When one's emotions are kept private

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If You've Ever Been Told You're Not Emotional Enough, This Is For You.

Not everyone shows affection with words.

By Spencer George for Odyssey

Unemotional. Apathetic. Standoffish. Intimidating.

I’ve been called all of these, in various forms. Some I take as a compliment, others not so much. Because I don’t show emotion openly and often, I’ve been told that I need to go to therapy, that I need to stop being so guarded, that I need to relax.

But here’s the thing: you don’t have to constantly be showing emotion to demonstrate that you’re passionate about something, or that you appreciate someone, or that you, quite simply, feel things. My natural reaction with strong emotions is to internalize them, but that doesn’t make me emotionless. That may make me secretive, and good at hiding what I’m really feeling, but it doesn’t make me apathetic.

I’ve struggled with trust issues for a long time now, and being honest and open with people isn’t something I’m naturally good at. Upon meeting people my first reaction is to go along with what they say, to close my real feelings and opinions off so that they may think I’m friendly, likeable. I’ve been told this makes me come across as fake, as not being genuine in my emotions. But it’s always going to be easier for me to close myself off initially until I feel comfortable with the person in question. Even then, I’m never going to be openly emotional around someone.

However, the conception that you have to be constantly demonstrating affection for someone in order to prove you like them is absurd to me. Now, there’s nothing wrong with being emotional; in fact, if you can be openly emotional, kudos to you. That’s something I’ve always envied and wished I could do. I’ve lost a lot of important people to me because of this inability to demonstrate how I feel about them to them. In my head, it’s clear; but in person, I just don’t know how to communicate it. That doesn’t mean I don’t care for someone or lack feelings; it just means that if you’re someone who I do open myself up to, I must really, really trust you.

I see arguments all the time both in favor of demonstrating emotion and arguing against the girl who some consider “needy”. But what about those of us that don’t fit either mold? What about those of us who may be “needy” but just don’t know how to demonstrate that need? When people meet me, they seem to think they know me. And as they get to know me better, they seem to think there’s something wrong with me that I’m not sensitive- that I don’t cry in sad movies, that I’m not emotionally attached to things, that I don’t like being touched.

If that sounds like you- or if you’re someone who struggles with recognizing how you feel- then I’m here for you. I get it. It’s not that I don’t want to hug you back, or that I don’t get sad watching my favorite character die in a movie. I just have different ways of showing it- more subtle, perhaps, but still present.

You can feel things internally and still be feeling. You can hide your feelings from the world and still be feeling. You can only ever tell one person how you feel and still be feeling. There’s a difference between being unemotional and sociopathic, and I think that’s something we need to talk about more. We need to recognize that not everyone is going to be someone comfortable with openly hugging their friends, or easily telling someone they love them, or having no problems crying in public- and that’s ok. Not everyone is made to be the same way, or to show affection the same way. For those of us who aren’t good at talking about how we feel, we often show affection in other ways. Maybe it’s texting or calling you to ask how your day was, maybe it’s buying an extra coffee for you in the mornings. Maybe it’s as simple as being honest if you ask how we are. The point is that there are other ways to show emotion beyond words; you just have to be willing to look for them.

You may look at me and believe that I’m not emotional enough, that I’m intimidating or mean. And if that’s what you want to believe, that’s okay. But it’s not okay to judge someone for the way they show affection; please don’t make loud comments when I don’t want to hug you back or if I want to be alone when I’m having a bad day. That’s just how I process things, they same way some people process tragedy through anger or sadness. I still care about you, I still feel what you’re feeling.

It may just take me a little more time to come around to showing it.