Can I please just say right away that I neither like nor buy into this concept of being “emotionally weak”?
“Why are you then writing about it?!”, I hear you wonder a little confused.
I write in the hope of adding a different perspective to the (more or less) misleading concepts of emotional weakness, “symptoms” of being emotionally weak, and “overcoming” emotional weakness.
Usually, when people use the phrase “emotionally weak” to refer to someone (or oneself) what they’re saying is that the person concerned doesn’t have “strong” willpower, or doesn’t “hold their own”, or “cries” at the drop of a hat, or is quick to be “offended”, or “gives up” easily, or has a short temper, etc. While this is how the phrase tends to be used, if you think about it, what people really mean is that this person lacks a sense of stability and is pulled and pushed by their emotions. So all that emotional weakness really means is that the person lacks the skills to work with emotions.
Let’s break this down by first looking at what we really understand by the various different terms we tend to casually use. Because lack of clarity can create havoc in the mind!
Emotions, Emotional, And Weakness
Emotions are, to say the least, more complex than to be put down in a one-line definition.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying emotions are complex, period. I’m saying they’re complex to put down in rigid definitions.
But if we were to define it, what we can clearly see and state is that emotions have three broad components – experiential, behavioral, and physiological. You can read more about the complexity of emotions here.
So then, what does it really mean when someone says, “X is very emotional”, or “Stop being emotional”, etc?
We use the adjective emotional when we see an “above-average” display of emotions (usually, anger and crying outbursts, and sometimes tears of joy).
Emotional, in general usage, is used to imply that the person doesn’t have “control” of their emotions.
But what about the “below-average” display of emotions? Isn’t that uncontrolled too?
For instance, depression. Depression is a below-average display of (some form of) anger. No one plans to be depressed. So if someone is, then isn’t that something that’s out of their control? Thus, emotional?
Hold your thoughts on that question.
Let’s now look at what weakness means. Exploring what weakness means is interesting. Unlike emotions and emotional, weak is in relation to something else – strong.
And so if you were to look up the dictionary you’ll find weak broadly defined as not strong, and strong broadly defined as not weak!
I’ve done a few long water fasts. My longest so far has been 21 days. Most people who know me think I’m very unique (I’ve also lived an “alternate” life). It makes sense that they consider me unique because most people I know don’t engage in such activities.
However, if I were to join a group of long water fasting, I’ll cease to be unique!
Relative words like weakness and strength are very subjective.
So, What Is Emotional Weakness?
In general, people tend to use “emotional” and “emotionally weak” synonymously.
Phrases like, “Oh, she’s too emotional right now”, or “Yeah, he’s just emotionally weak”, are used to convey the same thing – that the person is weak, and doesn’t have a strong character.
In saying this what they’re really saying is that the person doesn’t have control over their emotions – they easily get scared or upset or overwhelmed or lack self-discipline or willpower or motivation, etc.
Is Being Emotional Weak?
It does seem to be the general consensus that anyone who’s “emotional” is “weak”. The fact that they’re emotional implies they don’t have any control over their emotions.
And since they don’t have control (control and power are thought to go hand-in-hand), they must be weak (since they don’t wield the power to control their emotions).
Are You Emotionally Weak?
I know many people who consider themselves “weak” because they feel pain and hurt at a greater intensity than others around them.
I also know many people who try to keep a tight lid on their emotional expression because they don’t want to feel or be seen as, weak.
If we go by the general perspective of what emotionally weak means, then if you can’t control your emotions and are easy to break down, you are emotionally weak.
But are you?
Let’s Change The Narrative!
Lack of self-discipline, anger issues, breaking down often, taking things personally, not being able to stand up for yourself, anxiety, nervousness – none of these are signs of “weakness”.
In fact, the way I see the world, nothing is a sign of “weakness”.
Every single thing you feel and experience is feedback. It brings you information. It shows you your current reality as is.
If you lose your temper, your reality is you lose your temper.
If you feel anxious, your reality is you feel anxious.
If you’ve never stood up for yourself, your reality is you’ve never stood up for yourself.
Putting the equal to (=) sign in front of your reality and calling it weakness is judgment.
Now the word judgment is also interesting. On the one hand, it’s important to make the judgment call on whether or not you should carry an umbrella (if rain is a possibility) – this judgment is helpful.
On the other hand, if you judge yourself to be a fool because your judgment call about carrying/ not carrying the umbrella was wrong – this judgment is not helpful at all.
Calling yourself or someone else an emotionally weak person is hands down unhelpful judgment.
