The Importance of Sadness

Have you seen Pixar’s Inside Out? If you haven’t, first of all:

Inside Out characters looking shocked.

Second of all, you should. And thirdly, the big takeaway from the movie is one that really rings true with me–it’s that all emotions are valid. That includes sadness.

If you’ve read this blog for more than 0.2 seconds, then you know that I am a worrier. Ahem, I mean, The Worrier. But one thing that I’m more reluctant to admit is that I get sad sometimes. Lately, I’ve had periods of feeling really sad for more time than notPart of this is that I am a private person. That is a hard thing to reconcile with being a blogger, especially when my blog focuses so much on anxiety, mental health, and personality. While I am always honest in what I post on here, I do hold back part of myself.

Why is that? Fear of judgment? Fear of not being understood? Fear that future employers/friends/partners will find this blog and deem me to have more than a few screws loose? An inability to express myself as I’d like to? Not being fully in touch with my inner workings as I’d like?

All of the above, most likely. But sadness–just like anxiety–needs to be destigmatized. Keep in mind, what I am talking about here is not clinical depression, but rather that sadness that we, as humans, feel on a normal basis.

I read a great article on Quartz today, in which Jeannette Mare gives advice on how to embrace sadness in 2016. Why should we do this? As Jeannette explains:

Sadness has a lot to teach us if we’re brave enough to let it in. When we do, we find the compassion for ourselves and others that motivates kindness and creates strong bonds. And research shows it’s those strong social bonds that lead to happiness. In other words, happiness grows from sadness—when it’s socially supported.”

Among her great tips on how to go about accepting and embracing sadness, my personal favorite is that, as a friend or loved one, your responsibility is not to “reduce your loved one’s sadness, but rather to reduce their suffering.” You can’t always–and shouldn’t–try to fix another person’s or your own sadness.

As Riley learns in Inside Out, being sad is a part of being human. The importance of sadness is (sadly) undervalued in society today. From our Declaration of Independence and its “pursuit of happiness” to those little yellow smiley faces (the original emogi!) to positive psychology, there is a certain perverseness associated with sadness. Especially if, like me, you live in a progressive country, were born into a loving middle class family, and can objectively admit that you have never faced any massive hardship, it seems downright wrong to be sad. But it’s not. 

Even if you’ve never not known when your next meal was coming, never lived in a war-torn country, and never had to make an impossible choice, you have things to be sad about. Maybe it was the death of your grandma or the death of your parakeet. Maybe it was being dumped by a guy or girl that you loved. Maybe it was that you broke a nail right after you shelled out 50 bucks for a manicure. You are allowed to be sad.

As a woman, I think I feel even guiltier and more embarrassed about any sadness I feel. As a woman, I am afraid of being branded as “overly emotional” or, the worst criticism that can be hurled at an expressive female, “crazy.” 

But I need to be sad sometimes. And sometimes I need to be sad all of the time. And I need to be O.K. with that.

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