Don’t call me strong…unless you are talking about my newest bench-pressing weight or how I carried boxes of laminate flooring up a flight of stairs with no issues. Ok, a little breathless, but the strength was there to haul them up there.
I’ll take the statement when it applies to muscles, but when it comes to emotional or trying times in life, it has felt to me like I am then supposed to stay that “strong.”
If I’ve shown a specific capacity for life’s challenges or trauma, I’m supposed to keep going and not show any vulnerability. Thank you for the messages from previous generations and parents from Maine. I got it loud and clear! I am not keeping it, though. It isn’t serving me any longer.
But Vicki, why is that not a good thing to say to someone?
Let me ask you a question before I answer that. Have you ever been going through a time when you honestly didn’t know how you would make it through the next two minutes, let alone a lifetime? Have you ever hurt so bad that when crying, your only concern is getting oxygen into your lungs? Yeah, ok, so in that moment, if someone had said, “yes, I know, but you’re so strong. You’ll be ok.” Would you be receptive to that statement from them?
Do you want to have the person make it about them in those moments of great grief or challenge? Because that is what happens when we offer that observation. What is being conveyed is, “now is not the time for you to show your sadness or vulnerability because that makes me uncomfortable, and I don’t want to be that, so I’m going to say how strong you are so you get to that, and we are all good. Ok? Ok.”
So, what do we say instead?
What if, and this is a big what if, you didn’t think you had to say anything? What if you could be present for that person? Allow some silence or compassion to be there in your being and wait until they invite you into their process.
If that is too difficult for you at this moment, what if you offered up that you have no words for what they are going through but would love to hear anything they would like to share? Most of the time, the person going through the hurt may just need to know someone is there for them and empathizes.
Respect that we all process differently. Please don’t compare situations. Yes, we have all experienced losing a loved one, but relationships are different. Honor that, and don’t presume to know what someone is going through. Witness their process without feeling like you have to label it as they are so strong.
Ugh, that feels so weird.
Yes, it does, but if you are willing to learn and stretch, you will feel more sure of yourself and how you will be in future conversations.
I need more on this subject.
Well, lucky for you, I did a whole episode on this subject this week just in time for family get-togethers. In full transparency, it was a stream of consciousness with some excellent advice and concrete steps to grow in relationships with others and self.
See you there! Vicki
P.S. if you’d like to have the transcript of the podcast or listen without using an app, click here!