Emotional Health

The meaning of Romanticizing Emotions

9 Mins read

Real life isn’t like life in the movies, romantic movies have been prone to romanticizing certain emotions and aspects of life that it has become hard for those who aren’t experienced enough to know what is real and what isn’t.

The best romantic movies of all time are based on the idealization of romance rather than the reality of romance in the real world. Which is so unfair to all of us, but to be fair, we wouldn’t love those movies if they didn’t romanticize a few aspects, I mean, there is a reason why people don’t watch documentaries.

However, this romanticizing of love , and other emotions, has been seen to have great impacts on our various social aspects. This is mostly in our relationships and how we interact with other people, in my previous article, Are You Depressed Or Are You Emotionally Immature, I talked about how people have become adamant on romanticizing depression and mental illness as a whole.

I have come to see this trend where depression and mental illness is attributed mostly to artistic individuals such as musicians, actors and performers, such as Billie Eilish and Demi Lovato. It is true that those who are artistic are more prone to suffer from illnesses such as anxiety and depression.

The most typical symptoms commonly found among artists are substance abuse, depression, bi-polar disorder and suicide, this is according to Shelley Carson, a lecturer at Harvard University. To sum it up in more clinical language, she writes in a chapter of James Kaufman’s 2014 The Shared Vulnerability Model of Creativity and Psychopathology: “In general, research indicates that creative people in arts-related professions endorse higher rates of positive schizotypal than non-arts professionals.”

This goes so far to add on to the fandom that is associated with trying to be like other people. Mental illness is a major struggle that if one survives through it, its seen as a major accomplishment and a desired/admired character, hence, romanticizing depression.

Its effects are almost always overlooked but that is the world that we live in. “Instead of addressing the severity and reality of depression, romanticizing depression only helps in breeding individuals who would choose to wear depression as a badge of honor and ‘achievement’ rather than address it as a serious illness that needs to be given attention.”

The big issue with romanticizing emotions such as love is that it imposes unfair expectations on men and women alike, with regard to what it means to be a “successful” man or woman. This is because many of the futile attempts of people to get the love they want in their relationships today have to do with the “romanticized love” rather than true love.

Most of what romanticizing entails is ideals that more solely based on our own beliefs, obsessions, pop culture influence, societal standards and infatuation.

So what does romanticizing mean?

To romanticize an aspect or emotion is to basically think about and describe that aspect or emotion as being better, interesting or more attractive than it actually is with the aim of making it sound more romantic and appealing.

Let me use an example to describe this, do you remember those awesome Disney movies and shows we used to watch when we were kids? Do you remember those romantic comedies like Love Actually and A Walk To Remember? They were so funny and inspiring that we wanted to be like those characters.

Which is the first step to romanticizing something – we idealize the scenarios involved and wish we were part of it.

The movies showed us how amazing love is, how fate can’t out run the matters of the heart and how order can be brought out of madness no matter how mad the madness is. They showed us how love is just something that comes out of us even though we have bad morals, reckless behaviors and disregard for authority.

The romantic movies and shows such as Vampire Diaries go so far as to show us that moody, withdrawn and emotionally distant men are more attractive than men who actually care, are emotionally mature and present. The stories have been tailored and built to give you “hope” that that bad decision of a boyfriend you are with is the key to you having one of the most romantic stories of all time.

In reality realizing that your moody, withdrawn boyfriend isn’t the tortured love of your life, but just some guy you’re better off without, is a sign of emotional maturity and the best decision you would ever make.

Same thing applies to habits such as smoking and substance abuse. Smoking a huge cigar is seen as something cool in the movies. Its attractive that its cool, because yes people love cool things. After the cigar becomes cool, it can then turn into something that is seen to be attractive, after which it jumps over and becomes a romanticized ideal on what is attractive and desirable.

Which brings me to the second step of romanticizing – bringing the idealized aspect into the real world.

Movies, celebrities and pop culture in general have been so good at influencing the masses for so many generations now. If you want your product to be cool, feature it in a cool movie, have a cool celebrity use it and post it on Instagram, eventually people will begin to associate that product with the whole premise of the movie and end up buying the product.

Same thing applies to romanticizing emotions. Once you realize that people don’t want to watch a boring real love story, you will strive to add certain aspects to it to make it more enjoyable so as it fits with what the audience idealizes, whether it be suffering, war, the lifestyle of old times, fame and even substance abuse.

After adding some form of coolness, attraction, romance and honor to these ideals, the audience will love it, pick it up and apply it to their daily lives because the truth is – most people don’t know what they want. Majority of us suck at self awareness, so when we are showed what can be amazing, we often opt for it because, in our minds, we believe that if it worked for someone else then it can work for us, that if it was good for them then it can be good for us too.

This applies to what we pick up from movies as well as in real life too.

When we romanticize people or behaviors, we are often responding to how we think our lives should be/look/feel. We are not checking in with ourselves to see how we really feel or what we really want, and this disconnect can be extremely damaging to one’s mental health.

We idealize these struggles and pitfalls that love has to it that we end up believing if it isn’t there then love doesn’t exist. We romanticize only the socially ‘cool’ aspects of life even though they are physically and mentally damaging in the name of attraction and romance. Its completely absurd.

