A woman leaning on a glass window lost in thought.

Everyone has an emotional self. Your manager who doesn’t break under pressure and rarely cracks a smile? Your perpetually stoic, tight-lipped father who grunts as his primary form of communication? Your guy best friend who keeps swearing that “everything’s chill” even after a terrible ? Believe it or not, they all have a vulnerable side.

So, what is the “emotional self”? Simply put, it’s the part of you that deals with feelings, “good” or “bad.” Embracing it allows you to develop greater and empathy, express yourself openly, and cultivate healthy coping strategies to deal with life’s ups and downs.

There’s nothing shameful about being emotional – after all, it comes with being human. Unfortunately, societal norms across cultures stigmatize displays of vulnerability and emotion, equating them to weakness. Here’s why you shouldn’t let that stigma keep you from feeling your feelings. Plus, learn the benefits of embracing your emotional self and how to start.

The Stigma Against Showing Emotion

Fergie said, “Big girls don’t cry.” While her early 2000s hit stays a classic, it also perpetuates false ideas about showing your feelings as an adult. Unfortunately, Fergie isn’t the only one saying this. Many believe that when you’re “grown,” you’ve got to put a brave face on no matter how rough it gets. When you don’t, you’re labeled “immature,” “childish,” or “weak.”

There’s also a long-standing belief that women are generally more emotional than men. But numerous studies, including a by the University of Michigan, have debunked this assumption. And yet, many still link certain emotions with specific gender roles.

In , researchers explain that stereotypes feed into how society views emotionality in men vs women. People who subscribe to them may view men who are as “less manly,” and women as “less objective” or “irrational” by default. There’s no winning when deep-seated misogyny comes into play.

And while the world continues to make strides in mental health awareness and advocacy, there’s still an unfortunate social associated with mental illness. Because of this, many who struggle may not feel safe or free enough to talk about what they’re going through.

These are just a few factors that might convince someone it’s better to bottle up their emotions. No one wants to feel judged or by their peers. While it’s perfectly valid to want to conceal your feelings for privacy and self-preservation reasons, it can become an unhealthy habit when fear is your primary motivation.

What happens if you never express your emotions?

You may not notice it, but your takes a hit every time you shrug off your feelings, especially the negative ones. Eventually, you’ll internalize the idea that you’re not “allowed” to let those “ugly emotions” out, and that no one wants to hear about them.

Having those thoughts swirling around can be stressful and anxiety-inducing. And their mental weight can even lead to physical symptoms like chronic stress, fatigue, and sleep issues.

Repressing your emotional self can also make it harder to connect with others since you’ll always feel like you have to hide an important part of you. Go too long without , and you could end up bursting and having an unexpected breakdown.

The Benefits of Emotional Self-Awareness

Being emotional shouldn’t be a dirty little secret. At the same time, you’ll want to avoid having full-blown outbursts during inopportune moments. Say, in the middle of a work call or during a tense argument with a friend. The goal is to find a balance between and exerting a reasonable amount of control over these expressions.

It starts with developing emotional self-awareness, or the ability to acknowledge, understand, and recognize how your feelings impact you and those around you.

Being aware of your emotions is the first step to responding to situations in a level-headed manner rather than reacting without rhyme or reason. When you’re more self-aware, it becomes easier to practice emotional regulation.

According to the , the term refers to “a person’s ability to effectively manage and respond to an emotional [situation].” The mental health platform emphasizes how it can help alter the intensity of that experience.

Most people use regulatory strategies every day, often without realizing it. But it’s better for you to lean on healthy tactics, like or going to therapy, rather than unhealthy ones, like substance abuse, self-injury, and aggression.

3 Healthy Ways to Feel Your Feelings (Without Invalidating Them!)

Bottom line: don’t neglect your emotional self, and never let anyone tell you it’s not okay to feel. But some have a hard time regulating their emotions, especially if they don’t have the necessary tools to work through them.

Instead of letting your feelings control you, you’ll want to find healthy ways to experience and cope with them. Here are a few positive emotional regulation strategies to start with.

Make time for self-care.

Do at least one thing every day that lets you prioritize yourself. The time you set aside for allows you to slow down and reflect on your feelings without the pressure of figuring them out. Even going through your hygiene routine is an opportunity for mindfulness.

So, take a few extra minutes in the shower to nourish your hair with the Dove Advanced Keratin Treatment Mask. Massage your skin with the Dove Facial Cleansing Mousse Moisture Care and let the tension melt away. Then, brush with the closeup Gel Toothpaste with Antibacterial Zinc Red Hot, which scrubs away build-up for a .

It’s simple, but it’ll make you feel better to put your energy into something positive. What’s more, you won’t have to put up a front for anyone while you’re at it. You can just be.

Explore different ways of expressing yourself.

Screaming and crying can be cathartic, but some situations require a gentler approach. You can sit down with a trusted friend to talk and remind yourself you’re in a judgment-free zone.

If you’re not ready for that step yet, consider other . Try art therapy, journaling your thoughts and feelings, and other creative hobbies. Working with your hands can be a powerful self-soothing habit, and all it asks of you is your presence.

Seek professional help.

Are your emotions so overwhelming that you struggle to untangle them, let alone develop non-destructive coping mechanisms? It may be time to see a licensed psychiatrist or therapist for help. They’ll give you a safe space to vent, provide valuable insights into what you’re going through, and offer expert suggestions for surviving your struggles.

Again, everyone has an emotional self. What’s different is how each person chooses to deal with those emotions. Maybe your manager stays calm at work, then turns to personal hobbies for stress relief. Perhaps your father isn’t a talker, but he speaks through thoughtful actions.

And your guy best friend who’s always chill? He probably blasts Taylor Swift in the car and sings along to every word. The takeaway: it’s okay to be your true, emotional self. Allow yourself to feel your feelings without shame and find healthy outlets that work for you.