Why it’s dangerous to say “I don’t have any emotions”

I had a really sad experience when I was growing up.


I used to play the violin professionally, which meant that I would get paid to play in front of audiences all over Long Island. I competed in competitions, achieved a high level very fast, and mastered one of the most difficult pieces known to a violinist.


So why was it that when my family, my teachers, and my instructors were encouraging me to play the violin in the orchestra of the school play, I met them with harsh resistance?


It wasn’t like I couldn’t play in front of an audience and was scared. And it wasn’t that I couldn’t learn the music, which was below my playing level.


The real reason why I didn’t want to do it was because I thought it would make me ‘uncool’


I am not even kidding.


That reason — which I never admitted out loud — caused a lot of fights, arguments, and disagreements. But I was so fearful of how I would look to others–especially how I would look to my friends who weren’t involved in any music at all–that I never let myself just do it.


It really is sad to think about. Because what would I have learned during that experience? How much better would I have gotten at performing and collaborating with other musicians? I let the silly notion of fearing people would judge me hold me back.


But this is the reality for a lot of us


Especially when it comes to social situations, the one thing I hear over and over again that scares the living hell out of people is letting themselves be vulnerable with another person.


And ‘vulnerable’ doesn’t even mean how you would open up to your boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife. Vulnerable in the sense of being honest about how you feel, and even expressing a small personal detail about yourself. (In work contexts, this can be different, so let’s stay in the realm of day-to-day interactions you have with new people at events, friends, family, or even dating).


And the worst example I’ve seen of this happening is people being disgusted at others for even having ‘emotions’ in the first place. They puff up their chests and proclaim that they don’t have any, as if they walk around never feeling a thing.


But anyone who says this is a liar


Because let’s be honest: saying you don’t have emotions is ass-backwards. Otherwise, you’re just a robot.


And while there is a difference between controlling and managing your emotions, judging others–and yourself!–for having them is exactly like how I held myself back from doing what I was interested in because I thought I would look ‘uncool’.


And there are sneaky consequences for thinking like this, too


For the last 2 weeks, we talked about the difference between someone who’s empathetic (understands how you think and feel) vs. someone who isn’t (who says ‘You’ll be fine’ or ‘You’re better off’). We also talked about how to calm down the mental chatter in conversation so that you can be present, instead of freaking out about freaking out, or having more thoughts about having thoughts in the first place.


But imagine someone who believes they ‘don’t have emotions’ and pushes their inner world away. How could they ever be empathetic with someone, if they don’t let themselves get upset or angry? How could they ever connect with someone on a deeper level if they don’t let themselves be vulnerable, and therefore judge it when the other person feels that way?


Of course, the one caveat here is that there are times when people’s emotions can overwhelm you, particularly if they tend to dominate the conversation or unload on you. But that’s a function of not knowing  how to manage them well, not to say that all emotions are bad or distasteful.


Because over the long-term, it weakens your ability to truly connect with people. And worse, you become your own weakest link when you push your emotions away because you give them more control over your behavior. Just like you would with a kid who’s poking at you and asking for attention and you keep ignoring him? They’re going to come back with more ferocity than ever before.


So what does this have to do with being ‘irresistible’?


First of all, it’s NOT about expressing every single emotion that you have. It’s about being comfortable with yourself. And when we’re around people who feel comfortable with themselves, we feel comfortable, too. Just like when someone feels awkward, we pick up on that and start to feel awkward ourselves. It’s the phenomenon of emotional contagion that can be incredibly beneficial or make interactions go completely haywire.

So it makes sense to get comfortable with the fact that we all feel weird shit sometimes. We feel intimidated, scared, or nervous. We doubt ourselves. Why not embrace it–instead of denying reality–and use it to your advantage to come off as more approachable and confident to other people?

So, I’d love to hear from you: what’s the hardest part about being comfortable with yourself (or your emotions) in the first place? I know for me, the hardest part was afraid of looking ‘uncool’ to other people. What is it for you?


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