize your girly thoughts are keeping you silent at work. Identify that this is what is going on. Name this toxic inner dialogue.
- Act on that New Year’s resolution to give yourself a voice at work.
- Rehearse those scenarios that make you want to cry and see how you can frame your points so you are clear, even powerful. Yes, that will mean telling those girly thoughtsto get lost, but you can replace them with a focus on your strengths and your resilience that can support you in public situations at work.
- Run these ideas by a friend, but not necessarily one you work with. I’ll discuss this more in a later blog.
- Get support from an outside mentor who can help you navigate the pitfalls specific to your job.
- Remember, the world needs you to make that contribution, and to do so you need to let the world know what your contribution is.
Practice makes perfect, and at work you are likely to get a great deal of practice in identifying those girly thoughts that bring on your tears.
You’ll find more ideas for getting rid of your negative self-talk in my book, The Girly Thoughts 10-Day Detox Plan: The Resilient Woman’s Guide to Saying NO to Negative Self-Talk and YES to Personal Power
Let me know how you deal with wanting to cry at work.
Patricia A. O'Gorman, Ph.D., is a psychologist in private practice. She is noted for her work on women, trauma, and substance abuse and for her warm, inspiring, and amusing presentations that make complex issues accessible and even fun. She has served as a consultant to organizations across the country in preventative and clinical strategic planning. Dr. O'Gorman is a cofounder of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, and she has held positions ranging from director of a rape crisis center to clinical director of a child welfare agency, and director of the division of prevention for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). She is a veteran of numerous television appearances, including Good Morning America, Today, and AM Sunday and is the author of eight books including: The Girly Thoughts 10 Day Detox Plan (2014), The Resilient Woman: Mastering the 7 Steps to Personal Power (2013), and Healing Trauma Through Self-Parenting (2012) 12 Steps to Self-Parenting.