August 24, 2020

My Emotions weren’t Dead—I Just wasn’t sure How to Share Them.


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It wouldn’t surprise me if most of the people I ever worked with thought I was some kind of AI robot on legs, achieving mission after mission.

I mean, I’ve never really been available for small talk around the coffee machine, and I always scheduled my lunches to be a highly optimised solo mission—food in, lunch done. What outsiders didn’t realise was that I was numb to my own emotions too. I was oblivious to the fact that I was not sharing them. I wasn’t even aware that they weren’t there.

After 23 years of logic-centered living and working, making contact with my emotions was no easy feat. But after connecting and pulling those emotions in, I can now see why people never really got me. Truly, I never really got me.

Here’s how I let my emotions in:

I slowed down.

I was running so fast, for so long, jumping every corporate hurdle placed in front of me, that I gave my emotions no space to express themselves. The fix to this was easy on paper—slow down! In reality, however, ditching the endless busyness and perpetual movement was almost like battling an addiction.

Eventually, through concerted effort to do far less, I allowed the space for my emotions to return. And let me tell you, they were pissed. I realised just how unhappy I was, and just how much of myself had been lost to the world of work. It was a massive wake-up call. Thankfully, I’m never going back to running so fast.

I made my emotions matter.

Now that they existed in my experience, I started taking my emotions much more seriously. Women have traditionally been forced to suppress their emotions within the corporate space lest they be viewed as overly sensitive, hysterical, or thin-skinned. I thought showing vulnerability would make me seem weak and inadequate.

Now that my long-lost emotions are back, disagreements on strategy, interpersonal friction, or mishandled responsibilities can be dealt with in the same emotional space that I would use when sitting with an employee in a hospital ER struggling with a life-threatening diagnosis.

With my new emotional skills, I pause to listen to others in order to fully understand the emotional forces that drive their rational or irrational decision-making. I allow my emotions to be felt and seen, knowing that these only amplify my capacity to make human, and ultimately sound, business decisions.

I spoke up.

Having identified my emotions and let them in, I then made it my responsibility to be more open and to share my emotions with people. Specifically, I let others know when I’m hurt. In the past, not communicating this meant that I gave others no corrective feedback, and in doing so, many people continued to hurt me unintentionally.

People didn’t realize that I even had soft spots. Letting them know didn’t make me weaker, as I’d feared; if anything, it made me more relatable. How little awareness I had of my emotions is funny to me now. Through unleashing them, I have a far more happy and fulfilling life.

As a leadership coach, I find myself regularly working with women just like who I used to be. Beyond helping them, I realised that their emotional experience is not one to be dismissive of.

I always like to ask them one question:

What if we all showed up as our authentic selves? No hidden emotions. Wouldn’t life be far easier?


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