I cried at work this morning.
It was a bit embarrassing, but strangely liberating at the same time.
I started crying in the car, in that way where the tears just spill out over your face without you being able to help it. By the time I got into work I had stopped, but was still in the precariously balanced state between crying and not crying, where the mere mention of kittens would be enough to push you over the edge.
I went into the kitchen to wash my cup, and to chisel off the dried up cookie residue, left over from my biscuit dunking activities the day before. I was holding it under the tap when a colleague came in. “Are you alright?” she asked.
“Yes,” I squeaked, “I’m fine.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, but if you ask again I might cry.”
Why does that happen? You can be holding it together, and then the minute someone shows a tiny bit of concern, you fall to pieces.
She held me really tightly while I cried and sniffled, trying to hold in the tears. “Breathe,” she told me. I hadn’t realised I wasn’t until I did as I was told and took a deep breath. Breathing felt nice.
(There’s not anything wrong by the way, in case you’re worried, I was just having a bit of a cry).
I’ve written before about emotional vulnerability, and whether or not it’s ok to cry in front of your children, but not about crying in front of other grownups, in situations where you are meant to be professional. Generally I don’t like to show weakness or ask for help, and I try to maintain an annoyingly optimistic persona whenever I can, but standing in the tiny kitchen, arms holding my shoulders tightly, I felt strangely strong. It felt like by exposing myself as vulnerable, somehow I became less so.
As I went back to my washing up, another woman I work with came into the kitchen. She saw my face, didn’t say anything, but just hugged me, and left again.
Have you ever cried at work? Do you think it had an impact on how you were seen professionally? All the research will tell you that crying at work is a Bad Thing, and will do nothing for your reputation, especially if you’re a woman, but I think we should be encouraging it. I think we should all have a little cry at work now and again. Maybe it’s good to show everyone we’re only human.
Now please pass the tissues.