No you’re not.
I heard this the other day and this truth hit me so hard…
If you are tired of being strong, you’re doing it wrong.
Strong doesn’t make you feel weak or tired, it invigorates you. It inspires you. It supports you. It gives you more strength. If you are tired of ‘being strong’, what you are, is tired of the struggle based on an incorrect definition of strong.
I used to think that ‘being strong’ meant keeping a brave face to the world, not crying, not expressing your feelings or basically to pretend that you are not hurting. Being strong was doing ‘it’ (whatever it was) alone. That you didn’t cry if you hurt and you didn’t complain – and complaining meant expressing any disagreement with what was going on, btw.
I spent my childhood and young adulthood in this mode. I can’t tell you how damaging it was…oh yes I can. Here is a perfect example of how ‘brave’ I was.
I was in high school, vacationing with my friend Mary Miller and her family. We were going on a camping trip. Along the way we stopped at a General Store where they had a mule outside in a pen. Mary and I made our way to the mule where others were standing. The mule came over to me and I began to pet its nose. After many minutes of this the mule started to lick my hand. And then he bit it. Hard. And harder. Very hard. Very very hard.
Here’s my thing. I had learned it wasn’t ok to cry and it wasn’t ok to ask for help. Ok. Now what do you do? My internal mechanism was set to laugh (instead of cry) when in great pain. I did it all the time. I laughed instead of crying when I sprained my ankle, all three times. Its what I learned was acceptable. So, here I am, laughing uncontrollably while this mule is biting down on my hand harder and harder. I am laughing so hard that I cannot tell my friend to get help. I also cannot tell my friend it even hurts, because I’m laughing so she’s thinking its funny. (I don’t know if it is true or not, but I heard many years later than a mule cannot release its bite until it has bitten all the way through.)
Anyway, eventually, after perhaps 10 minutes my friend’s dad catches on that this is not awesome and laughter gives way to tearing. Notice I said tearing and not crying. Yes, that is true. Still keeping up the brave face. He begins to bang on the mule’s nose until it lets go. We put ice on it in the car ride and it healed nicely. No broken skin or bones.
That’s not strong. This notion that strong is appearing as if nothing is hurting you is ridiculous, outdated and serves no purpose but to create dis-ease.
It takes far more strength to let others witness your rawness than it does to put on a mask to hide it.
When I think of strong people, I think of those who faced adversity and did not feel ashamed of how it affected them. This kind of raw authenticity is inspiring to me.
This is how I live my life now. I don’t try to put on a ‘brave face’ (what a nice euphemism for mask), I let it all out. What you see is what you get. If I am hurting, I will not pretend I am not. My inside world matches my outside world quite nicely now. I am not ‘tired’ at all. I am full of life. Dealing with events straight on, without the requirements of camouflage make life simpler, which eliminates the struggle, see? Is this making sense? Its the pretending that the situation is different than it is, that makes us tired. That’s not brave.
And while it may be that the challenges we face make us weary, showing that does not make us weak. Not believing in the beauty of your human-ness, that is weak.
Authenticity is a super power we are born with and we were proud of it, until someone shamed us into putting it away in a chest giving us a plastic smiling mask instead. So much is lost in moments of inauthenticity. Smiling in the face of tragedy is not strong. Falling to the ground, crying as your heart is ripped out then picking yourself up without wiping the tears from your face…that is brave and strong.
Too much running around wondering if this is right or that is wrong. Wondering who is judging you. What does it matter if they judge you? Just accept they are going to judge you. They will either judge your authenticity or your fake mask, it doesn’t matter because judgers never come to a positive assessment. So why waste your energy worrying about what they think when they are always going to think poorly?
That’s the struggle that makes you tired. That false presence. Not saying what you need to say and not expressing the true feelings you need to express.
Think about the people who are important in your life. Who has made an impression on you? Who do you find yourself more interested in? I am willing to bet they are all the people with whom you’ve shared authentic moments. Not the ones with whom you’ve experienced ‘perfect masked’ moments.
Be truly brave and take off the mask…the beauty behind it is breath taking.
I love you.
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