Women and Their Right to Negative Feelings

Western contemporary society has an issue when it comes to dealing with emotional darkness and negative feelings. Removing them, finding alternatives to them, pretending they don’t exist, acting like they’re an unnecessary part of our human experience which do not deserve our full attention. To be completely honest and specific, I think women are even more socialized than men to think of darker emotions, feelings, and inclinations as things foreign to their nature and unnecessary in relationships.

If men are not allowed to show their most tender emotions, they surely are allowed to dive into their negative ones — it is okay for men to be angry and aggressive and selfish and exaggeratedly self-centered, yet mainstream society does not encourage them to show and share in the light of day their most vulnerable feelings and emotions. Which is unhealthy and toxic, I am sure we all agree. But women… Society shames and blames women (not surprisingly?) about their feelings be them positive or negative.

Women are too emotionally unstable, and that’s why it’s safer if men take control — men can handle the tough and negative stuff. Women are smiley and nice and soft, and that’s why they’re better off at pleasing others and not paying attention to what they are really feeling. Women who are angry, aggressive, or selfish — they’re just lonely, because who on earth would ever date a woman who is woke enough to acknowledge both her positive and negative feelings and emotions, and responds to them through action honoring herself and her needs rather than faking a smile and never putting herself first because pleasing others is more important? Ha, no one would! Unthinkable. Am I right?

Now leaving irony aside for a moment, I actually often find myself trying to control some of my feelings — which I think is common, normal, and to some extent understandable. The thing is, I came to realize the feelings I try to avoid feeling, or, rather, look from a distance and ignore, are the feelings I’ve always convinced myself I shouldn’t have. Those feelings are what most of us would classify as negative feelings, which I happen to experience from time to time, like anger, jealousy, anguish, disgust, resentment, selfishness.

Looking at the relationships I’ve cultivated in my life so far (romantic relationships, friendships, or relationships with family members), I’ve had a tendency to impose on myself a narrative: I am among those passionate selfless and sensitive girls who’re not really familiar to aggressive or negative feelings and emotions, let alone actions. Not able to say no, not able to be angry, not able to hurt someone’s feelings. For my entire life I’ve interiorized social rules according to which if I am to be angry and selfish sometimes, nobody (and yes, I am referring to heterosexual men because duh, I am talking heteronormative social rules) will ever like me or love me. So, I naturally fell into the spiral of being nice for the sake of pleasing others, never indulging on negative feelings, never looking too deep into the darkness of some pieces of myself, which I unconsciously left unknown.

And guess what have I recently come to realize? I said f*ck that bs, I am going to sit in the darkness. I am going to own my negative emotions, let them come to the surface. I am going to allow myself to be angry, to be disgusted, to be unforgiving, to be selfish. For the more I grow through pain and experiences and a stubborn willingness to get to know myself better, the more I realize that I am allowed to have negative feelings, recognize them, and (most importantly) question myself about their source.

The more I feel negative emotions freely and openly and dive into them, the more I learn about myself. The more I find balance. Darkness is not necessarily where I want to be or look into, yet sometimes the most useful thing to do is jump into it, look straight into its eyes, listen to it. Negative feelings, pain, darkness — these are all things that teach us who we are when we encounter and go through them. If we keep shrinking ourselves to fit an artificial ideal of woman who never feels anything negative, we are betraying who we are. We have a right to be angry, to be selfish, to be whatever it is that we are feeling in the present moment. We are not responsible for others’ happiness, self-confidence, self-love. We are not people pleasers but incredible human beings capable of experiencing human emotions. Gloriously.