ART BY TIFFANY CHAN
By BELINDA KUO
Have you ever heard the phrase “wear your heart on your sleeve?”
In the age of social media, we have made it a habit to always portray ourselves in the best light possible. As a result, many people tend to shun their negative emotions and paint smiles on their faces even when they are unhappy. However, it is important to show all the beautiful and ugly emotions because doing so will strengthen our sense of identity and promote strong mental health.
First and foremost, catering your emotions to those around you drains you emotionally. When you force positivity, you leave out any room to exhibit your natural emotions. Eventually, you force yourself to act in a certain way under certain circumstances. This leads to living your life in extremes, which means that when you are happy, you are extremely happy, and when you are sad, you are extremely sad. As hard as we try to conceal our negative emotions, such emotional suppression induces stress, anxiety and depression over time. Thus, when reflecting on our unhappiness, the flood of negative emotions inevitably engulfs us, tipping our emotional balance to an unhealthy extreme.
Needless to say, it is hard to put up a happy face when we are sad or vice versa. Nevertheless, when we attempt to flip moods on demand, we lie to ourselves about our true emotions and bury our problems rather than confronting them. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry reports that from a group of undergraduate students, socially anxious students would suppress emotions more frequently and are more fearful of emotional expression than their non-socially anxious peers. In addition to mental health issues, this may lead to potentially serious physical health issues, and in some harsh cases, even premature death. According to a study done by psychologists from Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Rochester, suppressing emotions may increase risks of heart disease and cancer. Ultimately, we can only escape this downward spiral if we realize that those around us can only help us if we let them into our hearts.
At the end of the day, it is important to express your true emotions even on your worst days, so people can get to know the real you. As a result, you can recognize who is around you for the right or wrong reasons and adjust accordingly. Knowing this, wearing your heart on your sleeve allows you to make sound judgments about your friends, so you can surround yourself with people who will bring out the best in you and support you during those bad days. On the contrary, a forced smile or cheerful image may only grant us a group of distant acquaintance who may view your grief as merely a facade.
Yet, some may say that wearing your heart on your sleeve places a target on your back and compels others to take advantage of your vulnerability. In particular, many people view those who share their emotions as “bothersome” or “sensitive.” However, it is not the people who must change, but our society’s attitude toward emotional vulnerability. It is human nature to seek reassurance or advice from others through sharing our feelings, and while we should not brood and focus only on our negative emotions, sharing emotions helps us move on and gain insight into why we are feeling this way.
Overall, it is important to take notice of your emotions and feel comfortable enough to showcase them. As author Brigitte Nicole says, “Never apologize for being sensitive or emotional. It’s a sign you have a big heart and that you aren’t afraid to let others see it.” Although easier said than done, wearing your heart on your sleeve will ultimately make you stronger, not weaker. So don’t be afraid, and speak what your heart feels.