It was a good thing I included four boxes of Kleenex in my grocery order one Sunday, because when I finally sat down after cleaning my apartment and getting ready for the week ahead, I started watching Inside Out. Of course I ended up going through a lot of them.

The gist of the movie, I think, is that sadness is a vital emotion in human life. We need it in order to seek and find comfort, and to understand the full power of joy. When the personified Sadness and Joy started working together as a team, in the typical cutesy Pixar sort of way, I broke down.

In an attempt at reconciling, Someone Who Hurt Me and I were talking about why everything unfolded the way it did. “You’re sort of a… a firecracker, Luke, and I didn’t know how to handle it.” My understanding of what they were getting at was that I can come across as defensive and easily hurt, so there’s a perceived need to step on eggshells.

But all the shaming and minimizing and deflecting that subsequently came from SWHM and others, under this guise of being cautious, seemed to be in response to something much deeper than me being a “firecracker”.

What I’ve come to unpack and what I’ve experienced in other areas of my life is others’ inability to acknowledge and embrace my insecurities and sadness. I can be fiercely optimistic, opinionated, and vulnerable (AKA fiery, I suppose), but in those moments there is often an unspoken fear or loneliness. And I’m not placing any value on those qualities, it’s just a fact of life that we can be both things at once. We’re always much more than the one dimension that may be more visible.

I think we can too quickly sidestep the importance and nuance of sadness by labelling confidence so clearly.

Pain is often what makes me the confident person I am… and that confidence shouldn’t be shamed. Nothing should be shamed, in fact. Perhaps I could feel guilty for certain behaviours, and thus learn from them, but to label me as a “firecracker” in general and not specify what’s perceived as problematic is to say that my confidence itself is a problem. It’s not. And I think what can help prevent this generalization is the recognition that we can all feel afraid and small inside… That our quest for belonging is what fuels a lot of what we do.

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