Why Does Crying Make Someone Appear Weak?

Ashley Iaconetti has become known as the one who “cries a lot.” (Photo: ABC)

Throughout her one season on The Bachelor and two appearances on Bachelor in Paradise, 28-year-old contestant Ashley Iaconetti has become well-known for her crying spells — and she knows it. When she stepped onto the beach during last night’s fifth episode of Paradise, she boldly declared to host Chris Harrison that she was only going to cry three times during the course of the show. Well…

Within minutes, Iaconetti witnessed her ex Jared Haibon courting Caila Quinn, and broke down in a huge wave of tears. Later in the show, she assessed her image on camera. “I’m the ‘virgin that cries a lot,’” she said, according to People. “And you know what? It’s kind of rude. Why does that make me weak?”

Related: Here’s the Science of the Happy Cry

After Iaconetti’s deep pondering on crying, we asked Art Markman, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas, Austin to answer her question. But first, why do we cry at all? “Strong emotions reflect a lot of energy in the motivational system [of the brain],” Markman tells Yahoo Beauty. “When we experience very strong emotions, there is a tendency for us to cry — that is why you will get tears of sadness, joy or anger. Even people who laugh very hard can wind up crying.”

Related: 25 Famous Women on Crying

Markman says the presence of tears alone is “primarily a signal that someone is having a strong emotional reaction,” and the facial expressions that go along with those tears help outsiders determine what emotion the person is experiencing.

Now from an image standpoint, we’ve all experienced overwhelming emotions — and know how tough it is to keep ’em in check and not react. “Culturally, we equate strength with an ability to control emotions,” Markman explains. “This is particularly true with sadness, as we think of people who remain stoic as stronger than those who express lots of strong emotions.” Think of a stoic warrior on the battlefield.

Markman also says that Western culture still retains the masculine ideal in which men do not cry. “This is true of American culture, in particular,” he explains. “Strength is also culturally associated with men, and weakness with women, so this combination leads us to view people who cry as weak.”

It’s not all bad, though — and you shouldn’t judge a person too harshly for crying every so often. Markman says there’s a ton of energy occupying the brain’s motivational system, which will require an outlet. “It can be difficult to release this energy in many situations, and crying is one way to release that energy — so it can be quite healthy,” he says.

Of course, Markman reminds us that those who are persistently sad should seek help, as it may be a sign of a deeper issue that no amount of crying will solve. “That person can work with someone to understand why they are focused on negative emotions,” he explains. “Frequent crying and sadness can be a symptom of depression.”

So, last night’s deep psychological question on Paradise: Solved!

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