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Last week I received an e-mail forward, I admit I usually don’t read them but this one entitled A Strong Person intrigued me. The first line said–A Strong Person knows how to keep their life in order. Even with tears in their eyes, they manage to say, “I’m OK” with a smile. As I read that line I immediately cringed. It has taken me years to resolve my own internal war over the definition of a strong person. From my German heritage to our Puritan Culture I was repeatedly told ‘put on your brave face’, ‘stay strong’. A STRONG person doesn’t let them see you sweat, a STRONG person puts on a front and pretends all is well when in reality they are crumbling,
Well I call BS on that statement. This idea of being STRONG has caused many of us to live lives of quiet desperation. To ‘suck it up’ rather then ask the question, how can I do it differently? To put all their energy into ‘looking ok’ they never have the chance to really experience the emotions and grow from them. In my mind a strong person, admits it’s hard, a strong person allows themselves to have a good long cry, screaming match or hissy fit. A strong person expresses the necessary emotions and allows themselves to feel the vulnerability and lack of control. A strong person admits everything is not ok, and asks for help when necessary. A strong person shows there emotions AND picks up the pieces and moves on. A strong person does BOTH.
Because when we don’t experience the emotions, don’t express the pain in the presence of another person and have a witness to our lives and our experience, we can’t grow from it, we can’t spiral up. When we suck it up, say “I’m OK with a smile”, then we aren’t being genuine human beings.
Sometimes life is hard, sometimes we are dealt a series of blows, sometimes we are exhausted, tired, frustrated and just plain sad. It is in those times we need to admit our struggles, admit our exhaustion and lean on those close to us for a little support. Strength comes from vulnerability not from bravery.
The times in my life when the most changes have occurred are those times when I have been on my knees, crying in exhaustion, weak and vulnerable and I have said I need to find a different way. Tired and weary from ‘being strong” I have allowed myself to admit my weakness and then I have sought to make a change.
Living Happier means experiencing the ying and yang of life. Being ‘strong’ and being ‘vulnerable’ both in their own time. When we are too much of any one thing we miss out on the richness of life. When we get stuck in our fear we aren’t serving ourselves anymore then when we are stuck in our strength–but we need to experience BOTH to move through life in a healthier, happier way.
What do you think? What does the phrase Be Strong mean to you?