That is why this blog is dedicated to advocating for the importance of emotional intelligence to happiness and a fulfilling life in general. Emotional intelligence encompasses aspects such as self awareness, self management, social awareness and relationship management. These are boring words, I know, but its not what they are called but what they entail.

Self awareness is all about a deep knowledge and understanding of not only your emotions but your inner being, your wants, needs, desires, dreams and goals, all of which are a part of who you are rather than a projected version of you.

Self awareness/ self knowledge is hard, and I don’t think any of us can truly get to know every part of us, but it is important to know as much as you can about yourself so that you align your life on the right path.

Self awareness is so important, its what will help you avoid the disconnection from reality by showing you how you really feel and what you really want. Which is better than leaving yourself to respond to how you think your life should be/look/feel.

how to become more self aware
how to become more self aware

To learn how you can be more self aware and escape the pitfalls of being disconnected, go ahead and read my short article on self awareness: where happiness begins.

Popularly romanticized ideals

Mental illness – depression, anxiety

First of all depression and anxiety are very common conditions hence its widely existence isn’t because of the romanticizing nature of it all.

The obvious example of the misuse of mental illness words which comes to mind is the use of the word “depressed” in certain mistaken scenarios. “Damn it, she broke up with me, I feel so depressed.” Or maybe “My phone got stolen, I am so depressed!”. I don’t have the right to gauge another person’s mental well-being, but at times it’s very clear when a word is being misused.

In one of my previous posts, I said, ” Through all forms of art, be it movies, films, music, paintings; depression has been painted as a descriptive ‘personality trait’ that is deemed more attractive and ‘romance worthy’ and is put on a pedestal above any other descriptive traits. Being depressed isn’t a descriptive personality trait people.

The idea of a damsel in distress has been viewed as the start of the most romantic experiences since time immemorial. The idea that one can save or be saved by the three magic words has made us oblivious to the fact that in reality things are not like so.

Moreover, the society sometimes seems to view depressed individuals as deep, artistic, philosophical – all qualities that can have a romantic element to them. I believe that romanticizing depression isn’t helpful at all because by doing so it can invalidate those suffering from the illness, and perhaps even slow down their treatment and recovery on top of the societal reactions towards it.”


The idea of suffering is quickly linked with sexy, especially when phrases like “a walking, beautiful tragedy” is used to describe people.

These personas of struggle, suffering and abuse are viewed as a show of strength and beauty, which is fine, but has a counter productive outcome which is – making people feel like they should go through the suffering/pretend to have gone through the suffering, so that they can be deemed strong, beautiful and attractive.

Suffering and struggles aren’t signs of strength or beauty. They are real, often overwhelming, and can be quite crippling. I’ve seen the results of suffering and struggle first-hand, duh I’m from Kenya, and it isn’t a pretty picture.

Toxic and abusive relationships

“He is my ride or die.”

“No matter what happens I will stick with him, we are meant for each other.”

Though these words may seem romantic and comforting, they drastically become unhealthy when the relationship in question is toxic, abusive and overly unhealthy. There has been a growing trend of putting such relationships on a pedestal because the belief of being together despite all the abuse and toxicity is more enticing and romantic.

Long gone are the days when choosing a partner who treated you right and did what is best for you. We have become accustomed to the belief that the strongest of relationships / the most romantic of all relationships is the one in which the couple sticks together despite how unhealthy their relationship is.

We need to realize that love is not about accepting each other for our flaws and putting up with all the bullshit. Love is about finding that person you want to share your life with, helping each other grow, becoming better and being the best versions of yourselves.

In one of the episodes of the television show, Good Doctor, Dr. Murphy (a brilliant, genius and autistic doctor) faces a relationship crisis and goes to ask his fellow doctor for help. This is what he said after being told that he should find someone who loves him just the way he is;

If someone truly loves you then they wouldn’t let you live a mediocre life. Love is genuine and real when both of the people in the relationship strive and work towards making each other the better versions of themselves.

Therefore, true love encompasses real acts of self development and uplifting the other person so that you can both be the better versions of yourselves. But remember, this shouldn’t be done at the expense of changing who we are as individuals, and this is where the social awareness aspect of emotional intelligence comes in.

Social awareness helps us understand other people and how to interact with individuals of different beliefs, principles and morals. It helps us understand each other and get along better without trying to change each other’s core values, principles and personalities.

Bottom line

These ideals are just a few of all the many aspects and emotions that can be romanticized, others include;

  1. Love.
  2. Crime.
  3. The 50s/the 80s/the 70s – you do get where I’m going with this.
  4. Substance abuse.
  5. Emotional unavailability.
  6. Fame/popularity.
  7. Richness and poverty, just to mention a few

Anyway, the whole purpose of this article was to enlighten individuals on the reality of romanticizing things. It results in us pretending to be who we aren’t at our own expense and in so doing, we demoralize those who are truly going through those experiences, and also sometimes praise things that are not praiseworthy.

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About author
I'm a psychology enthusiast and a fried chicken lover. I write bite sized articles unpacking the complexities of the human mind. The mission is to advocate for what's more important in life - the pursuit of the truth and the highest good one can do with that truth - for themselves, the people around them and the society as a whole.
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