He assumed. He said he could tell what I was feeling because he “heard” this emotion in an email I sent containing factual data.
I didn’t share opinion. I didn’t provide my perspective. My thoughts. My ideas. I sent only facts. Yet, I was judged because he “saw” emotion in the words I used when sharing this information. And that emotion, actually all emotion, in general, wasn’t professional. In particular, the emotion he had decided was present in my email, was entirely unacceptable. He actually concluded it was his duty to call me into his office to reprimand me for feeling and expressing this thing I didn’t feel.
Had I be writing with emotion, or trying to express personal sentiments, sharing my heart or mind, I would have felt I had done something terribly wrong. I would have been even more mortified. It hurt, though it wasn’t true. He was accusing me of being inappropriate and unacceptable, based on the fact that I am a human being who feels. Who sees things differently that does he. Regardless of what the feeling might be, it was WRONG to feel. Because feelings don’t belong at work. Especially feelings that don’t align with his own.
The rebuke hurt on a very deep level because this is the message I have heard repeatedly over the course of my life. Every person who has been a part of my world, even if only in a small way, has let me know I needed to keep my feelings to myself. They have communicated, in a myriad of ways, how offensive it was for me to have feelings, how unacceptable I was for having them, and how disgusting I was to let them show. Others are allowed, even encouraged to be real. To feel. Even those who have shamed and rejected me have been granted the right to express their thoughts and feelings. But this was a privilege not extended to me.
Their feelings were “good.” Acceptable. Mine were not.
Their feelings were “normal” and “understandable.” My feelings were deemed ridiculous. Inappropriate.
When what you feel is judged and labeled as being “wrong,” you are likewise judged and labeled as being “unacceptable.” You are sentenced to a life of silence.
I have been silent for a very long time.
I have carefully repressed all emotion, ultimately reaching a point where I could no longer feel anything. Not pain. Nor joy. Not anger. Or even ambiguity. I lost the ability to laugh or cry. I had to push who I was, the real me, deep inside of myself. Wrapped that deplorable person tight within a black hole.
You cannot connect with others when you are a robot. When they cannot see you for your mask. They will only see the worst and judge you. Reject you. You cannot connect with others when your soul is imprisoned in a black hole.
The isolation is crushing.
Black holes are empty. I live a lonely life.
My only “social” interactions consist of the shallow connections I have at work I have learned the lesson well; being genuine is for others. For the acceptable people. Not for me.
It’s difficult because I work in a field that urges one to be their “true self.” Even at work. To connect heart and passion with profession. This is the “best practice.” This is what the “experts,” the successful people tell you. I’ve been listening to several webinars this week and this exact message has been delivered multiple times by numerous presenters in various contexts. But it’s not the lesson experience has taught me.
The lesson I have learned from the real world, reality, from the world in general, and at work in particular, is that one must wear a very clever and impervious mask each day when entering the office, while leaving their heart at the door.
When my boss shamed me for a feeling I didn’t have, for supposedly having a reaction, I found myself unable to respond, because that would have required expression of a true emotion. Indignity, perhaps. Incredulousness. Anger. Laughter. Instead, I sat stone-faced as he told me I had expressed this unfelt feeling, which he assessed as being categorically inappropriate. I sat, unspeaking, as he reproached me for being emotional, though, at least in this instance, is was not true. And it felt as if he had driven a dagger deep into my heart.
I longed to be genuine. But I know this would be a grave sin.
I wanted to defend myself, but I knew it would not matter. His judgement would stand. I had been condemned without the option to appeal.
I didn’t cry out, but I bled.