Warning: true story sharing moment ahead.

I had a recent experience at work where I was dealing with a situation that was beyond my control. It was a problem that we simply couldn’t fix in a timely manner. It was going to take a ton of man hours (aka mine, so maybe it was woman hours). And to be honest, the issue is still challenging and time consuming many months later.

I was in an executive meeting to discuss the issue and I became so terribly frustrated, I did the thing you just don’t do — I cried in front of my president and chairman (both men). And let me preface this story by saying that when I cry, I’m not blessed with lovely Hollywood crocodile tears that effortlessly gloss my cheeks. I’m a full out ugly cryer — a mascara-smearing, snot-dripping, two-tissue-needing cryer. You with me? So that happened.

I walked out of the company president’s office and felt so incredibly foolish and embarrassed. How could I have done that in front of them? How? I thought I was showing a sign of weakness. And of course I replayed it in my head ad nauseam as we ladies looove to do. And believe me, I was angry at myself for weeks about it.

You know what got me past it? I remembered a story that one of our incredible speakers told last year at the Women in Retail Leadership Summit. (Insert shameless plug here – you should seriously all be attending this by the way, the speaker lineup is amazeballs! I won’t identify the speaker by name because it was a personal story she shared, but she’s an incredible talent in the industry and about as high up the food chain as you can get at an enterprise retailer.

She had finally gotten invited out with the “big boys” to an executive dinner after years of working her way up, and she was naturally nervous. It’s like your first time at the grown-up table! Each person at the dinner was asked to stand up and say something about themselves. And as she stood up to reveal something about herself, she felt her lip start to quiver and her chin begin to shake, and she cried — at the table in front of the big kids!

She was horrified of course. And she was so mad at herself for doing it in front of everyone after working so hard to get to the table. She was beating herself up on the way home when one of her female colleagues called and said to her, “I know what you’re doing right now; just stop it.” Then she said something that resonated with me, especially in my own recent experience. Her colleague said, “You didn’t cry because you’re weak, you cried because you care.” And that my girlfriends is the truth. And it was the same for me. I didn’t cry because I’m weak dammit, I cried because I care and I’m passionate about the work that I do. And that’s exactly what makes us good at our jobs. There’s strength in vulnerability.

Women are emotional creatures; guess what, we cry sometimes! And that’s OK. It’s part of being your authentic self. With that emotion comes passion, drive and creativity, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. And guess what else? Neither would my president or chairman. (I mean, I haven’t checked with them on this or anything, but I’m choosing to believe as much.) 🙂

I’d love to hear some of your #crybaby stories and how you used them as a learning experience to push forward in your career. Lay the sob stories on me ladies.