Instead, you can look at how you engage with emotions and if you feel out of control with them as if you’re being pulled and pushed by them, a helpful judgment could be something like: “Ah, I don’t yet have the right skills to work with these emotions.”
Let’s change the narrative, shall we?!
Every time that you now read or hear the word weakness attached to anything, I invite you to pause and ask yourself: What is the information here, without the unhelpful judgment?
“Symptoms” & “Signs” Of Emotional/ Mental Weakness
Based on our changed narrative, let’s change this subheading!
5 Major Signs & Symptoms That You Currently Lack Effective Emotional Skills
Daryl Wong’s answer on Quora received 16.5 thousand upvotes! Abiet the question reads, “What are some signs of being mentally weak?” since we’ve changed our narrative we now know what it really means!
Despite the 16.5K upvotes, I found the answer to just about scratch the surface. The one-line sentences seem to be ramifications of the deeper signs mentioned below:
- You might feel hurt easily because many, if not most, things feel very personal to you. For instance, if you’re a woman and someone close to you says something about women in general, a part of you feels as if their comment is directed toward you even when that was never the intention.
- You are usually overwhelmed by your emotions and you either have visible outbursts or you suppress your emotions, or are in complete denial.
- Since you don’t have the skills to directly work with your emotions, you manage them through addictions – workaholism, busyness, alcoholism, binge-watching, binge-eating, smoking, unhealthy relationship patterns, etc.
- The major driver in life for you is fear whether or not you’re aware of it. You continually worry, overthink, and stress over almost everything in life! This creates and nurtures self-doubt and analysis paralysis.
- At some level, you know it. You know that something is missing (though you may not know that the “something” is a lack of effective emotional skills), and this comes out in the form of feeling stuck, dissatisfied, purposeless, feeling like no one understands, feeling unsure of what you want, etc.
Habits That Make You Emotionally Weak
The changed subheading: 5 Habits That Will Help You Cultivate Effective Emotional Skills
- Start, continue, and nurture a practice that teaches you to quieten your mind so you can see clearly, like concentration-based meditation practices, hatha yoga, etc.
- Start, continue, and nurture a practice that allows you to see deep within you, like morning journals, intuitive movement, analytical meditation, etc.
- Spend a minute or two, once or twice (if not more) a day, to check in with yourself and see what you’re feeling, and how you’re doing.
- Check your inner conversation with yourself – the kind of words, phrases, and tonality you use with yourself. If there’s even a hint of putting yourself down, pause and change it.
- Maintain the basics – food, water, movement, and rest.
P.S. In case you want to read about the habits that make you emotionally weak, here it is. Though, again, just like the Quora answer, the points given here are mostly surface-level gross ramifications. You’ve been warned!
How To “Overcome” Emotional Weakness
When we change the narrative here we find the word “overcome” – how can you overcome something you want to learn?! Remember, our choice of words – especially in our conversations with ourselves, matters.
The changed subheading: How To Cultivate Effective Emotional Skills
- Educate yourself in emotions. Begin by enriching your vocabulary with more emotion-feeling words.
- Learn to embody your emotions (this will come with learning various other embodiment-based skills), and observe what really happens in your body as an emotion arises, stays, and goes away.
- Explore your narratives, and change the beliefs and stories that aren’t serving you anymore. Choose new beliefs and stories to create your ever-evolving narrative!
- Learn a skill like non-violent communication where you’ll have the opportunity to practice alternative responses to potentially triggering situations.
- Invest in sustained long-term inner work by learning effective practices and making conscious choices to deepen them through either self-led structures or credible spaces curated by others.
“Earlier, I used to feel “Ok, this is the way I am” but now I can easily figure out the difference between my emotion and me being me. The awareness of my body, of my surroundings, of my emotions which has developed in me, makes me feel that gratitude towards everything around me and be a calmer person.” – Shobhna Bansal, Rooted In Chaos practitioner.
If you’re ready, willing, and want to go deeper, resolve emotional and relational entanglements, and cultivate the grounded, wise anchor within, then Rooted In Chaos might be apt for you.
Let’s Wrap It Up!
- All that emotional weakness really means is that there’s a lack of effective emotional skills.
- The general connotation of emotional weakness doesn’t serve anyone. We need to change the narrative.
- There are 5 major habits you can build to cultivate effective emotional skills.
- Anyone, with the right support – self-created or other-curated – can learn and deepen their emotional wisdom skills.
Have you ever seen yourself or someone you know as “emotionally weak”? What perspective has this article added to your perception?
Share your thoughts and questions in the comments box below!