What do you do when you get really, and I mean really, angry about something or at someone? Are you the type that loudly addresses the problem or confronts it (or the offending person) head on? Do you shoot off angry texts, vent on Facebook or Instagram, or run to your best friend’s house to drink a glass of wine and get your anger off of your chest? Maybe you slam doors, stomp out of the room, or throw a couple of things to get your frustration out.

Or maybe you’re like me, and when you’re at your angriest, you become the most silent person in the world. You bottle up your anger and replay what made you angry over and over in your head until you have analyzed the situation or person to death. You act as if everything is fine, but anyone who knows you can tell that something is eating away at you. It doesn’t matter though, because you would be damned if you ever let anyone into your thoughts and let them truly know why you are so angry. Your loved ones beg you to tell them what they did wrong or how they can help fix you, but their pleas fall on deaf ears.

And why do we get so quiet? Why can’t we just tell people what our problem is and let them into our heads for just a moment? Why are some people able to vocalize their anger so well and others like me just bottle it up and hold it in?

If you are like me, it is because you are afraid to upset anyone in your life. Regardless of what was done to you or how much a loved one may have hurt you or disappointed you, in your mind, your feelings of anger come second to the way your loved one feels. Do you really want to know what goes through my head when I’m angry and sitting on the couch balled up in the corner, silent as a mouse?

I’m sitting there thinking about what made me so angry and I end up having a thousand conversations in my head about how to tell the offending person about it. I sit and think of different ways I could talk about what made me so angry without upsetting the person I’m talking to. I play out what I would say, what they might say, and any repercussions that would come from me telling them what was on my mind. By the time I have thought of the absolute perfect thing to say, my anger has subsided and I don’t even want to address the problem anymore. I bottle it and move on.

I know why I bottle up my anger, why I worry more about hurting someone’s feelings than I am about making myself feel better: it all stems from my childhood. The abuse I endured, the emotional toll of trying to make my abusive mother happy all of the time, growing up too afraid to speak up or stand up for myself out of fear of being beaten; I know exactly why I am too afraid to confront people or stand up for myself as an adult. I’m still living in the past and assuming my needs come second to everyone else’s. I’m still assuming that expressing my disappointment or anger about something will mean serious repercussions for me.

I’m still assuming that no one cares about my feelings.

What is so sad is that I’m surrounded by people who love me and would do anything for me. People who would cry if they knew that they had hurt me or hurt my feelings. People who would bend over backward to make me happy if I would just open up and let them in. But I continue to be stubborn, dig in my heels, and bottle my anger up as if I was an eleven-year-old little girl living in Mom’s house again.

I think my biggest fear, as embarrassing as it sounds, is that if I tell someone I’m angry at them, they won’t love me anymore. I’m afraid that if I vent and get something off of my chest, it will scare the people I love the most away from me. I’m afraid that seeing my anger will make the people I love the most unhappy and I will eventually push them away from me.

The battle in my mind to think of my happiness before others’ is ongoing, and sometimes I’m afraid the battle will never end. I read countless blogs, articles, and essays that emphasize the importance of putting yourself first and making yourself happy before anyone else, but nothing anyone has ever written has been able to help me. Advice from friends and professionals hasn’t worked, mostly because I was still stubborn and refused to take their advice. Absolutely nothing seemed to work and help me overcome my problem.

Until I had my children.

When I became a mother, I learned very quickly that you can’t bottle up your anger when it comes to your kids. Now, I’m not advocating throwing things at them, slamming doors, or acting out in other forms of immaturity; what I’m saying is that with children, you have to let them know if something they did was wrong or hurtful or they will never learn from their mistakes. Kids will never know if something they did was hurtful or upsetting if their parent clams up and never lets them know when there is a problem. They will never understand that words and actions can hurt and anger someone if they are never told about it.

And the last thing that I want as a parent is for my children to bottle up their anger like I do. The last thing I want is for my children to hold in something that is bothering them; I want them to let it out, talk to me, and together we can work through the problem. And the first person they are going to look to for advice on how to deal with their anger is me.

I’m working on it, for the sake of my children.