Just Because You Are Strong Enough To Carry It, Doesn’t Mean You Always Should

Just because you are strong enough to carry it, doesn’t mean you should have to. 

Just because you are strong doesn’t mean you always have to be strong. 

Just because you are strong doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help. 

So many people will tell you “you are strong, you are resilient, you will make it through this”. 

This is meant to bolster you up, but sometimes it makes you feel like you always have to be like that. That you can’t lean on people for support, that you can’t tell them how you don’t feel strong or you don’t feel resilient. 

“When I lost my sight, Werner, people said I was brave.

When my father left, people said I was brave.

But it is not bravery; I have no choice.

I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same?”

– Marie-Laure LeBlanc, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr 

You didn’t choose to have this journey, like you didn’t choose that you had to be strong or resilient or put your brave battle face on every single day. There is no choice when it comes to your own survival – it’s straight into battle and doing whatever gets you through.  

When someone who doesn’t know what you’ve been through in detail tells you that you are so strong, it can almost feel dismissive. A false compliment. “You are so strong, you can do it (without my support)”. It can be like someone telling you that you are a fast runner without ever seeing you run, and it makes you wonder ‘how do you know if that is actually true?’. In the middle of the night when I can’t sleep from the pain and I’m beyond exhausted and lost all patience, I can assure you that the last thing I feel like is strong. 

When someone close to you, who has seen the journey you’ve been on and how you’ve handled it, says that you are strong and resilient, you can believe it. They have seen it all and are saying an honest compliment that rings true. Those are the people that you need to listen to and lean on. They know what is true about you and your strength.  

However, you can’t always be the strong one – for yourself and for others – it can become unhealthy. It’s ok and recommended to let other people know how you are feeling, hold you up when you need it. 

To make the assumption that someone is always strong and resilient, sets up a bad precedent for other people to compare themselves to and stops them reaching out for help, for a variety of reasons including that someone else ‘has it worse than them’, or that ‘they are strong but I am not like that or could never be like that’. There is no hierarchy for pain or a triage required for seeking help and support. 

We are all worthy of help and support regardless of whatever we are going through. We never know what strength or resilience will appear when we are in survival mode or being tested by life. In the moment when an event is occurring, strength isn’t what you feel. It’s afterwards, during reflection of the event, that you may think ‘that was hard, and I got through it’. Strength comes from knowing that you can do difficult and painful things and survive it, and it is that knowledge that you take into the next difficult and painful thing that becomes the advantage to getting through it too.  

Yes, you are strong and (I hope) you have people and places where you don’t have to be strong too. With people and in places where you can just be you – however you feel – to unload, unfold, cry, scream, breathe, receive and just be. 

Take heart, Readers. I’ll keep the light on.

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