Are you fed up with being “strong”? Are you tired of the pressure you are under to perform without showing signs of losing composure? Or having an emotional outburst?
Do you feel that it is your role to have the answers all the time? If that expectation is hard to meet, is that difficult to admit to?
How are you at having to be right? Is it a matter of great face and honour or are you OK with making mistakes?
Do you feel the need to be “happy” all the time and find it hard to admit that you might be below par or even struggling to cope?
Do you really thrive under stress, or are you struggling to manage, but afraid to share the truth for fear of what people might say- the boss, your partner, friends?
A meaning of “Strong”
This out-dated notion of being “strong” needs a modern update. Too many people are crumbling under the weight of carrying on regardless, pushing through at all costs, meeting ever-increasing expectations and ever-closer deadlines. And all for the sake of being or appearing “strong”. It is a relentless drive, that is driving many of us into poor physical, mental and emotional health and well-being. “Strong” seems to mean something close to perfection.
So, rather than “strong” meaning perfection can we change that definition? I get the need for an external persona that makes it look like you have the answers, you’ve got it sorted and you can cope. And I hope that is the case for you a lot of the time. But is it reality? And when it isn’t reality, do you have people to turn to so that you can talk it through, bounce ideas off, admit mistakes to, ask advice from and share your emotional pain when you are struggling?
This need to be “strong”, I believe, is stopping people feeling comfortable speaking to others about their struggles. “It makes me look weak.” “How will anyone respect me?” “What will people think of me?” “Will I be able to hold on to my job?” In silence, they battle on, often getting ground down by the weight of fear, doubt and worry.
Get Wise Counsel
My experience as a coach, and a Samaritans volunteer, is that speaking to someone about these very normal emotions is not only good for your health. It also gets you to an answer much faster. And to a much better answer than you might come up with otherwise. You do not need to carry the burden alone. But who can you talk to?
All great leaders have a team of people around them who they can talk to and lean into for support. (you can find out more about this in this Brian Tracy article). Can we not learn from the cream of our business leaders? We are all leaders. If only leaders of our own lives. And many of us will also lead families, children, work colleagues, groups, teams, businesses and countries. Honest and open leadership starts with these personal qualities in our own day to day living. Having people around you with whom you can confide makes you healthier physically, mentally and emotionally and allows you to be more effective in anything you do.
So, choose your team carefully. Perhaps it is good friends you can talk to? May be its your hairdresser or tennis coach or physio? You could have a formal relationship with a mentor or coach or therapist. Or may be you have people you work with you can confide in? Whoever is in the team, you need to be able to trust them. The more people, the more resources you have for advice, listening, support and guidance. And with that comes more resilience and well-being that means you can bounce back faster when you experience setbacks, disappointment and failure.
Who makes you “strong”?
It is not rocket science, but it is startling how few people we actually talk to. In our fast-paced society, we race from moment to moment and barely touch the surface of our own lives. Let alone the lives of others. We take less and less time to connect to people and so lack the depth of relationship we once enjoyed. But it is this depth of relationship that allows us to feel safe enough to reveal our pain to others and be vulnerable. As Brene Brown says, it takes courage to be vulnerable. I think this is the real “strong”. And to do that we want to build relationships over time that make it easier to be vulnerable when it serves us and others to be so. All of that takes great courage.
Throughout my divorce process, I had people to whom I could talk about the conflicting emotions I was experiencing. Some of those ears were professional (a counsellor), but others were family, friends, colleagues and even our beloved dog, Tigger. In the pain I felt more resilient. Amongst the confusion, I had people to tell me it was OK and normal to feel this way. And when it got too much, I had people who would simply be with me.
I witness great courage in my coaching clients, who are vulnerable about their emotions and experiences. Great insight, bonding and emotional healing come from this intimacy. It is the human power of connection that helps to keep us whole when we are most in danger of being swallowed up by our pain, fear and loss. It is not “strong” to suffer. To remain in silence and isolation prolongs your suffering.
And others suffer as a consequence. People notice. And want to help. Make no mistake. So be brave. Be “strong”. And reach out to someone who cares enough about you to listen as you express your pain. It is the greatest expression of their love. A worthy gift to match your strength and vulnerability.
Over to You
What does “strong” mean to you? How are you “strong”? I’d love to know and get this discussion moving towards helping more people manage the stresses and pressures they face in daily life. Our health and well-being demand it. And if we can role-model this transparency to our children and grandchildren, to those we mentor, lead and guide, the bonds of human connection will be deeper and stronger. And we will never need to be “strong” again in isolation and loneliness. We will be vulnerable and courageous, share our wisdom and pain and show our strength in unity and camaraderie.
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